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Obama on education in State of the Union: "We only reward success"

President Obama used the State of the Union to tout his national competition to improve schools and said he would work with Congress to expand the program to all 50 states. He urged the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill making college education more affordable.

From the prepared text:

This year, we have broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools. The idea here is simple: instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform - reform that raises student achievement, inspires students to excel in math and science, and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to inner-cities. In the 21st century, one of the best anti-poverty programs is a world-class education. In this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than their potential.
When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress to expand these reforms to all fifty states. Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families. To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer-subsidies that go to banks for student loans. Instead, let's take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants. And let's tell another one million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only ten percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after twenty years - and forgiven after ten years if they choose a career in public service. Because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college. And it's time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs - because they too have a responsibility to help solve this problem.

By Politics Editor  |  January 27, 2010; 9:28 PM ET
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We only reward success? With this policy, it sounds like teachers, school administrators, and students are not to be punished for failing to meet the objectives and expectations of their job. Sounds like the presidency to me.

What happens when lawmakers and judges are given immunity and are rewarded, despite their failures?

Posted by: nancyswan | January 28, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

President Obama deserves praise for proposing increased funding for the nation's public schools, particularly if the additional money goes to classrooms serving children who have been left behind.

However, the President's plans for a national competition to improve schools embraces the failed high-states testing policies embodied in "No Child Left Behind." The "Race to the Top" program actually intensifies the damaging consequences of over-reliance on standardized exams: declining graduation rates and increased dropouts; good students and teachers turned off by dumbed-down learning; and too many classrooms becoming little more than test prep centers. Misusing tests to rank and judge teachers will make these problems worse.

A "world class" education requires major assessment reform. Other nations which produce superior performance test far less and attach far lower stakes to those tests.

A cosmetic makeover of "No Child Left Behind" is not adequate. The fundamental approach must be overhauled, as candidate Obama recognized in his campaign speeches. Washington needs to start helping schools get better, not piling on more tests and punishments. Otherwise, the Administration will just be repackaging warmed-over educational snake oil.

Posted by: FairTest | January 28, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

I agree that education is key to the success of our country. I agree that students should not be punished for living in a substandard school district. But we are left without answers. If one lives in a "poor" neighborhood, one will continue to go to a "poor" school. There is a Columbus City school two blocks west of my home. It is in shambles. There is a Bexley school (where I live and pay high property taxes because of it) two blocks east of my home that is immaculate. There needs to be a bridge between this gap or the success to be rewarded will only go to the privileged. And this bridge is only created at the state level as our forefathers failed to include education in the Constitution as a right for all citizens. Furthermore, if we are going to put more people to work, we need better childcare; a disheartening situation as Ohio cut early childhood education spending. My question is this: who are those that will be successful?

Posted by: kas4069 | January 28, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Our public schools are a national disgrace, is that why your girls are in private school Mr. President? Jimmy Carter had the brains to know that a "man of the people" does NOT send his children to private schools.

We will never have a school system of which we can be proud until it is no longer riddled with union activists. Neither will we have schools of which we can be proud until they are dedicated to teaching the authentic history of this country, and the basics of education in order to prepare the students for entry into higher education. There can BE no higher education until the young people of this country can graduate from our high schools with the education to be worthy of entrance into one of our colleges or universities. Until then our "institutions" of higher education will be no better than the inadequate high schools from which their entrants come!

Posted by: OregonStorm | January 28, 2010 12:24 AM | Report abuse

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