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Obama warns of falling education standards

By Scott Wilson
President Obama warned Saturday that a faltering U.S. education system is putting the country at a competitive disadvantage in the global economy, saying, "Few issues speak more directly to our long-term success as a nation."

In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama noted a recent headline that he said had been overlooked by much of the nation but "ought to be a source of concern for every American." It read: "Many Nations Passing U.S. in Education."

Specifically, he said, "we've now fallen behind most wealthy countries in our high school graduation rates. And while we once led the world in the proportion of college graduates we produced, today we no longer do."

As he has with other issues, Obama placed much of the blame for the system's condition on Washington's political culture, which he has said favors short-term decisions, tailored to winning the next election, over difficult ones designed to solve long-term problems.

"Too often we have failed to make inroads in reforming and strengthening our public education system -- the debate mired in worn arguments hurled across entrenched divides," he said. "As a result, over the last few decades, we've lost ground."

Obama highlighted his administration's efforts to improve the education system, including a federal grant program known as "Race to the Top" for states that carry out certain reforms, including holding teachers more accountable for student performance.

He said his administration will send Congress on Monday his proposal to "update" the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. He said it represents an "overhaul" of President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" program.

"What this plan recognizes is that, while the federal government can play a leading role in encouraging the reforms and high standards we need, the impetus for that change will come from states, and from local schools and school districts," he said. "So, yes, we set a high bar -- but we also provide educators the flexibility to reach it."

Obama said the goal of the proposal is for all students to "graduate from high school prepared for college and a career -- no matter who you are or where you come from."

"Achieving this goal will be difficult. It will take time. And it will require the skills, talents and dedication of many: principals, teachers, parents, students," Obama said. "But this effort is essential for our children and for our country. And while there will always be those cynics who claim it can't be done, at our best, we know that America has always risen to the challenges that we've faced. This challenge is no different."

By Scott Wilson  |  March 13, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Comments

Education is in decline, because of a lack of funding. You cannot cut the budget for education year in and year out, and expect anything good to come of it. If a corporation ran one of its divisions this way, what would be the expected outcome? Obviously that division would wither away and die, and yet this is exactly what has been happening to education for decades. Somewhere along the line the republicans convinced the nation that they can have the greatest country in the world, the greatest military, the greatest transportation system, the greatest education system, but they don't have to pay for it. And the American people stood up and cheered.

Does anyone remember Rumsfeld going into Iraq on the cheap, and the disastrous results that followed. This is the way of education. The republicans want this to happen, because of their belief system that all things should be privatized, and that all things government run are baaaaaaaad.

We are quickly turning our education system into a privatized system This is first being done at the university level. One decade ago the state of Michigan funded 72% of the state colleges budget. They now fund 27%. Guess who is paying for this? The student is with higher tuition, fewer professors and larger class sizes. We are pricing all but the rich out of college. This fits the conservative bill. Soon they will have an underclass that they can underpay, and fill their factories with. They will no longer need to move factories to third world countries, they will have succeeded in turning America into one.

Posted by: Xaretoughallover | March 15, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Everyone has their own opinion about what hould or should not hapen but when will we sandup? and what should we do? Read what i think we should all standup and do at http://www.quibon.com

Posted by: roverfind | March 15, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Mr President the probomb with our childrens Education is BAD Teachers that the TEACHERS' UNIONS protect! And the miss use of School funds.. It is foolish and a waste of Tax payers money to add to a corruption system!

Posted by: akeegan2 | March 15, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Obama is WRONG, MISINFORMED. Why does ANYONE listen to him?

I have worked in education for the past twelve years and I can tell you that NCLB - while not perfect - helped close the gaps in disparity between the subgroups; it helped schools meet the needs of - and service - special education students, and it incentivized schools to build programs that individualized instruction for every student.

I saw it make a difference and I worked in small rural districts and inner-city.

It didn't blame teachers - or fire the old teachers that everyone wants to diss - or marginalize anyone. It was a framework for improvement and it was a success as a framework.

