Happy Birthday To Me!

I'm 46. I'm a teacher. I'm a single dad. I'm blogging this right now. Buy some TFT swag please.

Saturday Bonus Cartoon Fun: Nationalize The Banks Edition

Saturday Cartoon Fun: Envy Edition

Teacher Evaluations: A Crock

Teacher evaluations are dubious for a couple reasons. The first is the fact that principals, in my district at least, evaluate based on 3 observations in the classroom. These observations do not really provide enough evidence of teaching or not-teaching, unless the principal is predisposed to evaluate you in a certain way--positively or negatively. In that case, they can point to just about anything they want, and leave out anything want, to make the evaluation appear any way they want.

The second problem, related to the first, is the fact that the principal does this alone. There is no other person there, observing the same thing, to compare notes with. Perception is not always reality, and 2 people looking at something may just see things very differently.

Because of the way teacher evaluations are performed, teachers, unless they are on good personal terms with the principal, must live in fear of the baseless negative evaluation for which there is no recourse because it is the principal's word over the teacher's. As we know, management tends to win these battles.

I have many, many letters of appreciation from parents of students, and have had master teachers and principals tell me I am a fantastic teacher. I have been asked--by my current principal!--to be math leader (I said no), disaster coordinator (I am currently), tech leader (was until we got a new teacher who used to be tech guy for his district--he knows way more than me!), and am in charge of whole-school outings. Yet, because I push back, my principal gives me negative evaluations. This year is the first year I have ever received a negative evaluation. My teaching has not changed; indeed I feel I have gotten better having been left in the same grade for 4 years in a row (something I have written about before).

I would like to see teacher evaluations done by fellow teachers in conjunction with principals, and I would like the written notes of all evaluators to be included, with equal weight, in any final evaluation. This would be more informative and much more fair than the way it is done now.

For all you "unions protect the bad teachers" folks out there, the union can do nothing about a principal hell bent on firing a teacher; we teachers don't have any mechanism to expose the nonsense; union negotiations see to that (we lose, always).

Fox Rips Fox: All Hail Shep Smith?

Shep Smith rips his colleague Glenn Beck for being a douchebag. It's hilarious!

Obama And Torture: Not what I Expected

This is supremely disappointing. I am getting less and less enthusiastic about Obama as the days go on. First not prosecuting torture, then jumping on the education reform bandwagon, and now back to defending torture. Speak up! Be loud, people!
Obama Justice Department Urges Dismissal of Another Torture Case
By Daphne Eviatar 3/12/09 6:46 PM

In another move that suggests the Obama Department of Justice is not making many big policy breaks with its predecessor when it comes to the legal rights of Guantanamo Bay detainees, the department filed a brief renewing the government’s motion to dismiss the case of Rasul v. Rumsfeld.

The case is very similar to the lawsuit filed by U.S. citizen and former enemy combatant Jose Padilla against former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, which I’ve been following. The plaintiffs in Rasul v. Rumsfeld allege that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior Bush officials are responsible for their torture; prolonged arbitrary detention; cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; cruel and unusual punishment; denial of liberties without due process, and preventing the exercise and expression of their religious beliefs.

According to their legal complaint, Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed claim they traveled to Afghanistan in October 2001 to offer humanitarian relief to civilians. In late November, they were kidnapped by Rashid Dostum, the Uzbeki warlord and leader of the U.S.-supported Northern Alliance. He turned them over to U.S. custody – apparently for bounty money that American officials were paying for suspected terrorists. In December, without any independent evidence that the men had engaged in hostilities against the United States, U.S. officials sent them to Guantanamo Bay. Over the next two years, they claim — as does a fourth British man — that they were imprisoned in cages, tortured and humiliated, forced to shave their beards and watch their Korans desecrated, until they were returned to Britain in 2004. None were ever charged with a crime.

Dismissed at the urging of the Bush administration, the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In December, the case was sent back to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington for reconsideration, because the Supreme Court had ruled in Boumediene v. Bush that Guantanamo detainees have the right to challenge their detentions. It wasn’t clear what effect that ruling might have on the Rasul case.

Although some civil rights lawyers had hoped the Obama administration would change the government’s position — or at least try to settle this case, which is at the very least an embarrassment to the United States – the former prisoners had no such luck. Today, the Justice Department filed a brief arguing, as it did in Padilla’s case against Yoo, that government officials are not liable for torture, abuse, denial of due process or religious rights, because the right of Guantanamo prisoners not to suffer those abuses at the hands of the U.S. government was not clearly established at the time.[emphasis mine]

That would seem to contradict previous statements by President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder that torture (including waterboarding) and other abuses are clearly illegal, now and always, and that the president can’t simply override that prohibition. It also may discourage those who are hoping the president will eventually support prosecutions of former Bush officials for exactly those crimes.

Reached today, the lead lawyer on the case, Eric Lewis, a partner at the Washington-based law firm, Baach Robinson & Lewis, said he was “disappointed” but “not surprised.”

However, as I’ve pointed out before in the context of the Yoo case, the defense does raise some serious questions about whether the Obama Justice Department really ought to be defending Donald Rumsfeld and his former colleagues in this case at all.

I’ll be writing more about this case and others like it, as well as their implications, in the coming week.

"Put The Fools In Charge"

Jim Horn is my newest hero. Read this and find out how teachers feel.
If-You-Are-Sick Day April 1: Put the Fools In Charge for a Day

I am hearing all sorts of hopelessness expressed from educators who so recently were full of hope. I believe with all my gut, heart, and head that it is time to stop rolling over and to get into full sick-of-it mode. If you’re sick, that is. We all know that educators who haven’t signed up to work for the corporate charter CEOs still have about a dozen sick days per year that can be accumulated. I think it is time to start using them to help allay the overwhelming nausea that sets in as we begin to see the outlines of the Obama-Duncan Plan, which is a steroidal version of the Bush-Spellings Plan. More testing, pay-per-score for teachers, bribing students, more corporate charters, urban chain gangs based on KIPP brainwashing camps, weakening of benefits and due process, national testing. So I have a suggestion for the millions of demonized teachers of America:

If you are sick of your leaders cutting deals with the Business Roundtable in order to advance their own careers at your expense, then use a sick day;

If you are sick of being blamed for the societal effects of poverty that none of the oligarchs or politicians will even acknowledge as the problem driving the achievement gap, then use a sick day;

If you are sick of being attacked by nasty, know-nothing editorial editors and writers of the Washington Post and the New York Times who have never been in a public school classroom, then use a sick day;

If you are sick of Presidents who talk about the failure of schools to disguise the governmental failures to provide economic protection, health protection, jobs protection, and retirement protections for the citizens who have been raped by the corporate thieves and the misanthropists like Gates and Broad and Dell who export our work, then use a sick day;

If you are sick of reporters who would rather parrot the lies and exaggerations of the Business Roundtable, rather than talk with teachers who are giving their whole hearts every day to their students, then use a sick day;

If you are sick of businessmen who would rather offer criticism and blame than money to help children to have the resources that our governments refuse to provide, then use a sick a sick day;

If you are sick of education policy that demonstrates that professional trust that has been replaced by policing and monitoring, then use a sick day;

If you are sick of working in a profession that pays thousand less than comparably prepared professionals in other fields, then use a sick day;

If you are sick of being pushed, shoved, derided, slammed, blamed, caricatured, castigated, and mocked by people who are totally ignorant of the jobs teachers do and the sacrifices they make, then use a sick day;

If you are sick of using your own money to buy resources for children that politicians will not provide, then use a sick day;

If you are sick of spending 60 hour a week on your work, only to be mocked for taking summer vacations that you are not even paid for, then use a sick day;

If you are sick of being the brunt of jokes and jabs by arrogant jackasses who would who never learned that there a form of understanding called empathy, then use a sick day;

If you are sick of being told how to do your job by fools and charlatans who need to create a problem in order to sell their snake-oil solution, the use a sick day;

If you are sick of a virulent institutional racism advanced by an uncaring education industry that expects you to abandon your professional ethics in order to impose a form intellectual rigor mortis based on meaningless tests, then use a sick day;

If you are sick of your school being turned into prison camp where children are to be treated as convict laborers, then use a sick day;

If you are sick of the knowledge and understanding you know that children need being replaced by corporate scripts that treat you like an idiot and your students like parrots, then use a sick day;

If you are sick of the anti-cultural curriculums sold by corporations, then use a sick day;

If you are sick of threats to your salary and health insurance and retirement plans and due process rights by greedy oligarchs who control the government and who want to reduce their corporate tax obligations through your sacrifice, then use a sick day.

