Obama: We can’t accept second place in education

As we discussed Monday, President Obama met with the nation’s governors  in Washington to call for upgraded math and reading standards and promised that his administration would break down “some of the barriers to reform.”

According to The New York Times:

Meeting with the nation’s governors at the White House, Mr. Obama stressed the importance of education to America’s economic competitiveness in a tough global marketplace, a theme he has cited in recent days to undergird a number of his domestic priorities.

He said the depth of the competition was brought home to him during a visit to South Korea last year, when he was told of that country’s determination to educate its children to out-compete American children.

“That’s what we’re up against,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s what’s at stake — nothing less than our primacy in the world. As I said at the State of the Union address, I do not accept a United States of America that’s second-place.”

The president’s proposal, part of the administration’s recommendations for a Congressional overhaul of the “No Child Left Behind” education program initiated by President George W. Bush, would require states to adopt “college- and career-ready standards” in reading and math to qualify for federal money from a $14 billion program that concentrates on impoverished students.

The No Child Left Behind law required states to adopt “challenging academic standards” in those subjects, but left it up to the states to decide what qualified as “challenging.” The result was that the standards set by states varied widely, with some as rigorous as those used in high-performing countries like Japan, but others setting only mediocre expectations for students.

Mr. Obama singled out Massachusetts for raising its performance so that its eighth graders now tie for best in the world in science. But overall, he said, American eighth traders rank 9th in the world in math and 11th in science, and under No Child Left Behind, 11 states actually lowered their standards in math between 2005 and 2007.

The president praised efforts by 48 states — all but Alaska and Texas — to develop common standards in math and reading, coordinated by the National Governors Association. The collaboration was a bipartisan project at variance with the highly polarized political mood in Washington that has frustrated many of Mr. Obama’s top priorities in Congress.

45 comments Add your comment

Attentive Parent

February 23rd, 2010
8:31 am

It’s important to note that the states with rigorous standards like Massachusetts are being told they may not keep them and must adopt the much weaker Common Core standards.

If you peel away the rhetoric and look at the evidence, the US seems to have decided equitable outcomes are more important than academic excellence.

We are about to make the South Koreans and other countries VERY happy as we throw away our long term chance to remain internationally competitive.

mystery poster

February 23rd, 2010
9:10 am

Massachusetts has a highly educated populace. It’s one of our wealthiest states. It’s no secret that high test scores are tied to high SES.

We can’t just “adopt the Mass standards” and expect all kids to perform accordingly.

Attentive Parent

February 23rd, 2010
9:35 am

In fact we did not adopt the Massachusetts standards as has been discussed repeatedly on this site.

Kathy Cox started claiming that to get more time for her changes, preferably long enough to get through the primary and general election.

In addition Mass made substantial changes in required content knowledge for teachers and created tests to measure. USG has resisted calls to require a “C” average in core work for certification as being unacceptable.

Massachusetts also recognized that NSF funded statewide math and science K-12 initiatives could create perverse incentives that undermine academic excellence in a state. That recognition was an important part of the “Massachusetts Miracle”.

mystery poster

February 23rd, 2010
9:38 am

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

I am VERY suspicious of large, quick increases in ANY test scores. It all goes back to Statistic Rule #1: When all else fails, manipulate the data.

mystery poster

February 23rd, 2010
9:49 am

First post didn’t take, I apologize in advance if it shows up twice:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am ALWAYS suspicious of ANY data that increases a great amount over a short time period.

Statistics rule #1: When all else fails, manipulate the data.

happy in south korea

February 23rd, 2010
10:17 am

In math (and science), the US has NEVER been that good when you look at the overall (average) achievements. It really didn’t matter much because we could always get other countries’ bests to come here and stay. Not quite sure having a common standard – whether or not it is very rigorous – addresses the real issue.

As long as we have to get our corps of teachers from our own education system, we will continue to have inferior teachers (on average) for a long time.