Obama's arrogance doesn't need to overshadow the facts. There is no need to dismantle the parts that worked.

Give credit where credit is due - and STOP TRYING TO DESTROY THE PROGRAMS AND GOOD THINGS THAT HAPPENED IN THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION.

Truly, it makes you look petty and small, Obama.

Posted by: easttxisfreaky | March 13, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Yes, the President must be delusional. Nothing is wrong with our educational system. After all, Republicans running my area, Cochise County, Arizona, have found a way around the county's money problems after the Republicans who control the state government bankrupted it. We have cut schools back to 4 days a week. Our schools are so great here, I bet we could trim them even more. Eighth graders could teach first graders. Dump unneeded teachers. After all, we don't produce enough professionals around here to fill even the few professional opportunities that are available anyway. Why not just import blue collar workers as well. Who needs readin, writin, and rithmetic anyway?

State Republicans sold off most of the state admin buildings to help finance their self-inflicted budgetary wounds. I kind of agree. That old State Capitol Building with the shiny dome is just an extravagance anyway? But, money from those sales didn't go to education. The question I have about the mess is, since we local property owners pay for our local schools and since property and school taxes are still being paid, where did school tax money go? Okay, you figured it out. I am not a republican so these big economics issues just go over my head, I guess.

Hey, I bet US Republican Congressmen will propose a similar solution to the national cash crunch. We could turn the congressional complex into a sort of youth hostel for Europeans taking their mandatory 6 week vacations. We could also turn Walter Reed Hospital into a pay as go medical clinic for other traveling foreigners who get sick from drinking the water in this country. As an aside, when I buy filtered, purified water here, I noticed that many of the customers are Mexicans. Now, that's a truly a sad commentary on US water standards. But, like global warming and the melting snow caps, it's all just a matter of prospective.

Posted by: Reesh | March 13, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I'd say standards are slipping when a place like Texas adopts the Fox News method of educating. We revise-you be dumb.

Posted by: hoser3 | March 13, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I'd say standards are slipping when a place like Texas adopts the Fox News method of educating. We revise-you be dumb.

Posted by: hoser3 | March 13, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Manufacturing jobs by and large have left and are not coming back, unless the government were to subsidize them like defense.

If you accept the proposition that large swaths of our population is unable to be educated becuase of their economic background or family, where are those children when they become adults going to work? If you don't find jobs for them to support themselves, you will likely be supporting them when they have children or go to prison.

Posted by: moebius22 | March 13, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

In this case most of the President's comments are ideology that have little connection with reality. Our nation's economic condition is primarily a consequence of our resources, our nation's business leadership, and our military power. Our problems have to do with several factors. One is that we have become accustomed to the priviledged position in the world that was largely a consequence of our military victory in World War II. A second is the success that several low wage nations have had in achieving competitive output from relatively poorly paid workers. The third is the fact that we have used up much of our own oil and have become reliant on external sources for our critical energy requirements.
Clearly, there is a large amount of uncertainty and a large amount of understandable emotion surrounding the subject of what can be taught to different people in school. But, at least as far as top performers in science and engineering are concerned, it is pretty clear that the number of days people go to school or the quality of teachers is not what makes the big difference. People specially skilled in software development are particularly likely to be people who have had difficulty with school environments. People learn to do science and engineering by doing it around people who are experienced in doing it.
It is of course always good to do a better job of meeting the special needs of different students. But it is also always the case that arguments about education are in part the reflection of the education industry lobby. The main thing we need to do with education is to make better use of cost effective automation and to make a bigger effort to engineer the instructional materials that can help people acquire the skills they need to be productive in a modern workforce. Part of that process needs to be an effort to get the feedback that can provide a real understanding of the variation among different students in what they are able to learn, what they are interested in learning, and in how they learn it most effectively. Another part of that process is designing instructional materials that can give that kind of feedback directly to students so they can do a better job of discovering their own skills and interests in order to get on a track of preparing themselves for a productive and successful role in society.

Posted by: dnjake | March 13, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

The schools are going to have to become more flexible and creative in how they deal with children who come from disadvantaged families, and families where the first language isn't English.