If you are sick of working your guts out and giving every dollar you could to elect a President that you believed would respect and honor the work of teachers, only to have the George Bush education plan put into overdrive by that new President, then use a sick day.

These are just a few of the reasons to use a sick day, the first of many that will be used until the irresponsible and out-of-touch corporate interests in charge in Washington decide to respect the teachers who have given so much to the noblest profession that is the least appreciated by the fools who now plan to run the public schools into the ground. The worm has turned for the corporate perpetrators, but they don’t even know it yet.

So on April 1, won’t you please leave the fools in charge who are clamoring to control the schools, while you use a sick day to deal with some of the nausea. You have earned it by the most loyal, patient and abiding sense of trust that has been responded to with a kick in the teeth. Take a sick day and use to let your elected officials know that the prison schools are shutting down and that a new school is about to open.

More Nonsense From The Reformers Debunked

Sharpton and Klein's Imperfect Op-Ed

The Huffington Post has a piece today by Al Sharpton and Joel Klein entitled "Teacher Rx: The Perfect Storm for Reform." They make a lot of good points, but they also come up short on a number. Here are some of the parts where they slip up:

"the teaching profession does far too little to recruit promising teachers to high-poverty schools or retain them by providing merit pay"

I'm not sure "the teaching profession" really controls either of these things. I don't see "the medical profession" running recruiting campaigns or paying certain doctors more. I guess the closest thing to an action taken by the teacher profession would be an action taken by unions, but they don't exist to recruit or pay people. I think what they meant to say was that our education system does far too little.

"From the moment a prospective teacher enters a teachers college to the day of his or her retirement party, a teacher's ability to elevate student learning is poorly assessed (if at all), and virtually never linked to consequences--either positive, as in the case of awarding merit pay, or negative, like being dismissed for poor performance."

This is part of their discussion of merit pay, but is really only tangentially related. Teachers can both be rewarded and punished without the aid of tests or merit pay. If too few teachers are dismissed it's not just because the system doesn't punish bad teachers, it's also because principals aren't making a concerted effort to fire bad teachers.

But in the 21st century, teachers are long overdue to join the ranks of other white-collar professionals, whose remuneration is based chiefly on job performance. "It is astonishing to me that you could have a system that doesn't allow you to pay more for strong performance, or for teaching in a particular school," says Bill Gates. "That is almost like saying 'Teacher performance doesn't matter'--and that's basically saying 'Students don't matter'."

It's not that simple. Teacher performance can matter without being linked to pay. Students can matter without earning caretakers money. Parents aren't paid more if they take better care of their child, but an awful lot of them find the will to care anyway.

"credentials and certification are poor indicators of who will become an effective teacher"

As are test scores and college transcripts. But they might be preventing worse teachers from entering the classroom.

"In fact, promising alternative programs for recruiting and certifying teachers, like Teach for America and the New York City Teaching Fellows program, are every bit if not more effective than the traditional training provided at teachers colleges."

No, their teachers obtain about the same results on standardized tests. That may or may not indicate that they're good at training teachers. It might mean that they're better at recruiting/hiring people with more natural talent at teaching. It might mean that people in those programs simply work harder because they're more willing to burn out and move on. That fact in and of itself tells us very little about how well TFA or NYCTF train teachers.

"When disadvantaged students have a good teacher a number of years in a row, it can eliminate, or at least make a huge dent, in the achievement gap. One study of 9,400 math classrooms in Los Angeles in grades three through five projects that if low-income minority students could be assured of having teachers who fell in the top 25 percent of effective teachers four years in a row (in lieu of a sub-par instructor from the bottom quartile of teachers), students could close the achievement gap altogether"

Ugh. Really? People still haven't gotten the memo? This projection was based on pure, and inaccurate, speculation that has since been disproved. Stop citing this. There's plenty of evidence that teachers are important -- we don't need to resort to citing faulty evidence. Remember: overstating your case doesn't make it stronger. Read Aaron Pallas for more on this.

"To move toward a true performance-based compensation system for teachers, school districts would need to be able to track the effect that individual teachers have on student performance from year-to-year over a period of years . . . Unfortunately, only a handful of states and districts have developed data bases that would enable school officials to track the performance of individual teachers and students over a multi-year period.

We believe that the Obama administration should require states seeking money from the new $5 billion "Race to the Top" innovation fund to not only develop but implement longitudinal value-added systems for assessing teacher performance. For all its imperfections and methodological challenges, value added analysis is still a vast improvement on the existing system, which fails its elemental duty to judge whether teachers are advancing student learning."

Two thoughts: 1.) Value-Added systems are difficult and expensive to develop. Might it be better for the federal government to create one (especially if we end up with national standards) and allow states to either opt-in or create their own? 2.) If the current system "fails its elemental duty" then why are we pressing to use it to evaluate teachers and schools?

Other than those problems, it's a pretty good piece.


Periodic Table Of Typefaces

Robert Reich Channels Paul Volker

Paul Volcker to Barack Obama

Former Fed Chair Paul Volcker is briefing President Obama today on how well the stimulus package is doing. I have no inside knowledge of what he's saying, but if I were Volcker (and I'm not -- he's almost two feet taller than I am), I'd say the following:

Mr. President, it's way too early to know exactly what the stimulus is doing because the money is barely out the door, but I've got to tell you I'm worried as hell. Unemployment is at 8 percent, and underemployment is over 14 percent of the workforce. The economy is shrinking much faster than it was when you put the stimulus together. It will be more than a trillion dollars short of its full capacity this year, and I have every reason to believe the same next. State governments alone are hundreds of billions in the hole, creating a huge drag. So your $787 billion over two years, only two-thirds of which is direct spending, isn't going to get us nearly far enough. I'd strongly recommend you make ready a second stimulus, about the same size, and get it enacted as soon as possible, with the proviso that it will be implemented if and when unemplyment hits 8.5 percent or underemployment reaches 15 percent.

Oh, and by the way, Mr. President. You may not want to hear this, but your Treasury Secretary is making things worse. His dithering on what to do about Wall Street, and his incapacity to speak clearly to the Street and to the public about what needs to be done, is spooking everyone. Why doesn't he just put the irrevocably insolvent banks into receivership under the FDIC, sell off their assets, protect depositors, and reimburse taxpayers with whatever remains? Let the rest of the banks fend for themselves -- working out their bad loans with their creditors. As to AIG, well, that's a complete basketcase. Put it out of its suffering. Take it over, sell its assets, protect policy holders (you'll need to create a big co-insurance plan with every other major insurer in the world), then get out.

Want a cigar?

Daily Show vs Cramer (Updated)

Update: CNBC are such wimps!

by dday

I sincerely hope that nobody is surprised by the fact that MSNBC, which has hyped the Jon Stewart/Jim Cramer "battle royale" for over a week now, has coincidentally dropped coverage of it at precisely the moment when Stewart delivered the knockout punch and made minced meat out of Cramer, CNBC and the entire media-industrial complex:
TVNewser reports that “MSNBC producers were asked not to incorporate the Jim Cramer/Jon Stewart interview into their shows today.” By TVNewser’s count, Cramer’s Daily Show interview was only mentioned once on MSNBC today and that was during the White House press conference when a reporter asked for Obama’s reaction.
CNBC is part of a corporate entity (although, interestingly, they don't report to the news division). That corporate entity is not going to get rich by highlighting the deficiencies of certain parts of its business. As much as CNBC deserves scorn and Jim Cramer deserves a subpoena, it's not just them. It's the entire media complex. And this indictment of their business won't be prosecuted and turned into a conviction.

