Thursday, September 10, 2009

America can do better on education

As our nation's students and teachers return to school in uncertain economic times, Americans across party lines agree that a quality education is indispensable to the future of each child, our competitiveness, and our country.

Fully 30 percent of our nation’s students drop out of high school each year and most high school graduates don't complete college. While America was first in the world in high school and college graduation rates 30 years ago, we have slipped back into the middle of the pack among industrialized countries. Our results have stagnated while other nations are racing ahead of us.

As a former U.S. secretary of education and a former majority leader of the U.S. Senate who is now dedicating a substantial portion of time to education reform in Tennessee, we believe America can and must do better. While government has a crucial role to play to ensure quality schools, government can't do it alone. The evidence and our common sense make it clear: a good education also depends on hard work and personal responsibility for learning and achievement from individual students, parents, grandparents, and educators.

That's why we are supportive of the president of the United States – whether it is a Democrat or Republican – speaking directly to our nation's students to emphasize the core American values of education, hard work, and personal responsibility. We are pleased that presidents Reagan and Bush (Sr.) delivered similar speeches when they were serving in the White House in 1986 and 1991 respectively, and that is why we have both delivered similar speeches in many local schools throughout our careers.

Tuesday at noon, President Obama will address the nation’s students on the importance of personal responsibility, hard work, staying in school and getting a good education. Schools and classrooms all across America can tune in to the speech on the web or on television. Although the decision of whether to watch the speech is appropriately left up to individual educators and parents, we encourage everyone to have their students watch and discuss the speech – and find every other possible way they can to underscore the value of education to our children. If parents are concerned about the content of the speech, they can read the speech first (already available on the White House website) and then decide whether or not they want their child to listen to it.

One of the most important steps in turning around our nation’s education system is ensuring all of our children understand the value of education and the key role hard work plays in being successful in school and in life. The more people we have echoing this message, the better off our nation will be. President Obama, both because of his office as president but also because of his compelling personal story, is well-positioned to deliver this message and serve as a role model to students across our nation.

As individuals who have held leadership roles in both political parties, we encourage all Americans to support every effort to encourage children and parents to take ownership of their future. We are excited that President Obama is delivering this message across our nation today, and we hope every president will continue to do so in the future.


Gates brings education message to MTV, Nickelodeon

Students who might be too glued to their televisions to keep up with homework are going to find channels like MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon prodding them to get on task and graduate.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is partnering with Viacom Inc.'s television networks, education leaders and celebrities to launch an awareness campaign to reduce the number of dropouts. The foundation, started by Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates and his wife, has invested more than $2 billion in educational programs since 2000. "People should understand how the system is falling short today and how it really contradicts our commitment to equal opportunity," Gates told The Associated Press. "If we don't change it now, it will hurt the future of the country as a whole." Only one-third of American high school students graduate with the skills necessary to succeed in college and the nation's workplaces, he said.

"All too often, the value and benefit of education are not real enough to kids," said Tony Miller, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. Charities and industry won't have to go it alone; about $100 billion of the federal stimulus package is dedicated to improvements in education, said Miller.

The "Get Schooled" initiative focuses on low graduation rates in college and high school and the accountability of teachers. Gates criticized the practice of salaries rewarding seniority over proven efficacy, calling it a detriment to quality education.

A student drops out of an American high school every 26 seconds, according to the Seattle-based Gates Foundation. At that rate, not enough American children are graduating high school and college to stay competitive in the global marketplace, said Viacom President and CEO Philippe Dauman. "We don't know much about substance, we're about fluff at Viacom," Dauman said with a laugh. The Viacom chief, whose networks also include VH1, CMT, Spike TV, TV Land and Logo, said he told Gates a year ago, "We know kids, we know how to reach them; if you provide the substance we can be the megaphone."

To launch the five-year campaign, the documentary "Get Schooled" was set to premiere on all of Viacom's networks simultaneously at 8 p.m. EDT Tuesday night. The documentary features pop singer Kelly Clarkson, basketball star LeBron James and President Barack Obama, but the program's real focus is on people behind the scenes, like a presidential speechwriter, and how education brought them success.

Dauman said the "Get Schooled" initiative would find its way into plot lines and programs, like BET's documentary "Bring Your 'A' Game," which featured prominent black men who have achieved success. But "we're not going to go to all PBS-type programming," Dauman said. "In order to reach kids, you have to entertain them." Activism is not new for Viacom and its networks. MTV has raised AIDS awareness, promoted participation in elections and led other education initiatives.

At a Los Angeles event to launch the "Get Schooled" campaign, New York City schools chief Joel Klein said he was hopeful the approach would succeed because "trying to get traction with the millions and millions of kids in school is something that's been a challenge." "When you bring the resources and the vision that the Gates family and foundation has, coupled with the distribution assets that Viacom has — the role models, the glitz they can produce — it feels like a good mix of stuff that will capture kids," Klein said.

Klein and others praised the successes of charter schools, which have drawn the ire of union representatives and school officials. Union leaders in Los Angeles say that such schools would decrease the size of districts and that instructors at charter schools are not covered by unions. An e-mail to the nation's largest labor union, the National Education Association, was not returned immediately Tuesday.

Privately operated schools undertook fresh approaches to schooling, had happier teachers and inspired healthy competition in achievement among New York City schools, said Klein. In Los Angeles, the Board of Education approved a resolution that invites outsiders to submit proposals to develop new charter schools, while increasing accountability standards. Private charter school operators, communities and the mayor's office will submit proposals for the operation of 50 new schools that will open over the next four years, as well as 200 existing schools that are chronic underperformers.

Tuesday's event coincided with a speech Obama made in Arlington, Va., that was broadcast to schools across the nation. In the address, Obama urged students to hit the books, saying that success is hard-won and that every student has something at which they excel.


Australia: Literacy hit squads for schools

Trying to pick up the literacy wreckage caused by disastrous and long-disproved Leftist theories that demonize phonics. The "whole word" madness goes back to the psychology laboratory of Wilhelm Wundt in 19th century Germany, would you believe?

And mathematics results are poor because many of those teaching it have no expertise or interest in it. The small number of people who are good at mathematics and who choose to teach it mostly do so in private schools rather than in chaotic government schools. My mathematician son was inspired to a career in mathematics by good mathematics teachers in his private school

FLYING squads of specialist teachers will swoop into 300 Queensland schools next year under a plan to boost literacy and numeracy results. The so-called Turnaround Teams will be deployed to low-performing schools to identify why their results are below average and develop strategies to improve literacy and numeracy levels.

``Some schools may have problems with truancy or behaviour management, others may need extra help with early childhood learning or teaching science for instance,'' Premier Anna Bligh said today.

The teams are part of the State Government's three-year bid to turn around poor results in Queensland schools and will cost $9 million. The program will be trialled at 10 schools in the Wide Bay/Burnett region later this year before being rolled out to the other schools next year.

The 2008 NAPLAN tests _ National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy _ were an embarrassment for Queensland, with the state's students coming second-last, overall, nationally.



Mark said...

I think so, but in this time the dream of an American education is slipping away due to the rising cost of post-secondary education. Now it seems that a college education does not guarantee sufficient income.

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Anonymous said...

.. the day is coming—sooner than many people think—when a great deal of money is going to abruptly melt out of the higher education system, just as it has in scores of other industries that traffic in information that is now far cheaper and more easily accessible than it has ever been before. Much of that money will end up in the pockets of students in the form of lower prices, a boon and a necessity in a time when higher education is the key to prosperity. Colleges will specialize where they have comparative advantage, rather than trying to be all things to all people. A lot of silly, too-expensive things—vainglorious building projects, money-sucking sports programs, tenured professors who contribute little in the way of teaching or research—will fade from memory, and won’t be missed. Washington Monthly