Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obama: High School Education Not Enough

This has sure got me confused. It sounds good but does it make sense? He rightly deplores the large numbers who drop out of High School and college but seems to think that the cure for that is for everyone to take post-high school education! I would have thought that the dropout rate shows that many people are not capable of higher education. How are they going to handle further education when they cannot even handle high schoool education? And if lots of people fail to complete college studies, does that not show that FEWER people should be enrolling in such studies?

President Obama called on all Americans to commit to at least one year of higher education or career training Tuesday, as he stressed the importance of better schooling in reviving the nation's economy during his first address to Congress. The president, arguing that a high school education is no longer adequate in the global economy, said the federal government just made a "historic investment" in education with its $787 billion stimulus plan. He said that while lawmakers and educators are responsible for making the system work, individuals are responsible for participating in it.

"So tonight I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training," Obama said. "This can be a community college or a four-year school, vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma." Obama lamented that just over half of Americans achieve an education beyond high school and warned of the consequences such trends could have on the country's standing in the world.

"We have one of the highest high-school dropout rates of any industrialized nation, and half of the students who begin college never finish," Obama said. "This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow." He said his new goal is for America to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

"Dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It's not just quitting on yourself -- it's quitting on your country. And this country needs and values the talents of every American," Obama said.


Amazing British discovery: "Back to basics discipline in school would curb bad behaviour"

Schools should adopt back-to-basics discipline methods to curb bad behaviour and improve results among pupils, according to the Government's education watchdog. Traditional rules such as banning children with shaven heads and those wearing designer trainers or gang colours have proved effective in maintaining order at the best comprehensives, according to a report by Ofsted. Formal assemblies, regular patrols of corridors, frequent school trips, strong values and appointing good teachers are also successful methods of raising standards, the study says.

The report examined how state schools in the most deprived areas improved standards, describing how one head teacher tackled troublemakers by suspending 300 pupils in a week. Parents of all children barred from school were also ordered to meetings - often at anti-social hours such as 6am or 11pm - to be given a dressing-down. Ofsted said the approach had proved successful and that poor-performing schools in England should mimic the methods to turn themselves around.

According to the watchdog, four in 10 secondary schools in England are still not good enough. Christine Gilbert, chief inspector of schools, said: "Although there has been some improvement in the last year, two secondary schools out of five are still judged to be no better than satisfactory. I commend this report to those who lead and govern these schools."

Michael Gove, the Tory shadow children's secretary, said: "These schools demonstrate that disadvantage should not mean low standards. Schools that have excellent head teachers with strong discipline policies and high expectations can help children thrive regardless of their economic background. We should celebrate this achievement and give parents the power to ensure that these approaches are adopted more widely across the state sector."

The Conservatives claim attempts by many heads to control pupils have been undermined in recent years with some parents over-turning heads' decisions to expel.

Figures published in December showed police were called out to deal with 40 violent incidents in schools every day, while a separate report suggested gang membership among pupils had become "more overt" in recent years.

In its report, Ofsted investigated 12 successful inner-city state secondary schools with high numbers of pupils from "poor or disturbed home backgrounds" and examined how they had approached school discipline. Inspectors said they ensured "the street stops at the gate" by imposing tight rules on behaviour and focusing on the basics. Many of the schools had police officers permanently stationed within the grounds, inspectors said.

Middleton Technology School, Rochdale, which is surrounded by neighbourhoods "beset with alcohol and drugs in one direction and gangs in the other", imposes strict uniform rules, said Ofsted. It bans students with "shaven heads or emblematic patterns in their hair, trainers with brand marks and conspicuous designs and other manifestations of group or gang culture".

Inspectors said Robert Clack School in Dagenham dealt with troublemakers "swiftly and severely". Some 300 were suspended in just a week and Paul Grant, the head teacher, once personally drove the school minibus around nearby streets looking for truants. The head also introduced formal assemblies "to explain to students how he expected them to behave".

At Greenwood Dale School, Nottingham, staff are "smartly dressed as professionals, and students reflect as well as respect this", said the report.

Margaret Morrissey, from the campaign group Parents Outloud, said: "Most parents will be pretty shocked if this sort of thing is not already happening in other schools. If schools don't have good discipline and expectations of youngsters then something is going very wrong. Teachers in many schools are clearly not being allowed to get on and do their jobs - they are spending too long being tied down by Government edicts."

Ofsted said all the schools in its study also focused on a system of praise and rewards for outstanding work. Other schools improved behaviour and exam results by focusing on the basics of literacy and numeracy in the classroom and refusing to "jump on bandwagons" by introducing every Government initiative. It said the schools had "generally not been rushing into" the Government's new diplomas, which are being introduced as an alternative to GCSEs and A-levels, although "this is likely to change".

Ofsted said the regular exodus of good teachers was "the scourge of many urban schools" and was one of the most "disruptive influences" on children's education. But these schools, including Bartley Green School in Birmingham, Harton Technology College in South Tyneside and Lampton School in Hounslow, London, reversed the trend. Some embarked on "worldwide recruitment" drives to find the best teachers.

Jim Knight, Schools Minister, said: "We should never shy away from celebrating success, especially when that success has been achieved in challenging circumstances. "We should continue to learn from our variety of successful schools in this country - this moment is theirs to enjoy."


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