James Rainey is also interesting today about CNBC and the larger implications.


Daily Howler Chimes In On Obama's Education Nonsense

Here is the real scoop on most of the nonsense my President mentioned in his speech. People, please! Read this and learn. We do the teaching, you do the learning. Now for the Daily Howler!
DAY FOR NIGHT: Scott Wilson’s report of Obama’s speech appears on the Washington Post’s front page. With an unerring instinct for error, Wilson begins with Obama’s remarks about the decay and decline of our schools:

WILSON (3/11/09): President Obama sharply criticized the nation's public schools yesterday, calling for changes that would reward good teachers and replace bad ones, increase spending, and establish uniform academic achievement standards in American education.

In a speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Obama called on teachers unions, state officials and parents to end the "relative decline of American education," which he said "is untenable for our economy, unsustainable for our democracy and unacceptable for our children.”

When Big Pols gives speeches about public schools, does some unwritten law forbid them from telling the truth? Does some law restrict the press from noting their vast overstatements? So it sometimes seems. Obama’s statements about that “relative decline” are very hard to square with the facts. But they’re written from a Familiar Old Script, a script which continues to lead us.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at Obama’s (interesting) remarks about the need for higher standards. But is there some unwritten law requiring Big Pols to make misstatements? Obama turned day into night with his remarks about that “decline.” And the press corps has twiddled its thumbs today, staring off into air.

Wikipedia always says it best: “Day for night is the name of a cinematographic technique to simulate a night scene.... [O]utside scenes can instead be shot during the day, with special blue filters and under-exposed film to create the illusion of darkness.”

Ah yes, the “illusion of darkness!” We thought we saw some “day for night” at the start of yesterday’s speech!

Let’s look at what Obama said about that “relative decline.” This extremely gloomy passage came early in his speech:
OBAMA (3/10/09): Let there be no doubt: the future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens...

And yet, despite resources that are unmatched anywhere in the world, we have let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short, and other nations outpace us. In eighth grade math, we’ve fallen to ninth place. Singapore’s middle-schoolers outperform ours three to one. Just a third of our thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds can read as well as they should. And year after year, a stubborn gap persists between how well white students are doing compared to their African American and Latino classmates. The relative decline of American education is untenable for our economy, unsustainable for our democracy, and unacceptable for our children—and we cannot afford to let it continue.
That came quite early in yesterday’s speech. In this passage, Obama makes a string of Standard Complaints about “the relative decline of American education.” Let’s consider two parts of his presentation. Was he constrained by an unwritten law which forbade him from telling the truth?

Educational decay: First, Obama painted a Gloomy Picture of educational decline and decay. “We have let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short, and other nations outpace us,” he gloomily said. “In eighth grade math, we’ve fallen to ninth place.”

Obama painted a gloomy picture. But were these claims accurate?

Consider the claim about eighth grade math, the most specific claim he made. Presumably, Obama refers to the Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS), the widely-ballyhooed “gold standard” for such international comparisons. (An exceptionally useless White House “fact sheet” fails to explain this statement, and others.) The TIMSS was last conducted in 2007—and American eighth-graders did finish ninth in math, just as Obama said. (Among 36 nations. For the relevant table, click here.) The U.S. scored far behind five Asian tigers, marginally behind three other nations. On the other hand, the U. S. scored slightly ahead, even well ahead, of quite a few countries you’ve probably heard of. The U.S. outperformed countries like Australia, Sweden, Scotland, Italy and Norway by significant margins. And we massively kicked Kuwait’s *ss.

(How representative are various national samples? We can’t tell you. Journalists should.)

None of this contradicts what Obama said in yesterday’s speech. But have our eighth graders fallen to ninth place, as the gloomy chief executive told us? Sorry. Before 2007, the TIMSS was last given in 2003; U.S. eighth graders finished 15th that year (out of 45). In the previous testing (1999), the U.S. had finished 18th. Indeed, U.S, eighth graders have steadily gained against the rest of the world since at least the mid-1990s, at least if we are going to judge by the measure Obama selected.

Have U. S. eighth graders fallen to ninth, as the gloomy president said? This table shows the twenty countries which participated in eighth-grade math in the TIMSS in both 1995 and 2007. Of the nineteen other countries, only three showed more improvement in average scores than the U.S. did. Sorry! In eighth grade math, the U.S. has risen to its current ninth place. We may feel that rank isn’t good enough. But must we persistently trade day for night? Does some sort of unwritten law require these gloomy misstatements?

A stubborn achievement gap: According to the gloomy president, it isn’t just that American kids have “fallen to ninth place” in math. Obama also based a gloomy observation on a purely domestic measure. “[Y]ear after year, a stubborn gap persists between how well white students are doing compared to their African American and Latino classmates,” he said. But that claim doesn’t quite seem accurate either. Maybe it all depends on what the meaning of “stubborn” or “persists” is.

Again, we’ll refer you to the ballyhooed “gold standard” for such declarations, the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). As we recently noted, long-term results in this federal program show those achievement gaps narrowing in reading and math, though significant gaps remain. For example, this chart shows reading results from 1971 through 2004 in the part of the NAEP called the Long-Term Trend Assessment. The gap between white and black scores has substantially narrowed in all age groups, though significant gaps still exist. And the same sort of narrowing between white and Hispanic scores can be seen in this table. “Year after year, a stubborn gap persists?” Gaps persist, but they seem to be somewhat less stubborn than Obama suggests.

No one’s a bigger grouch than we about educational topics. But we’re also prepared to defer to the record; Obama’s statements about that “relative decline” seem derived from Famous Old Scripts, not from real observations. Gerald Bracey has long been The Man when it comes to critiquing these Standard Old Claims. This morning, we see that Bracey has posted about Obama’s speech at The Huffington Post. Go read it; Bracey goes into more detail about Obama’s statements than we have. (Please note: Bracey has persistently claimed that the NAEP sets an unrealistically high standard for “proficiency.” This doesn’t undermine use of the NAEP as a measure of progress over time.)

Tomorrow, we’ll look at what Obama said about the need for higher standards. But first, a note about the political uses of Gloomy Scripts.

Why do politicians paint this Gloomy Portrait of American schools? In some cases, they may not know what they’re talking about; everyone has heard these Standard Claims, and people tend to believe them. But yes, there can be political uses for such gloomy misstatements. As Bracey has noted, gloomy claims have long been used by educational “conservatives” to undermine faith in the public schools; vouchers and charters are more appealing if you believe that the public schools are a wreck. On the other hand, a president can set himself up to be a star if he overstates the mess which predates him.

Then too, a president may not want to admit that progress occurred under those before him. That said, we of course have no idea why Obama said what he did.


Obama’s statement about U.S. math score seems to be simply inaccurate. His statement about those achievement gaps would seem to be misleading. Is it true? “Despite resources that are unmatched anywhere in the world,” have we really “let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short?” Have we “let other nations outpace us?” And have we “fallen to ninth place” in math? That’s a very gloomy picture—a picture that’s largely inaccurate.

This morning, that picture appears on the Post’s front page. In some ways, Obama traded day for night. Wilson doesn’t notice.

Reich Explains Obama's Economic Policy: Revolutionary!

Bob Reich was nice enough to offer a free correspondence course on Obanomics yesterday. You should read it. You should read everything Dr. Reich writes!
Is Obamanomics Conservative or Revolutionary?

There are two ways to see Obamanomics.

The first, much preferred by the White House, is as a set of initiatives so modest as to hardly merit a raised eyebrow. Yes, steps must be taken to deal with the current economic crisis. But assuming the economy recovers next year, Obama's budget projects that government spending by the end of the decade will drop to around 22.5 percent of GDP, which is about where it was under Reagan.

What about those tax hikes on the wealthy? Obama merely restores the top two marginal income tax rates to what they were in the 1990s, the capital gains rate to its lowest level during that same prosperous decade, and the rate on dividends to a level even lower than it was in the 1990s. And even these modest reversions to the 1990s will affect only the wealthiest 3 percent of Americans, and not until 2011. Ninety-seven percent of small businesses won't pay a dime more. True, the very rich won't be able to deduct quite as much as they can now for their mortgage interest and charitable donations, but this is hardly revolutionary, either. In fact, it's another throwback -- to the limits in place under Ronald Reagan. All told, taxes are projected to total 19 percent of GDP by the end of the decade. That's even lower than it was in the late 1990s.