Ole Guy

February 23rd, 2010
10:42 am

Therein lies the biggest problem with ed leadership, both at the National and state levels. The ingrained arrogance that everything in the U.S. has to be #1 smacks of the character Jethro Boudine, of Beverly Hillbillies fame. The character, forever attempting to appear as worldly and “on top of it all” is simply a “hayseed” who, upon every utterance displays his complete “operating in a vacuum” demeanor…if only the National stance on educational excellence was merely a comedy.

While striving for the top spot in any endeavour is quite admirable, it is far wiser to recognize the “holes in the dyke”, fix em, and avoid drowning in unrealistic expectations while the educational pond is flowing over the dyke.

V for Vendetta

February 23rd, 2010
10:56 am

There is an adjective for what Obama is proposing:

Watered-down

V for Vendetta

February 23rd, 2010
10:57 am

happy in south korea,

Most teacher–nearly all the ones I know–were gifted/AP students who took similarly rigorous college courses. It is easy to make sweeping generalizations about certain professions, but it is hardly the truth.

Hole in the Dikes, ThD

February 23rd, 2010
11:07 am

About 40% of all Gerogia 8th graders quit school before graduating. About half who do graduate do not attend college. For those who do attend college, most do not graduate. Most of my friends and associates in the business world who have been successful did not graduate from college.

Why are we trying to make every kid a scholar? What is wrong with the Talented Tenth, as prescribed by W. E. B. DuBois? Alexander Haig died a few days ago. Do you think that if you went down to the average laundry mat that a single person in there would even know who he was? What if you went down to the average school system’s central office? Try it. I hardly think that anyone at the DeKalb Central Office could tell you who Soren Kierkegaard was.

Most people will not be scholars. Give it a rest. Let people enjoy life. Now, being able to read and to understand the news and to calculate how much money is in one’s checking account, etc., is functioning happily. But, giving a rat’s behind what they do in Kennebunkport (sp?), Massachusetts is another matter. Do they play the Lottery there?

Hole in the Dikes, ThD

February 23rd, 2010
11:08 am

[Are we having filter problems again?]

About 40% of all Gerogia 8th graders quit school before graduating. About half who do graduate do not attend college. For those who do attend college, most do not graduate. Most of my friends and associates in the business world who have been successful did not graduate from college.

Why are we trying to make every kid a scholar? What is wrong with the Talented Tenth, as prescribed by W. E. B. DuBois? Alexander Haig died a few days ago. Do you think that if you went down to the average laundry mat that a single person in there would even know who he was? What if you went down to the average school system’s central office? Try it. I hardly think that anyone at the DeKalb Central Office could tell you who Soren Kierkegaard was.

Most people will not be scholars. Give it a rest. Let people enjoy life. Now, being able to read and to understand the news and to calculate how much money is in one’s checking account, etc., is functioning happily. But, giving a rat’s behind what they do in Kennebunkport (sp?), Massachusetts is another matter. Do they play the Lottery there?

Hole in the Dikes, ThD

February 23rd, 2010
11:14 am

The filter is keeping me out.

high school teacher

February 23rd, 2010
11:16 am

On planning…

1) I just helped a kid with a math problem (I”m an English teacher): this ninth grade student didn’t know how to multiply mixed numbers, and when I tried to work it with him, he could not tell me what 3 x 9 is.

2) We can’t just compare education. It is difficult to motivate students who have had everything handed to them their entire lives and expect to have a 4.0 GPA thrown in their laps as well. Education is only one aspect of society that we should compare.

Dr. Malik el Haj Mohammad

February 23rd, 2010
11:23 am

“There is an adjective for what Obama is proposing:

Watered-down”

How so?

big fish in a little pond

February 23rd, 2010
11:29 am

V,

Being in a “rigorous” courses is really relative, isn’t it? I think there is a plenty of evidence that US teachers don’t have the depth of knowledge teachers from South Korea, China, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, etc. do. I think accepting the fact is the first step in confronting the issue.

