Following last night's State of the Union Addressed, which highlighted education reform's role in ensuring economic competitiveness, Amina comments on the Obama Administration's vision for the future:
The reports are in, the studies are clear: education is in crisis. Only 47% of black males graduate from high school! The Latino high school graduation rate in Obama’s own state of Illinois hovers at a lowly 55%! Yet, the problem didn’t translate in the administration’s solutions.
Parents Matter…Or do they?
Obama opened his discussion of education with a familiar refrain on personal responsibility. He preached, “[R]esponsibility begins not in our classroom, but in our homes and communities… Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done.” True words, but substantively hollow. Are parents valuable or aren’t they? Obama’s rhetoric says yes, but his policies say no. His own Blueprint for Reform largely ignores parental engagement in schools. There is little indication the administration is willing to offer the respect, support and resources to empower parents to be full partners in their child’s education.
Show Teachers the Money!
He continues to try and show good teachers the money. “In South Korea, teachers are known as nation builders. Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. ” Overlaying bonus checks on a fundamentally flawed system for developing and supporting teachers hardly sounds respectful. Too often a good teacher is primarily defined by student test score performance. Moreover, the scheme has shown its flaws most recently in Washington DC’s IMPACT Performance Assessment. “Highly effective” teachers could accept their bonuses, but find themselves more vulnerable to layoffs. 40% of the eligible teachers declined the money. Is this what President Obama envisions?
Fire teachers, fire principals, close traditional schools, open charters, change standards; it’s an alphabet soup of policies that doesn’t get to the complex heart of the problem and lacks the extraordinary vision, resources, and effort needed for real change. We can do better.