10/04/2012 04:47 pm ET Updated Dec 04, 2012

Teachers Respond to the Presidential Debate

Spencer Lloyd, Indianapolis:

Unfortunately, last night's presidential debate offered little in the way of education policy talk. It was encouraging, however, to hear both candidates identify the declining state of our public education system as an economic policy.

There are some clear differences in how the candidates propose to resolve the issue. Governor Romney would move more control to the state level, whereas President Obama believes the federal government should maintain influence over many elements of the education system. Governor Romney argues that an 'open market' system, based largely on parental choice, will make the biggest impact. President Obama believes hiring 100,000 more math and science teachers is the critical next step.

From where I stand, there are positives to both candidates' plans. But as a music teacher, my concern comes with the ever-increasing focus on math and science alone. Our education system must make a paradigm shift to educating holistically. There are students in our schools who simply do not learn math well sitting in a math class. But give that same student an opportunity to learn math through the avenue of music, and success will be achieved.

This, I believe, is where both candidates miss the mark. Educating as a means to pass a test will not do any student justice. Of course all our children need to learn to read, write, and engage with math and science -- and they need to be assessed on those skills in various ways to ensure their proficiency. But that is only the beginning of advancing education in this country. A future education system that prioritizes consideration of how each student learns and educating the whole student will ensure success throughout his or her life, not just on an end-of-course assessment.

Spencer Lloyd teaches music at Emmerich Manual High School in Indianapolis and is a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow.

Laura Arce-Zúñiga, Washington, D.C. The following is excerpted from Laura's full essay on the election, which will appear here next week:

I am a teacher, a new citizen, and a first-time voter in the United States. As a teacher and a Latino woman, high dropout rates and low graduation rates in my community keep me up at night. I became a teacher because of those rates. Last night, I watched the presidential debate looking for a candidate who believes those rates can change so that the achievement gap can be closed.

Access to education allowed many of my family members to live the American dream and transition from cleaning houses and landscaping to being teachers, members of the military, and dentists in just one generation. Because I believe in the power of education, I appreciated President Obama mentioning education early on during Wednesday's presidential debate. As part of his economic plan, President Obama discussed the importance of teacher training, school reform, and accessibility to student loans. But I was surprised that Governor Romney did not fully respond to President Obama's ideas on education. Later, Governor Romney did identify the importance of school choice, but by the end of the debate, I was still unsure about his vision for education.

....This November, as I vote in a presidential race for the first time, I will be thinking about my students and their graduation rates. I will be thinking about the importance of high quality early childhood education and teacher training. And I will vote for the candidate who has a vision for great schools where all children can learn.

Laura Arce-Zúñiga teaches kindergarten at D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. and is a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow. Read more from Laura right here next week.

Kevin Cram, Chicago:

It was "Friday Wednesday Night Lights" in Denver on October 3rd. On one side was a fired up freshman captain in red: quick to react and on his toes. The other side was led by a cool, calm senior frontman in blue. He appeared experienced and resolute.

The first presidential debate between Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama was a contest on the field of domestic policy. I was dizzy at times, attempting to keep up with all the action and rapid transitions between the key players -- job creation, national debt, social security, health care and the role of government. But when the final whistle blew, I couldn't help but feel disappointed that my favorite player, education, didn't get more playing time.

Both candidates stated that education would be a priority for them: President Obama said, "First, we need to improve our education system," while Governor Romney agreed that "education is key, particularly to the future of our economy."

But neither went on to prioritize education specifics in their comments throughout the evening. Perhaps the lack of focus on education is not the fault of President Obama or Governor Romney, but due to the moderator's decision to address other issues first. By the time education finally hit the stage, it was late in the debate and the candidates didn't have much time to highlight education -- a top issue for the next president -- as much as they could or should have. I was left wanting more.

How can we create more jobs, innovate and invest in our country unless we are educated well enough to do so? Education is that "ladder of opportunity" that will not only help the middle class, but all classes. Without this ladder we won't be able to see the top, let alone race toward it. Let's put education back in the starting lineup.

Kevin Cram teaches science at Lake View High School in Chicago and is a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow.