Okay, I know this is old news, but I’m new to blogging, so I wanted a chance to add my two cents about our President’s promises about the economic stimulus package and education. Here is the excerpt from his February 24th address to the nation taken from cnn.com…
“The third challenge we must address is the urgent need to expand the promise of education in America.
In a global economy, where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity. It is a prerequisite.
Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma, and yet just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation, and half of the students who begin college never finish.
This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow. That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education, from the day they are born to the day they begin a career. That is a promise we have to make to the children of America.
Already, we’ve made a historic investment in education through the economic recovery plan. We’ve dramatically expanded early childhood education and will continue to improve its quality, because we know that the most formative learning comes in those first years of life.
We’ve made college affordable for nearly 7 million more students, 7 million. And we have provided the resources necessary to prevent painful cuts and teacher layoffs that would set back our children’s progress.
But we know that our schools don’t just need more resources; they need more reform. And that is why…
That is why this budget creates new teachers — new incentives for teacher performance, pathways for advancement, and rewards for success. We’ll invest — we’ll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our commitment to charter schools.
It is…It is our responsibility as lawmakers and as educators to make this system work, but it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it.
So tonight I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. 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.
And 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.
That’s why — that’s why we will support — we will provide the support necessary for all young Americans to complete college and meet a new goal: By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. That is a goal we can meet.
That’s a goal we can meet.
Now — now, I know that the price of tuition is higher than ever, which is why, if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to your community or serve your country, we will make sure that you can afford a higher education.
And to encourage a renewed spirit of national service for this and future generations, I ask Congress to send me the bipartisan legislation that bears the name of Sen. Orrin Hatch, as well as an American who has never stopped asking what he can do for his country, Sen. Edward Kennedy.
These education policies will open the doors of opportunity for our children, but it is up to us to ensure they walk through them.
In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a parent, for a mother or father who will attend those parent-teacher conferences, or help with homework, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, read to their child.
I speak to you not just as a president, but as a father, when I say that responsibility for our children’s education must begin at home. That is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. That’s an American issue.”
In the past, public schools have been referred to as failing. We have been told that we are being out-taught and out-performed. The primary measure being used to assess these “failures” are almost always standardized tests. To me, education is much more than just two weeks of my students’ lives. Anyone who has taught can tell you that test day is just one more day in a child’s life, sometimes it’s good, sometime bad. If they are hungry, tired, emotionally distressed, or distracted that test score can go from exceptional to mediocre.
To me, as our school mission stated, education is about “creating life-long learners.” It’s not about one moment in time, it’s about their entire lives. Think about your favorite teacher for a second. When you think about them, what do you remember? I’m guessing it was about their relationship with you… kind words that were exchanged, a thoughtful hug or high five, the way they challenged you, or the way they supported you. Your favorite teacher might have sparked an interest in science or math that you didn’t even know existed . Your favorite teacher might have introduced you to your favorite author or genre of reading. Or your favorite teacher might have given you a problem that you still are working on the solution to. I’m guessing that you probably didn’t say to yourself, “My favorite teacher was the teacher who helped me score in the 95th percentile.”
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in standardized testing. We need to have measures in place that evaluate students, teachers, programs, etc… How else will we know what to improve on? I just disagree that the onlymeasure of a good teacher is by the test scores that class produces.
Which brings me back to Obama’s speech. If we are going to reform our schools, we need to talk about about the measures being used to evaulate them. If we are going to be compared to other countries, we need to examine the similarities and differences between these education systems. If schools within our nation are going to be compared, then we need to look at more than just the programs. One single curriculum does not fit every type of learner.
More needs to be done to address the individual learning styles of children, and more support needs to be provided to educators to meet these needs. Not every child learns in a traditional manner, and these are the kids that are at risk for dropping out. Do we seriously think that when a child is retained for the second time, that the 3rd attempt at that same grade level will be the charm? There are kids that are being let down by our current public school system, and these are not just kids who are low performing or have learning disabilities. Gifted students are among the highest populations of students that drop out. How are schools changing to meet the needs of these students? Are they doing enough?
I was inspired by Obama’s challenge for all Americans to invest one year in education, either higher-ed or career training. I know the comparison has been drawn between Obama and JFK, and here is a perfect example of why he is being compared. Our president actually challenges the consituents to better themselves, be appreciative of the many blessings we have by living in this country and then give back to the community, give back to our families, and we will do all this by furthering our education. We are finally breaking out of this “me, me, me” philosophy… “what can my country do for me?” Thank goodness this self-centered phase of our country’s existence is passing. Could this possibly explain why other countries around the world frown on America?
I think we as educators have all felt the frustration of legislation being passed, laws being put in place, that limit our ability to serve the needs of our students. We have complained that these law makers don’t live in our classrooms, they don’t know the needs of our individual students, and that they probably couldn’t even pass the standardized tests that they mandate for our students. The reality is…. talk is cheap.
If we think we know better, it’s time for us to walk the walk, get loud. We need to get into local, state and national government offices. We need to be in the universities both as students and teachers. We need to be writing and reviewing curriculum used in our schools. We need to be active not just in our own schools, but across our state and our nation. It’s time to stop being affected by change, and time to start affecting change.
This past year, I was lucky enough to take a year off from the classroom to stay home following the birth of my 2nd child. This opportunity coincided with our family moving to a new state, and the conclusion of my 10th year teaching. It also came at the conclusion of a school year where I was beginning to feel unappreciated and overwhelmed. It was the perfect time for me to reevaluate my purpose and passion, and the conclusion I reached was this….
It’s time for the teacher to become the student again.
Here’s to you Mr. President…. I’m following your lead. I promise that I will take what I learn and give back to my community, reform education, make our public schools a better place to teach and learn. I hope other educators will take the challenge as well.