Modest as they are, these taxes will generate enough revenue to pay for half of what's needed for universal health care, and still reduce the deficit by about $750 billion over ten years -- to 3.1 percent of the GDP by the end of the decade.

But isn't universal health care itself a pretty radical step? Not according to this view. The other half of what's needed to pay for universal health care will come from health-care savings that are also necessary to keep the current big health-care entitlement programs -- Medicare and Medicaid -- affordable. It's just common sense: Allow government to use its bargaining leverage under Medicare and Medicaid to lower drug prices, strengthen Medicare pay-for-performance incentives, and institute better disease management, prevention, and health information technologies.

What about the environment? Isn't cap and trade a huge deal? Not at all. Instead of heavy-handed regulation it's a market solution to the problem of global warming. Government merely sets an overall cap on the amount of carbon dioxide to be allowed into the atmosphere, which drops annually, and then requires firms to bid for permits to pollute within that overall cap. Firms can buy and sell permits to each other; they can innovate to reduce pollution even further. Such a system will generate enough revenues to give 95 percent of Americans a yearly refundable tax credit of $400, and also finance research and development of renewable energy and a modernized electricity grid.

But isn't Obanomic's approach to educational reform expensive and intrusive? No. By this view, it's very mainstream and incremental -- and doesn't impose on the prerogatives of states and locales. It expands the tax credit for college tuition to $2,500 a year and increases Pell Grants to $5,500 yearly -- almost negligible increases, given how fast tuitions are rising. It cuts subsidies to banks participating in the student-loan program, which is exactly what Bill Clinton did, and it provides some funds for early childhood education.

So there we have it: Obamanomics as pragmatic, incremental, centrist, even conservative.

But there's another way to view Obamanomics -- as an economic philosophy exactly the opposite of the one that's dominated America for more than a quarter century.

The basic idea of Reaganomics was that the economy grows from the top down. Lower taxes on the wealthy make them work harder and invest more, and the benefits trickle down to everyone else. Rarely in economic history has a theory been more tested in the real world and proven so wrong. In point of fact, nothing trickled down. After the Reagan tax cuts, increases in the median wage slowed, adjusted for inflation. After George W. Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, the median wage actually dropped. Meanwhile, most of the income went to the top. In 1980, just before the Reagan revolution, the richest 1 percent took home 9 percent of total national income. But by 2007, the richest 1 percent was taking home 22 percent.

Obamanomics, by contrast, holds that an economy grows best from the bottom up. Obama's program increases taxes on the top, and uses the proceeds to raise the living standards of average Americans by giving them lower taxes, better schools, and more affordable health insurance. That may not seem very radical, but compared to the last quarter century it's revolutionary.

Reaganomics didn't believe in public investment, except perhaps when it came to the military. Everything else was considered government spending, which was assumed to be wasteful. Hence, the cuts (adjusted for inflation) during Reagan, Bush I and Bush II in education, job training, infrastructure, and basic research and development. And the reluctance to expand health insurance except when it came to corporate welfare for the pharmaceutical industry.

But Obamanomics is a commited to these forms of public investment. And there's good reason: In a global economy, capital moves to wherever it can get the best deal around the globe. That means capital and jobs go to nations that can promise high returns either because labor is cheap and taxes and regulations low, or because labor is highly productive -- well educated, healthy, and supported by modern infrastructure.

Which do we want? For the better part of the last quarter century our implicit economic strategy has tended toward the first. But that's a recipe for lower wages and lower living standards for most Americans, along with widening inequality. The only resource that's uniquely rooted in a national economy is its people -- their skills, insights, capacities to collaborate, and the transportation and communication systems that link them together. Everything else -- including capital, technology, designs, even plant and equipment -- can move around the globe with increasing ease.

Bill Clinton talked a lot about the importance of public investment but he failed to do much about it because he came to office during an economic expansion, and the major worry was excessive government spending leading to inflation. Obama comes to office during the biggest downturn since the Great Depression, and although he doesn't talk much about public investment his plan represents the largest commitment to it in forty years.

Reaganomics' third principle was that deregulated markets function better. They do, in many respects, but not always. And when they don't, all hell can break loose. Energy markets were deregulated and we wound up with Enron. Carbon emissions weren't controlled, and now we face global warming. Financial markets were deregulated and we have a global meltdown. Obamanomics, by contrast, accepts that government has an important role in setting the rules of the capitalist game: Setting an overall cap on carbon emissions, ensuring that products and foods are safe, maintaining the solvency and security of financial companies.

Under Reaganomics, government was the problem. It can still be a problem. But Obamanomics recognizes there are even bigger problems out there that can't be solved without government. By building the economy from the bottom up, recognizing the central importance of public investment, and understanding that markets cannot function without regulation, Obamanomics finally reverses and repudiates the economic philosophy that has dominated America since 1981.

If you look only at the small print, Obamanomics looks conservative. If you look at the big picture, it's revolutionary.

Thursday Bonus Cartoon Fun: Obama On Education Edition

Thursday Cartoon Fun: Bernie Madoff Edition

Growth Models Debunked, By God!

THOMPSON: God Does Not Play Dice

The Education Sector's "Are We There Yet?" offers a number of caveats in its analysis of Tennessee's growth model, as well as a refresher course on Zeno. But unless you are irrevocably committed to NCLB-type accountability, I'd skip the discussion of educational issues and enjoy the review of ancient Greek philosophy.

Tennessee's growth model measures student progress against benchmarks based on predicted or "expected" scores needed to attain proficiency in three years. This is an analytical construct, however. It can offer no insight into what should be expected of a teacher in a high poverty neighborhood school.

In a real world setting, what growth can be expected during a year when a student buried his grandparents, was incarcerated, was a victim of domestic abuse, was shot or stabbed, saw his mental illness spin out of control, or just gave into the peer pressure of the gang? How should expectations for teachers be adjusted for a class which brings so many social pathologies into a classroom that the "tipping point" is crossed, in comparison to teachers in charters or lower poverty schools? How should a teacher be held accountable under such a model for a principal who is not allowed or refuses to enforce the disciplinary code of conduct. Can the model be adjusted for the effect of a critical mass of special education students, i.e. are expectations adjusted when the percentages of students on IEPS passes 20% or 30% or 50%? (and does it matter if your students on IEPs are sweet kids with a reading disabilities or Seriously Emotionally Disturbed and on parole for violent offenses?)

Of course, none of my objections would be major if the model was used for purposes of diagnosis, science, or a "consumers’ report." We should pursue social science fearlessly, but we must not play dice with the lives of teachers by evaluating them with some theoretical work in progress.

At the risk of sounding too argumentative, I would especially like adjustments in the expectations for incoming students who can decode but not comprehend and whose education has been stunted by test prep, narrowed curriculum, and the other sins of NCLB.

My favorite passage of the report was "The Tennessee growth model will also reduce the number of schools identified by NCLB as falling short academically. This could be a positive change if it allows the state to focus more intensely on the lowest-performing schools." No! Models do not reduce or increase the number of failing schools. People do that.

If we want to focus more intensely on the lowest performing schools, which we should, then we should focus more intensely on the lowest performing schools. If we conclude, as we should, that both the status models and the safe harbor models of NCLB are incompetent, we do not need to embrace another statistical construct just because it is less primitive. We should use our judgments, buttressed by data, and not devise an elaborate set of algorithms that have no relation to the facts of school life. - John Thompson


Looks Like We Are On Our Way To Private Public Schools!

Jim Horn digs up some more craziness. Here we see how money will influence education policy.

Following the money is usually a good way to see what is really motivating an education policy decision. Money and whiteness. The sad thing is these folks don't seem to realize how their policy ideas effect those inside the schools.

