State of the Union 2012: Obama on education reform

Excerpt from the State of the Union 2012 – President Barack Obama on education reform: 

“But to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, our commitment to skills and education has to start earlier.

“For less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education each year, we’ve convinced nearly every state in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning — the first time that’s happened in a generation.

“But challenges remain.  And we know how to solve them.

“At a time when other countries are doubling down on education, tight budgets have forced states to lay off thousands of teachers.  We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000.  A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond his circumstance.  Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives.  Most teachers work tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging into their own pocket for school supplies — just to make a difference.

“Teachers matter.  So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal.  Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones.  And in return, grant schools flexibility:  to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.  That’s a bargain worth making.

“We also know that when students don’t walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma.  When students are not allowed to drop out, they do better.  So tonight, I am proposing that every state — every state — requires that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.”



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One Comment on “State of the Union 2012: Obama on education reform

  1. I am a first year college student and I listened to all the new ideas for the United States with an open mind, but I couldn’t help but feel concerned about one of the propositions. The proposition on keeping students in high school until the age of eighteen or graduate with a diploma seemed unfair and does not take into account for other reasons as to why students drop out in the first place.
    I personally came from a school district that had the second lowest graduation rate in the nation: 40%. I was surrounded by students who – a majority of them – would soon drop out at one point in their high school career. Attending a high school in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) exposed me to classroom environments that were fairly chaotic: loud and unfocused. In one of my general Spanish classes, I had to tolerate students who did not want to be in school – parents usually forced school upon them – and they made it hard to get any learning done; they were constantly noisy and disruptive, and by the time the teacher was able to quiet them down, we only had half the class remaining for the lesson. Besides having the obnoxious students in my class, I got to know a few students whose families were in a great deal of financial trouble; they would soon need their teen child to help with the bills instead of attend school. Overall, I was exposed to a diverse group of people who may or may not have graduated high school, and I got to see the class sizes shrink, and shrink – for various reasons – until graduation day came: which is more than Obama can read in a few reports.
    Students don’t just dropout because they feel they don’t need an education – although some do think that – there are usually deeper reasons, such as: early parenthood, difficult financial situations, physical disability, unstable homes, etc. A better proposition to help with low graduation rates would be to offer more guidance counselors. If students had someone they could come to, with full confidence, then they would feel more comfortable in the overall school atmosphere. Guidance counselors could offer them advice about classes or possible study skills, and even help with personal problems at home – even if it’s just emotional support. Another great help would be seminars talking to students about graduation being within arm’s length; some students begin high school with a mentality that graduating is nearly impossible because of previous family members that failed to achieve a diploma. Students need to feel reassured that they can reach graduation and they have all the support from school staff.
    Although school staff want to help students as much as possible, they need to keep in mind that, at the moment, there are more students than they can care for. With recent budget cuts, there are far less teachers working for the high number of classroom sizes than ever before. Teachers can’t give the same quality of education because the school system is asking them to deliver quantity. On top of the quantity that the teachers have to deliver, they have to attempt to control a greater classroom size that is usually harder to keep quiet. Classes usually include a handful of students that don’t want to be there, therefore make it harder for those students that are interested in learning. If there are already a handful of students that don’t want to be there and make it harder for others to learn, then how would it be if all students were forced to remain in school until they graduate or turn eighteen? There would be a 60% student increase in LAUSD, almost all being disruptive to other students who want to learn because they would not want to be there. Schools are understaffed, so disciplining all troublemakers would be unlikely and kicking students out of school would just counteract forcing them to attend school in the first place. In essence, there are many other ways to reduce dropout rates in the United States, but forcing students to attend school is not the correct path in doing so.

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