Posted by: moebius22 | March 13, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

America is falling not only Education standards America is loosing its super power, dignity, and all fronts because there is no right president in White House. Obama should clarify himself whether his education standards, idealism and political skill are good enough for super power nation or not.

Posted by: BellaLiberty | March 13, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

The debate is moot. Native Americans themselves are to blame. Why ? Well, it appears that the following book written by Dr. Etta Kralovec, titled,

"THE END OF HOMEWORK: HOW HOMEWORK DISRUPTS FAMILIES, OVERBURDENS CHILDREN, AND LIMITS LEARNING"

(ISBN-13: 978-0807042199, August 2001, Paperback)

indicates that homework in general, and particularly before middle school (grade 7) is destructive/disruptive.

Some blogger had whined about "cheap labor" from India in the IT sector. Well, Indian techies had a rigorous background in high-school and college and hence can do work which apparently Americans are unable to do anymore because the rigor of educational training is viewed in this country as destructive.

So, if you see majority of college-going Americans now majoring in art-history, music, basket-weaving, sexology, ancient Greek literature, religion, and the like, instead of mathematics, physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, computer science, medicine, don't blame Indians or the Chinese. Regardless of their backgrounds, these folks have on the average better background than most Americans in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering Mathematics) areas. Knowledge and proficiency in STEM areas are the only way that new, technology-based manafacturing jobs can be generated in USA.

Today USA is surviving by depending on service jobs, a great reversal from what was there 25 years ago. A country cannot be prospering relying on service economy. You need manafacturing jobs. The manafacturing jobs have moved out because of: (a) corporate greed - cruel capitalism that underscores stakeholder's profit maximization as a metric of prosperity, and, (b) lack of qualified personnel in technology or engineering areas. If they (personnel) available, then they are very costly. That's why the business owners are hesitant to keep manafacturing jobs here in USA which are at least 30 times costly than in India. FYI, if you pay a Computer Scientist in Bangalore, India, $1,000 per month you can get almost the same quality of job what you would get by paying an American here in USA about $8,000 to $10,000 per month. So, why wouldn't the US companies be forced to set up shop in India, China and Brazil ? Has anyone thought about this ?

On another score, the US business owners if asked why they would not invest in applied research from the profits they made by offshoring jobs and cutting costs, the answer would be that they cannot find well-trained Americans locally. So, even IBM is now setting research shop in Bangalore India. I am not sure if this 100% accurate, but given the trends around us, the answer makes sense. Well-trained and educated Americans in STEM areas are hard to come by. This, in turn has its roots in the promotion of indulgence like the book I have cited, which derides homework at an early stage, leaving Americans vulnerable to competition from overseas.

Don't whine if you're incompetent.

Posted by: DebChatterjee | March 13, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Specifically, obama said, "we've now fallen behind most wealthy
countries in our high school graduation rates.

(We are a ‘debtor’ nation obama, stop spending.)

We need term limits in congress….

We need to eliminate ‘tenure’ in education…

Teachers should be retained by performance, not unions….

Posted by: UpAndOver | March 13, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

If we can get illegals educated and become a productive part of our population, we are better off than putting up with those lazy citizens who have stopped learning, being productive, and just wait around for retirement. But who is going to pay for your retirement? Canada realized this much better than we do. They welcome these so-called illegals with all kinds of benefits. They know they need hardworking immigrants.

Posted by: dummy4peace | March 13, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

US education has sucked for decades. You need only look at the success of the US Republican party among non-college educated high school graduates.

Basically, Americans leave high school able to read, count, write (sort of) and recite their ridiculous "Pledge of Allegiance".

US history education consists of "The Story of How We Became The Greatest Nation on the Face of the Earth."

In 2003, 79% of Americans thought it would be really clever to invade Iraq.

According to that year's National Geographic Survey, exactly 13% of these people could identify Iraq on a map of the Middle East.