There is no quick fix because the problem, whatever the problem is, is not the fault of public education; it's the fault of society to adequately take care of those in need. I think its pretty clear that the "haves" have been having at the expense of the "have-nots" for so long that we are where we are now; a rich/poor society; very little in the middle.

The "poor" don't need better schools and teachers, they need better lives! Obama's tax plan, and health plan are a start. Not his education plan, or his punish the war criminals plan.

Anyway, follow some money...
NEA Joins Corporate Raiding Party on Public Education

Did I say something about union sellouts earlier today? Bracey just posted at ARN the Ed Week link below that announces the NEA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Association of Manufacturers have split the spoils from the corporate charter school blitzkrieg that is now being unleashed against public education. They have agreed to support the Tucker Plan (Tough Choices or Tough Times) that was pumped out of the sludge tanks in 2006. See here and here and here for reviews of the plan. Here is the beginning of the evaluation by Miller and Gerson:
The "Tough Choices or Tough Times" report of the National Commission on Skills in the Workplace, funded in large part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and signed by a bipartisan collection of prominent politicians, businesspeople, and urban school superintendents, called for a series of measures including:

(a) replacing public schools with what the report called "contract schools", which would be charter schools writ large;

(b) eliminating nearly all the powers of local school boards - their role would be to write and sign the authorizing agreements for the "contract schools;

(c) eliminating teacher pensions and slashing health benefits; and

(d) forcing all 10th graders to take a high school exit examination based on 12th grade skills, and terminating the education of those who failed (i.e., throwing millions of students out into the streets as they turn 16). . . . .
The hounds are loose. Here is the news from Ed Week:
By Catherine Gewertz

The nation’s largest teachers’ union and two leading business groups said today they have become partners in the work of a blue-ribbon commission trying to revolutionize American education.

The announcement by the 3.2 million-member National Education Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Association of Manufacturers marks the next step in taking the ideas in a high-profile December 2006 report, “Tough Choices or Tough Times,” from proposals to practice. The report, by the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, called for sweeping, systemic changes in education funding, assessment, school management, and teacher pay and training. ( "U.S. Urged to Reinvent Its Schools," Dec. 20, 2006.)
At a news conference here, leaders of the National Center on Education and the Economy , which sponsored the commission, also said that Arizona, Delaware, and New Mexico would begin the planning required to rework aspects of their education systems to reflect the commission’s framework. In doing so, the new states join Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Utah, which signed on to do likewise in October. . . .

Kinsley On Stem Cell Controversy

A 'Breakthrough' in the Stem Cell Debate

By Michael Kinsley

Just because two sides disagree over the issue of stem-cell research doesn’t mean both arguments should be given equal weight.

You call this a quandary?

“Potentially closing the book on this decade’s definitive medical ethical quandary,” the Daily Beast’s Cheat Sheet reports (crediting the Guardian), “British and Canadian scientists have discovered a way to produce stem cells without destroying an embryo.”

This is good news, to be sure. But let’s be clear: There is NO “medical ethical quandary” involved in the decade-long dispute over stem cells. There is only the appearance of an ethical quandary, created by people who either don’t understand or willfully misrepresent the facts. “Quandary” is a particularly insidious word. Compare it to “controversy.” There is undeniably a controversy about stem cells: two sides, disagreeing strongly. But “quandary” suggests that the controversy is legitimate—that a fair-minded person would have to recognize some degree of merit in both sides of the argument, wherever he or she might ultimately come down. In a “quandary,” there actually are (dread phrase) “no easy answers.”

The anti-abortion forces who have delayed stem-cell research by a decade are not morally serious. If they were, they would be trying to get laws making the work of fertility clinics illegal.

The stem-cell controversy is really about abortion, of course. And abortion is both a controversy and, for most people, a genuine quandary. That quandary usually is defined as, “When does human life begin?” I think a better way to put it is, “When do human rights begin?” That avoids the whole hopeless search for agreement about some mystical moment when humanity is conferred, all of which (conception, birth, “quickening,” sundry trimesters) are equally illogical, and concentrates on a question that can be debated or negotiated with some hope of progress. But many will disagree even with that preliminary assertion, claiming that it’s a setup for the pro-choice answer I prefer. It’s a quandary.

The debate over stem-cell research is different. There is a controversy, but no real quandary. Here is why. Virtually all stem cells used (or that will be used) in medical research come from fertility clinics. Standard operating procedure in fertility clinics is to fertilize and implant multiple eggs in the hope that at least one will survive. For that matter, Mother Nature’s method of producing a human being is not very different in this regard, and also involves fertilizing far more eggs than ever grow into babies.

If you wish to believe that every fertilized egg is a human being with full human rights, that is your privilege. I disagree, which makes it a controversy. If I felt you were serious, we would have a quandary as well. But there’s no quandary because you’re not serious. Your actions are too different from your words. You are doing absolutely nothing about the millions of fertilized eggs that are destroyed naturally every year (in miscarriages so early that the potential mother is not even aware of them), or the thousands that are produced and unused by fertility clinics going about their normal work (which are either discarded or pointlessly frozen in the hope of some miraculous ethical breakthrough).

The anti-abortion forces who have delayed stem-cell research by a decade are not morally serious. If they were, they would be trying to get laws making the work of fertility clinics illegal, not concentrating on the tiny fraction of surplus embryos from those clinics that are going to a worthwhile purpose. They would still be severely mistaken, in my view, but at least that could legitimately be described as an “ethical quandary.” But there is no political pressure against fertility clinics. While abortion clinics are routinely terrorized, fertility clinics advertise on the radio. If you really think that a microscopic embryo is a human being, which kind of clinic kills more human beings every year? It isn’t even close.

What difference does this all make, now that George W. Bush is gone and his ban on federally funded stem-cell research has been eliminated? It makes a big difference. When something is stamped as an “ethical quandary,” people and organizations that wish to avoid controversy stay away. Or they appoint well-meaning but slow-moving commissions to study the issue. Or they split the difference in some silly and irritating way. Whatever, the result is that the promise of stem-cell research is delayed or unrealized.

The essence of today’s report is that scientists have found some incredibly complicated way to create—someday, maybe even soon—a valuable research tool that already exists by the thousands and has for years. Some people think we should have been using it for years, while others say they think using it would be immoral, but can’t give a coherent reason. What a quandary.

Michael Kinsley’s column appears Fridays in the Washington Post. He has Parkinson’s disease, the condition for which stem cells are believed to hold the greatest promise.

US Test Scores Are Actually Very High

When we compare student scores internationally, Americans tend to appear to be less successful than our Asian counterparts. Really? No. It's bullshit. Read on...
Bracey Offers Some Facts to Go With Obama's Stale Education Rhetoric
Posted at Assessment Reform Network listserv:

. . . .He talks about American kids being behind and his reference is obviously test scores. But then he talks about creativity in charters. But the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) studies indicate charters are behind public schools in test scores. You can't evaluate one set of schools by test scores and then another set of schools with another criterion. Public schools are just as creative (Eric Robelen, "NAEP gap continuing for charters," Education Week 21 May 2008). Duncan turned a lot of schools into charter schools in Chicago, but I don't think he ever came back to see if they were working any better.

By the way, being behind doesn't seem to matter--test scores don't related to global competitiveness. The U. S. is #1 as ranked by both the Institute for Management Development and the World Economic Forum.

"In 8th grade math we've fallen to 9th place." That's out of 45 nations. In TIMSS of 1996 (tests administered in 1995) 8th graders were in 23rd place out of 41. We've come a long way, baby. How come no one ever mentions that American kids do better in science than in math and no one EVER talks about how well they do in reading which is very well indeed? Various citations, too many to list and the one with the above stat is not online anyway, "Mathematics Achievement in the Middle School Years." It's only mentioned at the US HQ for TIMSS and PIRLS studies, http://isc.bc.edu. The reading studies, PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study), CAN be found there.