James

February 23rd, 2010
11:40 am

As Susan Jacoby, author of “The Age of American Unreason” so eloquently put it, We’re a Know-As-Little-As-You Can-Get-Away-With Nation and proud of it. I am a teacher, and I see this everyday in my classroom. Anytime you tell students something or write it on the board, they want to know if they “need to know it for the test,” and if the answer to that question is “maybe, maybe not” or a flat-out “no,” they don’t bother to write it down.

If we can stop the cultural attacks on the intellectuals in this country and really make being educated a priority and show how it is a a boon to society and individuals, then we can achieve better results as a nation.

@ Hole

February 23rd, 2010
11:48 am

If we design an education system that tries to educate those 30% who will go on to colleges, only 30% of those will go on to colleges. Starting with a much larger pool will increase the likelihood of having enough mathematicians, scientists and engineers.

V for Vendetta

February 23rd, 2010
12:11 pm

Mohammad,

Based on the “educational reform” that has been handed down from on high in the past, I expect this current round of rhetoric and pandering to be no different. Since we can’t accept that all kids can not and will not be successful, we must make sure the bar is low enough that they can all climb over it. Our American society is becoming increasingly scared of hard work. This will be no different.

big fish,

You can talk relativism all you want, but I think there are a lot of colleges and universities in this country where rigorous means just that. Perhaps the course work is different, but the intensity is still the same. You are correct in assuming that there are places where standards are a joke, and the end product is nothing short of deplorable; however, I would hesitate to hang my hat on such institutions. Colleges of Education might be a bit behind the times at some schools, but most of them would still hold up under the definition of rigorous.

This is all really a moot point until the US begins realistically looking at the problem. National standards will do nothing unless they are difficult to meet and reflect true mastery and success. Such standards would also create an immediate and too lately realized need for improved VoTech education. Lastly, the standards would expose segments of the population for being unwilling to change–i.e., satisfied with living in poverty and using it as an excuse to claim benefits and handouts.

But that will never happen.

V for Vendetta

February 23rd, 2010
12:15 pm

Or, as I’ve said ad nauseam, early exposure to books is the number one predictor of future academic success. But in a world where parents can’t take the time to read ONE BOOK to their kids or buy ONE BOOK from a Goodwill/Salvation Army store, what can we expect but continued failure from certain segments of the population?

Poverty is a BS excuse, people. It doesn’t take money to get books into the hands of your kids. It doesn’t take more than FIVE MINUTES to read a Dr. Seuss book to your kids.

Enough with the excuses.

little fish in a big pond

February 23rd, 2010
12:45 pm

the teachers have the depth of knowledge, its the system the other countries use that have their students excelling. Students are weeded out begining in the 8th grade; high end sent to IB schools, middle of road to 9 and 10 grade where they finish in the 10 then go to tech college; bottom — welcome to the fish market.

what would the neighbors say?

February 23rd, 2010
1:00 pm

what would American parents say if the school told them; based on this test your child cannot go to the 11th and 12th grade. They are better suited for tech school. Thank you, bye,bye.

James

February 23rd, 2010
3:13 pm

@V for Vendetta – not to make a sweeping generalization; but statistically on average I believe people entering or planning on entering the teaching profession are indeed inferior scholars. There are obviously exceptions.

http://nj.npri.org/nj98/07/teachers_ed.htm
“A major in education has long been considered an easy route to a college degree. ”

http://blogs.tampabay.com/schools/2008/09/sat-scores-of-t.html
“High school graduates who say they intend to major in education score in the bottom third compared to 36 other intended majors, according to the SAT data released last week. Nationally, intended education majors finished 25th in reading, 27th in math and a combined 57 points below the national average in both. “

little fish in a little pond

February 23rd, 2010
3:13 pm

Unfortunately, US children’s underachievement starts in elementary schools. Elementary and middle school teachers definitely do NOT have the depth of understanding Chinese and other Asian teachers do. That has been very well documented. You can deny the truth as much as you want, but the fact remains.