Posted by: kevrobb | March 13, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

What do you think would happen when political correctness is more important than learning? Poor students don't get any better, excellent students don't have a chance to excel. Students need to be grouped by ability, and nothing else. Add to that parents who see the school system as a "baby sitter" as their wants are more important that what they should be doing to teach their own kids.

Posted by: gmclain | March 13, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

If Obama can fix our public education, I will vote for him in 2012 just for this reform alone. He was an educator at the University of Chicago so he actually knows a thing or two about education.

Posted by: dummy4peace | March 13, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Uhhh...This has been known for 20 or more years. Obama just now gets it? U.S teachers
educating impoverished illiterates whose parents moved here precisely to produce "American" citizens to make 'em all "legal"?

Perhaps part of the low achievement in "U.S." education is caused by waves of illiterate immigrants and their young 'uns from Latin America? Just a wild guess.

I wish them no harm. I wish them only well. I wish they would change their OWN governments for the better. In their OWN countries.

I do not feel any obligation to support--with my tax dollars--Mexicans, Salvadorans, Hondurans, etc. etc. etc. Time for revolutions in those countries?
Well yeah! But that would take some personal risk THERE, wouldn't it?

Kinda like 1776!

Posted by: mftill | March 13, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

With Mexicans and blacks destined to become the majority in the US, what do you expect? The worst is yet to come.

Posted by: Atenora | March 13, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

AS USUAL OBAMA IS ALL TALK

Reporting from Washington
When he was a senator, Barack Obama pushed through a law setting up a kind of "Google-for-government" website -- a one-stop-shop for tracking the $1 trillion handed out in federal contracts.

Obama said the new site would help create a more transparent government.

But now that he is president, Obama's Office of Management and Budget is responsible for keeping up the website -- and government auditors have found deficiencies.

A Government Accountability Office audit released Friday found broad compliance with the law establishing the spending tracker. But in some cases, information was missing or unreliable, the GAO said.

"Not everything that should have been reported was reported, and that which was reported was not always accurate," David Powner, the GAO official who led the audit, said in an interview.

The audit of USAspending.gov covered the period from June 2009 to March 2010. A total of nine federal agencies failed to report 15 government contracts, the audit showed.

After reviewing 100 federal contracts, the GAO also found "widespread inconsistencies" in what appeared on the website and what was contained in records provided by the agencies. Auditors, for example, found discrepancies in where the work took place and the purpose of the contracts.

Posted by: charlietuna666 | March 13, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

AS USUAL OBAMA IS ALL TALK

Reporting from Washington
When he was a senator, Barack Obama pushed through a law setting up a kind of "Google-for-government" website -- a one-stop-shop for tracking the $1 trillion handed out in federal contracts.

Obama said the new site would help create a more transparent government.

But now that he is president, Obama's Office of Management and Budget is responsible for keeping up the website -- and government auditors have found deficiencies.

A Government Accountability Office audit released Friday found broad compliance with the law establishing the spending tracker. But in some cases, information was missing or unreliable, the GAO said.

"Not everything that should have been reported was reported, and that which was reported was not always accurate," David Powner, the GAO official who led the audit, said in an interview.

The audit of USAspending.gov covered the period from June 2009 to March 2010. A total of nine federal agencies failed to report 15 government contracts, the audit showed.

After reviewing 100 federal contracts, the GAO also found "widespread inconsistencies" in what appeared on the website and what was contained in records provided by the agencies. Auditors, for example, found discrepancies in where the work took place and the purpose of the contracts.

Posted by: charlietuna666 | March 13, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I'm an educator. 'Race to the top' is already working dramatically well. Keep it up Mr. President! You are right on target.

Respectfully,

F.M.

Posted by: Felipe_M | March 13, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

@ mhr614

the program entitled "No Child Left Behind' was enacted by a liberal admin?

I was in gifted and talented classes at my public high school, and the numbers of students in those classes were low. And yes, students with special needs- be it for high or low performance- deserve the extra attention.

If you want to blame anything, blame the lack of a national standard. Other advanced nations have a high-school leaving exam: if you don't pass the exam, you don't get a high school diploma.