"Just a third of our 13- and 14- year olds can read as well as they should." This is garbage in light of the international comparisons mentioned above. It is also garbage because the reference is obviously NAEP, and as I've shown over and over the NAEP proficiency standards are outrageously unrealistic. In fact, by the criterion Obama is using, no nation has more than a third of its students reading "as well as they should." Sweden, the top scoring nation also has about one third at NAEP's "proficient" level (Richard Rothstein et alia, "Proficiency for all: An Oxymoron"). "A Test Everyone Will Fail" shows this in an international context. I wrote that for the Post a couple of years ago. Just put title into Google. "Oh, those NAEP achievement levels." I wrote that for a publication of the National Association of Secondary School Principals for whom I write a monthly column. You can find it a bunch of places on line like www.nabe.org/press.Clips/clip110805.htm.

The Koreans might be in school a full month longer, but in PISA (Program of International Student Assessment), America has a higher proportion of top scorers than Korea. More to the point, given the size of America, America has more top scorers than any other nation. No one even comes close. We have about 67,000, Japan about 3,4000. Top scoring Finland's proportion gives them about 2,000 actual warm bodies. (Lindsay Lowell (Georgetown) and Hal Salzman (Urban Institute and Rutgers). "Making the Grade." Nature, May 1, 2008

There were some good things in the talk, but our president has bought too much of the same old crap about the state of our education, crap that has been spewed since 1957 (Sputnik), 1967 (urban riots--schools took the hit), 1977 (the SAT decline), 1983 (A Nation At Risk--followed by the longest economic expansion in history), 1998 (International test scores again), 2002 (No Child Left Behind) and 2008 (Edin08).

In his inaugural address he said two thirds of the fastest growing jobs require extra education. What he didn't say was that those jobs account for very few jobs. For every computer engineer we need, Wal Mart needs 15 or so salespeople. Today he said "By 2016, four out of every 10 new jobs will require at least some advanced education or training." That's not what the BLS says. And what does "advanced education or training mean, anyway? It's a weasel phrase. By the way, we have about 3 newly minted, home-grown scientists and engineers for every new job in those fields and 65% of them leave those fields within 2 years of graduating (Lowell & Salzman, "Into the eye of the storm: assessing the evidence on science and engineering, quality, and workforce demand." www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/411562_salzman_Science.pdf).

I present a complete history of the continual and unfair criticism of schools in Education Hell--the Betrayal of American Schools which should be published next month.

Alas, the fear mongers--Bob Wise, Roy Romer, Bill Gates (who has said some REALLY dumb things), Craig Barrett, Lou Gerstner, etc., get the media attention. Guess it's cause they got the money. They certainly don't have the chops.


Tuesday Cartoon Fun: Stem Cell Edition

Obama On Education (I Am Frightened!)

The President gave a big education speech today. Here is the transcript. I will try to comment later, but suffice it to say that I am not thrilled. Merit pay, teachers more important than parents, more school are just a few of the not so good things.

My biggest complaint is when folks compare American kids to the rest of the worlds' kids; we score lower. Do we? My understanding is that we submit all of our scores when most of the rest of the world submits their top scores. This makes the comparison with the rest of the world moot.

Also, if we suck so much why does everyone from everywhere else want to come here for college? I guess because we underperform and they will look good in comparison.


Washington Marriott Metro Center

Washington, D.C.

9:54 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Si se puede.

AUDIENCE: Si se puede! Si se puede! Si se puede!

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you so much. Please, everybody have a seat. Thank you for the wonderful introduction, David. And thank you for the great work that you are doing each and every day. And I appreciate such a warm welcome. Some of you I've gotten a chance to know; many of you I'm meeting for the first time. But the spirit of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the desire to create jobs and provide opportunity to people who sometimes have been left out -- that's exactly what this administration is about. That's the essence of the American Dream. And so I'm very proud to have a chance to speak with all of you.
Update: Here is the point by point, by a better blogger than me. And here is another less than happy blogger

Update II: And still more here and here...
You know, every so often, throughout our history, a generation of Americans bears the responsibility of seeing this country through difficult times and protecting the dream of its founding for posterity. This is a responsibility that's fallen to our generation. Meeting it will require steering our nation's economy through a crisis unlike anything that we have seen in our time.

In the short term, that means jump-starting job creation and restarting lending, and restoring confidence in our markets and our financial system. But it also means taking steps that not only advance our recovery, but lay the foundation for lasting, shared prosperity.

I know there's some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time. And they forget that Lincoln helped lay down the transcontinental railroad and passed the Homestead Act and created the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of civil war. Likewise, President Roosevelt didn't have the luxury of choosing between ending a depression and fighting a war; he had to do both. President Kennedy didn't have the luxury of choosing between civil rights and sending us to the moon. And we don't have the luxury of choosing between getting our economy moving now and rebuilding it over the long term.

America will not remain true to its highest ideals -- and America's place as a global economic leader will be put at risk -- unless we not only bring down the crushing cost of health care and transform the way we use energy, but also if we do -- if we don't do a far better job than we've been doing of educating our sons and daughters; unless we give them the knowledge and skills they need in this new and changing world.

For we know that economic progress and educational achievement have always gone hand in hand in America. The land-grant colleges and public high schools transformed the economy of an industrializing nation. The GI Bill generated a middle class that made America's economy unrivaled in the 20th century. Investments in math and science under President Eisenhower gave new opportunities to young scientists and engineers all across the country. It made possible somebody like a Sergei Brin to attend graduate school and found an upstart company called Google that would forever change our world.

The source of America's prosperity has never been merely how ably we accumulate wealth, but how well we educate our people. This has never been more true than it is today. In a 21st-century world where jobs can be shipped wherever there's an Internet connection, where a child born in Dallas is now competing with a child in New Delhi, where your best job qualification is not what you do, but what you know -- education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity and success, it's a prerequisite for success.

That's why workers without a four-year degree have borne the brunt of recent layoffs, Latinos most of all. That's why, of the 30 fastest growing occupations in America, half require a Bachelor's degree or more. By 2016, four out of every 10 new jobs will require at least some advanced education or training.

So let there be no doubt: The future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens -- and my fellow Americans, we have everything we need to be that nation. We have the best universities, the most renowned scholars. We have innovative principals and passionate teachers and gifted students, and we have parents whose only priority is their child's education. We have a legacy of excellence, and an unwavering belief that our children should climb higher than we did.

And yet, despite resources that are unmatched anywhere in the world, we've let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short, and other nations outpace us. Let me give you a few statistics. In 8th grade math, we've fallen to 9th place. Singapore's middle-schoolers outperform ours three to one. Just a third of our 13- and 14-year-olds can read as well as they should. And year after year, a stubborn gap persists between how well white students are doing compared to their African American and Latino classmates. The relative decline of American education is untenable for our economy, it's unsustainable for our democracy, it's unacceptable for our children -- and we can't afford to let it continue.

What's at stake is nothing less than the American Dream. It's what drew my father and so many of your fathers and mothers to our shores in pursuit of an education. It's what led Linda Brown and Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez to bear the standard of all who were attending separate and unequal schools. It's what has led generations of Americans to take on that extra job, to sacrifice the small pleasures, to scrimp and save wherever they can, in hopes of putting away enough, just enough, to give their child the education that they never had. It's that most American of ideas, that with the right education, a child of any race, any faith, any station, can overcome whatever barriers stand in their way and fulfill their God-given potential. (Applause.)

Of course, we've heard all this year after year after year after year -- and far too little has changed. Certainly it hasn't changed in too many overcrowded Latino schools; it hasn't changed in too many inner-city schools that are seeing dropout rates of over 50 percent. It's not changing not because we're lacking sound ideas or sensible plans -- in pockets of excellence across this country, we're seeing what children from all walks of life can and will achieve when we set high standards, have high expectations, when we do a good job of preparing them. Instead, it's because politics and ideology have too often trumped our progress that we're in the situation that we're in.

For decades, Washington has been trapped in the same stale debates that have paralyzed progress and perpetuated our educational decline. Too many supporters of my party have resisted the idea of rewarding excellence in teaching with extra pay, even though we know it can make a difference in the classroom. Too many in the Republican Party have opposed new investments in early education, despite compelling evidence of its importance. So what we get here in Washington is the same old debate about it's more money versus more reform, vouchers versus the status quo. There's been partisanship and petty bickering, but little recognition that we need to move beyond the worn fights of the 20th century if we're going to succeed in the 21st century. (Applause.)

I think you'd all agree that the time for finger-pointing is over. The time for holding us -- holding ourselves accountable is here. What's required is not simply new investments, but new reforms. It's time to expect more from our students. It's time to start rewarding good teachers, stop making excuses for bad ones. It's time to demand results from government at every level. It's time to prepare every child, everywhere in America, to out-compete any worker, anywhere in the world. (Applause.) It's time to give all Americans a complete and competitive education from the cradle up through a career. We've accepted failure for far too long. Enough is enough. America's entire education system must once more be the envy of the world -- and that's exactly what we intend to do.

That's exactly what the budget I'm submitting to Congress has begun to achieve. Now, at a time when we've inherited a trillion-dollar deficit, we will start by doing a little housekeeping, going through our books, cutting wasteful education programs. My outstanding Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, who's here today -- stand up, Arne, so everybody can see you. (Applause.) I'm assuming you also saw my Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis. (Applause.) But Secretary Duncan will use only one test when deciding what ideas to support with your precious tax dollars: It's not whether an idea is liberal or conservative, but whether it works. And this will help free up resources for the first pillar of reforming our schools -- investing in early childhood initiatives.

This isn't just about keeping an eye on our children, it's about educating them. Studies show that children in early childhood education programs are more likely to score higher in reading and math, more likely to graduate from high school and attend college, more likely to hold a job, and more likely to earn more in that job. For every dollar we invest in these programs, we get nearly $10 back in reduced welfare rolls, fewer health care costs, and less crime. That's why the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that I signed into law invests $5 billion in growing Early Head Start and Head Start, expanding access to quality child care for 150,000 more children from working families, and doing more for children with special needs. And that's why we are going to offer 55,000 first-time parents regular visits from trained nurses to help make sure their children are healthy and prepare them for school and for life. (Applause.)

Even as we invest in early childhood education, let's raise the bar for early learning programs that are falling short. Now, today, some children are enrolled in excellent programs. Some children are enrolled in mediocre programs. And some are wasting away their most formative years in bad programs. That includes the one-fourth of all children who are Hispanic, and who will drive America's workforce of tomorrow, but who are less likely to have been enrolled in an early childhood education program than anyone else.

That's why I'm issuing a challenge to our states: Develop a cutting-edge plan to raise the quality of your early learning programs; show us how you'll work to ensure that children are better prepared for success by the time they enter kindergarten. If you do, we will support you with an Early Learning Challenge Grant that I call on Congress to enact. That's how we will reward quality and incentivize excellence, and make a down payment on the success of the next generation.

So that's the first pillar of our education reform agenda. The second, we will end what has become a race to the bottom in our schools and instead spur a race to the top by encouraging better standards and assessments. Now, this is an area where we are being outpaced by other nations. It's not that their kids are any smarter than ours -- it's that they are being smarter about how to educate their children. They're spending less time teaching things that don't matter, and more time teaching things that do. They're preparing their students not only for high school or college, but for a career. We are not. Our curriculum for 8th graders is two full years behind top performing countries. That's a prescription for economic decline. And I refuse to accept that America's children cannot rise to this challenge. They can, and they must, and they will meet higher standards in our time. (Applause.)

So let's challenge our states -- let's challenge our states to adopt world-class standards that will bring our curriculums to the 21st century. Today's system of 50 different sets of benchmarks for academic success means 4th grade readers in Mississippi are scoring nearly 70 points lower than students in Wyoming -- and they're getting the same grade. Eight of our states are setting their standards so low that their students may end up on par with roughly the bottom 40 percent of the world.

That's inexcusable. That's why I'm calling on states that are setting their standards far below where they ought to be to stop low-balling expectations for our kids. The solution to low test scores is not lowering standards -- it's tougher, clearer standards. (Applause.) Standards like those in Massachusetts, where 8th graders are -- (applause) -- we have a Massachusetts contingent here. (Laughter.) In Massachusetts, 8th graders are now tying for first -- first in the whole world in science. Other forward-thinking states are moving in the same direction by coming together as part of a consortium. And more states need to do the same. And I'm calling on our nation's governors and state education chiefs to develop standards and assessments that don't simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking and entrepreneurship and creativity.

That is what we'll help them do later this year -- that what we're going to help them do later this year when we finally make No Child Left Behind live up to its name by ensuring not only that teachers and principals get the funding that they need, but that the money is tied to results. (Applause.) And Arne Duncan will also back up this commitment to higher standards with a fund to invest in innovation in our school districts.

Of course, raising standards alone will not make much of a difference unless we provide teachers and principals with the information they need to make sure students are prepared to meet those standards. And far too few states have data systems like the one in Florida that keep track of a student's education from childhood through college. And far too few districts are emulating the example of Houston and Long Beach, and using data to track how much progress a student is making and where that student is struggling. That's a resource that can help us improve student achievement, and tell us which students had which teachers so we can assess what's working and what's not. That's why we're making a major investment in this area that we will cultivate a new culture of accountability in America's schools.

Now, to complete our race to the top requires the third pillar of reform -- recruiting, preparing, and rewarding outstanding teachers. From the moment students enter a school, the most important factor in their success is not the color of their skin or the income of their parents, it's the person standing at the front of the classroom. That's why our Recovery Act will ensure that hundreds of thousands of teachers and school personnel are not laid off -- because those Americans are not only doing jobs they can't afford to lose, they're rendering a service our nation cannot afford to lose, either. (Applause.)

America's future depends on its teachers. And so today, I'm calling on a new generation of Americans to step forward and serve our country in our classrooms. If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation, if you want to make the most of your talents and dedication, if you want to make your mark with a legacy that will endure -- then join the teaching profession. America needs you. We need you in our suburbs. We need you in our small towns. We especially need you in our inner cities. We need you in classrooms all across our country.

And if you do your part, then we'll do ours. That's why we're taking steps to prepare teachers for their difficult responsibilities, and encourage them to stay in the profession. That's why we're creating new pathways to teaching and new incentives to bring teachers to schools where they're needed most. That's why we support offering extra pay to Americans who teach math and science to end a teacher shortage in those subjects. It's why we're building on the promising work being done in places like South Carolina's Teachers Advancement Program, and making an unprecedented commitment to ensure that anyone entrusted with educating our children is doing the job as well as it can be done.

Now, here's what that commitment means: It means treating teachers like the professionals they are while also holding them more accountable -– in up to 150 more school districts. New teachers will be mentored by experienced ones. Good teachers will be rewarded with more money for improved student achievement, and asked to accept more responsibilities for lifting up their schools. Teachers throughout a school will benefit from guidance and support to help them improve.

And just as we've given our teachers all the support they need to be successful, we need to make sure our students have the teacher they need to be successful. And that means states and school districts taking steps to move bad teachers out of the classroom. But let me be clear -- (applause.) Let me be clear -- the overwhelming number of teachers are doing an outstanding job under difficult circumstances. My sister is a teacher, so I know how tough teaching can be. But let me be clear: If a teacher is given a chance or two chances or three chances but still does not improve, there's no excuse for that person to continue teaching. I reject a system that rewards failure and protects a person from its consequences. The stakes are too high. We can afford nothing but the best when it comes to our children's teachers and the schools where they teach. (Applause.)

Now, that leads me to the fourth part of America's education strategy –- promoting innovation and excellence in America's schools. One of the places where much of that innovation occurs is in our most effective charter schools. And these are public schools founded by parents, teachers, and civic or community organizations with broad leeway to innovate -– schools I supported as a state legislator and a United States senator.

But right now, there are many caps on how many charter schools are allowed in some states, no matter how well they're preparing our students. That isn't good for our children, our economy, or our country. Of course, any expansion of charter schools must not result in the spread of mediocrity, but in the advancement of excellence. And that will require states adopting both a rigorous selection and review process to ensure that a charter school's autonomy is coupled with greater accountability –- as well as a strategy, like the one in Chicago, to close charter schools that are not working. Provided this greater accountability, I call on states to reform their charter rules, and lift caps on the number of allowable charter schools, wherever such caps are in place.