If you think this creates teaching to the test, well it does. If the test is good, that is, if it tests the basic skills required for a high-school graduate, then teaching to the test is fine. What is more, we rely upon national standardized tests for college admissions, so why not for lower levels?

And if you want to blame liberals, what about conservatives who preach the bible and creationism? It seems hard to produce a society full of scientists when one of the most basic ideas of science, and the most basic of biology- evolution- is contraversial to teach.

Posted by: salparadise661 | March 13, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Ask about time spent on task during HOMEwork. In a classroom, the adult-student ration is 1:25 or so. At home, the ratio is 2:2 or 3. Parents are in control of learning. Would be a good question to ask during the Census. Would also be instructive to have a week dedicated to measuring homework. Check homework before student and parent set foot into the schoolbuilding each morning.

Posted by: kevten | March 13, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Yah, a pity O and the rest don't understand that kids (or their parents) aren't going to get up to their eyeballs in debt getting a Science or tech degree to find lowball salaries when they graduate, assuming they can get a job in the first place, due to extensive offshoring and importation of cheap workers from India.

As usual he talks one way and rewards the Big Corporations.

Posted by: ITdude | March 13, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Teacher Unions are the cause of poor teaching results for students. Teachers in unions are mostly interested in their next raise, their next vacation day, or how many years till full pension.

Get rid of teacher unions and scholastic scores would skyrocket.

Posted by: cpameetingbook | March 13, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Obama's Race to the Top is just more partisanship.

If there were educational dollars, why not simply divy up the money to all school districts?

He is buying votes yet once again...and bullying everyone into accepting his wonderful, intelligent ideas or else.

Posted by: easttxisfreaky | March 13, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

One of the great problems the US has with its education system is its downgrading of quality in the name of equality. No more do most public schools foster in the brightest of its children the desire to excel. The greatest expenditures often are incurred in educating the uneducable, the children " with special needs." These children are assured of classes with very few pupils and a teacher with special training. The liberal desire to pretend that all people are equal harms those of our children who are not equal, but who are gifted intellectually- they are born that way. Liberals like the process of leveling that will pretend that all cultures are equal- that of the US and that of Kenya, for example; the child with an IQ of 140 and the one with an IQ of 90 are put in the same classroom. Bright children need to be challenged and if they are not, they will be bored and they will be bored if the teacher concentrates as he must on the slower children who need more time to learn even the most basic concepts. Good parents of an exceptional child, ie highly intelligent, will do everything in their power to get him into a good private school. Now ask a liberal politician what he thinks of my proposal. Ask Maxine Waters, for example, and then get prepared for her invective.

Posted by: mhr614 | March 13, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

I never heard of kids complaining of political propaganda in school, nor did I hear any when I was a student. That sounds more like an adult's gripe. But look out, here comes true propaganda in the form of Texas schoolbooks. We can rest easy knowing that our kids will be the best in the world when it comes to explaining things in terms of "god did it" and "USA Number One!"

Posted by: hitpoints | March 13, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

You'd have to be an idiot to disagree with the President on this one. Simple as that.

Posted by: onifadee | March 13, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

So what is he telling us that we don't already know. My grandchildren attend public school in Half Moon Bay, California, about thirty miles south of San Francisco along the coast. About half of the students don't speak English and most of them are illegals. By about the fourth grade the cricula consists of what should haved been learned in second and third grades. And it gets worse from there. Some classes are now being taught in Spanish to everyone. It is no wonder that performnce is suffering. I suspect my grandchildren will soon be in private schools. I am told the stories are worse around LA. What does Obama propose other than spend more money foolishly?

Posted by: jdonner2 | March 13, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: nikejordans1 | March 13, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

He should start by chasing all the political propaganda out of the schools. That's why none of the students take school seriously anymore.

Posted by: michaelniland | March 13, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

I hear people saying he is so wrong that he just wants to control the schools. Anyone who goes out and interacts with the real world has to know that he is right. I know people that can't add or subtract without a calculator. The biggest percentage of Americans can't speak but one language and that one, not very well.

Posted by: racam | March 13, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

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