Now, even as we foster innovation in where our children are learning, let's also foster innovation in when our children are learning. We can no longer afford an academic calendar designed for when America was a nation of farmers who needed their children at home plowing the land at the end of each day. That calendar may have once made sense, but today it puts us at a competitive disadvantage. Our children -- listen to this -- our children spend over a month less in school than children in South Korea -- every year. That's no way to prepare them for a 21st century economy. That's why I'm calling for us not only to expand effective after-school programs, but to rethink the school day to incorporate more time -– whether during the summer or through expanded-day programs for children who need it. (Applause.)

Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas. (Laughter.) Not with Malia and Sasha -- (laughter) -- not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom. If they can do that in South Korea, we can do it right here in the United States of America.

Of course, no matter how innovative our schools or how effective our teachers, America cannot succeed unless our students take responsibility for their own education. That means showing up for school on time, paying attention in class, seeking out extra tutoring if it's needed, staying out of trouble. To any student who's watching, I say this: Don't even think about dropping out of school. Don't even think about it. (Applause.)

As I said a couple of weeks ago, dropping out is quitting on yourself, it's quitting on your country, and it's not an option -- not anymore. Not when our high school dropout rate has tripled in the past 30 years. Not when high school dropouts earn about half as much as college graduates. Not when Latino students are dropping out faster than just about anyone else. It's time for all of us, no matter what our backgrounds, to come together and solve this epidemic.

Stemming the tide of dropouts will require turning around our low-performing schools. Just 2,000 high schools in cities like Detroit and Los Angeles and Philadelphia produce over 50 percent of America's dropouts. And yet there are too few proven strategies to transform these schools. And there are too few partners to get the job done.

So today, I'm issuing a challenge to educators and lawmakers, parents and teachers alike: Let us all make turning around our schools our collective responsibility as Americans. And that will require new investments in innovative ideas -- that's why my budget invests in developing new strategies to make sure at-risk students don't give up on their education; new efforts to give dropouts who want to return to school the help they need to graduate; and new ways to put those young men and women who have left school back on a pathway to graduation.

Now, the fifth part of America's education strategy is providing every American with a quality higher education -– whether it's college or technical training. Never has a college degree been more important. Never has it been more expensive. And at a time when so many of our families are bearing enormous economic burdens, the rising cost of tuition threatens to shatter dreams. And that's why we will simplify federal college assistance forms so it doesn't take a Ph.D to apply for financial aid. (Applause.)

That's why we're already taking steps to make college or technical training affordable. For the first time ever, Pell Grants will not be subject to the politics of the moment or the whim of the market –- they will be a commitment that Congress is required to uphold each and every year. (Applause.) Not only that; because rising costs mean Pell Grants cover less than half as much tuition as they did 30 years ago, we're raising the maximum Pell Grant to $5,550 a year and indexing it above inflation. We're also providing a $2,500-a-year tuition tax credit for students from working families. And we're modernizing and expanding the Perkins Loan Program to make sure schools like UNLV don't get a tenth as many Perkins loans as schools like Harvard.

To help pay for all of this, we're putting students ahead of lenders by eliminating wasteful student loan subsidies that cost taxpayers billions each year. All in all, we are making college affordable for 7 million more students with a sweeping investment in our children's futures and America's success. And I call on Congress to join me and the American people by making these investments possible. (Applause.)

This is how we will help meet our responsibility as a nation to open the doors of college to every American. But it will also be the responsibility of colleges and universities to control spiraling costs. We can't just keep on putting more money in and universities and colleges not doing their part to hold down tuitions. And it's the responsibility of our students to walk through the doors of opportunity.

In just a single generation, America has fallen from 2nd place to 11th place in the portion of students completing college. That is unfortunate, but it's by no means irreversible. With resolve and the right investments, we can retake the lead once more. And that's why, in my address to the nation the other week, I called on Americans to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training, with the goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the year 2020. And to meet that goal, we are investing $2.5 billion to identify and support innovative initiatives across the country that achieve results in helping students persist and graduate.

So let's not stop at education with college. Let's recognize a 21st century reality: Learning doesn't end in our early 20s. Adults of all ages need opportunities to earn new degrees and new skills -- especially in the current economic environment. That means working with all our universities and schools, including community colleges -- a great and undervalued asset -- to prepare workers for good jobs in high-growth industries; and to improve access to job training not only for young people who are just starting their careers, but for older workers who need new skills to change careers. And that's going to be one of the key tasks that Secretary Solis is involved with, is making sure that lifelong learning is a reality and a possibility for more Americans.

It's through initiatives like these that we'll see more Americans earn a college degree, or receive advanced training, and pursue a successful career. And that's why I'm calling on Congress to work with me to enact these essential reforms, and to reauthorize the Workforce Reinvestment Act. That's how we will round out a complete and competitive education in the United States of America.

So here's the bottom line: Yes, we need more money; yes, we need more reform; yes, we need to hold ourselves more accountable for every dollar we spend. But there's one more ingredient I want to talk about. No government policy will make any difference unless we also hold ourselves more accountable as parents -- because government, no matter how wise or efficient, cannot turn off the TV or put away the video games. Teachers, no matter how dedicated or effective, cannot make sure your child leaves for school on time and does their homework when they get back at night. These are things only a parent can do. These are things that our parents must do.

I say this not only as a father, but also as a son. When I was a child my mother and I lived overseas, and she didn't have the money to send me to the fancy international school where all the American kids went to school. So what she did was she supplemented my schooling with lessons from a correspondence course. And I can still picture her waking me up at 4:30 a.m., five days a week, to go over some lessons before I went to school. And whenever I'd complain and grumble and find some excuse and say, "Awww, I'm sleepy," she'd patiently repeat to me her most powerful defense. She'd say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster." (Laughter and applause.)

And when you're a kid you don't think about the sacrifices they're making. She had to work; I just had to go to school. But she'd still wake up every day to make sure I was getting what I needed for my education. And it's because she did this day after day, week after week, because of all the other opportunities and breaks that I got along the way, all the sacrifices that my grandmother and my grandfather made along the way, that I can stand here today as President of the United States. It's because of the sacrifices -- (applause.) See, I want every child in this country to have the same chance that my mother gave me, that my teachers gave me, that my college professors gave me, that America gave me.

You know these stories; you've lived them, as well. All of you have a similar story to tell. You know, it's -- I want children like Yvonne Bojorquez to have that chance. Yvonne is a student at Village Academy High School in California. Now, Village Academy is a 21st century school where cutting edge technologies are used in the classroom, where college prep and career training are offered to all who seek it, and where the motto is "respect, responsibility, and results."

Now, a couple of months ago, Yvonne and her class made a video talking about the impact that our struggling economy was having on their lives. And some of them spoke about their parents being laid off, or their homes facing foreclosure, or their inability to focus on school with everything that was happening at home. And when it was her turn to speak, Yvonne said: "We've all been affected by this economic crisis. [We] are all college bound students; we're all businessmen, and doctors and lawyers and all this great stuff. And we have all this potential -- but the way things are going, we're not going to be able to [fulfill it]."

It was heartbreaking that a girl so full of promise was so full of worry that she and her class titled their video, "Is anybody listening?" So, today, there's something I want to say to Yvonne and her class at Village Academy: I am listening. We are listening. America is listening. (Applause.) And we will not rest until your parents can keep your jobs -- we will not rest until your parents can keep their jobs and your families can keep their homes, and you can focus on what you should be focusing on -- your own education; until you can become the businessmen, doctors, and lawyers of tomorrow, until you can reach out and grasp your dreams for the future.

For in the end, Yvonne's dream is a dream shared by all Americans. It's the founding promise of our nation: That we can make of our lives what we will; that all things are possible for all people; and that here in America, our best days lie ahead. I believe that. I truly believe if I do my part, and you, the American people, do yours, then we will emerge from this crisis a stronger nation, and pass the dream of our founding on to posterity, ever safer than before. (Applause.)

Thank you very much. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.)

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