James

February 23rd, 2010
3:18 pm

Totally agreed with V – poverty is not an excuse for a poor education!

mystery poster

February 23rd, 2010
3:28 pm

I also totally agree with V. Learning starts at home long before kids walk through school doors.

I taught geometry for many years, and I could always tell the kids who never had puzzles as a kid. They absolutely could NOT see that two triangles were congruent if one of them was rotated or – god forbid – flipped (reflected).

little fish in a big pond

February 23rd, 2010
4:00 pm

It is correct that elementary teacher may not have the depth of knowledge in Math, prehaps we could change certification standards to include a minor or at least 12 hours of higher math in college, or bring in HS Math certified teachers in the middle grades. Most HS math teachers do have math degrees with a speciality in ed. BBUUUUUTTT, we still need different tracks to graduation, LIKE THE OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE AND OTHER STATES HAVE.

Ole Guy

February 23rd, 2010
4:00 pm

V, you’re right on. This poverty crap has got to stop…I’ve seen and heard it too much. Some “poverty-stricken” individual bad-mouthing the excesses of “the rich people” while bemoaning one’s down-and-out status…this nonesense has gotta stop. Does a segment of society have it tougher than those whose fiscal store is in order? To be sure…but dammit, people, stop foisting your misery onto your kids. In fact, you might consider dipping into your beer-and-wine allocation and purchase a pack or two of rubbers now and again. STOP PUMPING OUT KIDS IF ALL YOU’RE GONNA DO IS IGNORE THEIR EDUCATIONAL NEEDS!

Fed Up

February 23rd, 2010
4:46 pm

Ole Guy and V: AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!

DCSSgoing downhill

February 23rd, 2010
5:13 pm

Had to comment to Holes in the Dikes, Thd. Kennebunkport is in Maine, not Massachusettes. Where did you go to school?

high school teacher

February 23rd, 2010
5:13 pm

Elementary teachers are priceless, not necessarily because of their subject matter but because they can work with children, a task that is not easy. I do not work with young children well. I have full body shivers each time I visit my children’s school. I love my two children, but more than about 5 children together makes me have the heebie jeebies!

I want to know how GA legislators will answer to Obama now that they are considering cutting the number days that we go to school…sounds like a fast track to first place… not.

Rich

February 23rd, 2010
5:20 pm

our public schools were created to create workers who follow the rules and will not question the boss. That is what we get out of our schools.

teacher2

February 23rd, 2010
5:20 pm

How do all of you teachers like your pay for performance plan now that you will be teaching less days to kids that determine your “test score” bonus? This idea actually sounds good to some. Our legislators have no idea what they are approving.Furloughing planning days was so easy this year that we can send the kids and the teachers all home next year. Look at all of this money we save. What a joke

Garry Owen

February 23rd, 2010
5:28 pm

Our “learned” members of the Georgia Legislature need to go spend a long time with a classroom teacher, then maybe they might have the right to talk about education and teachers. Also, maybe we need members of the state house and senate who can pass civics tests and who operate under pay for performance.

retired

February 23rd, 2010
5:39 pm

V you are so right. Schools in high poverty areas with low expectations doom these children to more poverty. W are also adding to it with unlimited chances, no deadlines, and too much “help”. The grade then becomes part of the lie.Teachers being told to teach like this, children who do no homework, parents who believe their lies, and testing presure. I am glad my time is over..but I do miss seeing them learn

retired

February 23rd, 2010
5:40 pm

@ little fish in a big pond

February 23rd, 2010
5:42 pm

Your logic would then result in let the college math professors teach in HS. I think you and I would probably agree that would not do much good – in the same way just bringing down HS teachers to teach MS or MS teachers to teach Elementary math.

However, I still suggest that even HS teachers lack the DEPTH of knowledge OF MATHEMATICS/SCIENCES THEY TEACH. Just because you majored in math or science doesn’t necessarily mean that you acquired deep understanding.

Legend of Len Barker

February 23rd, 2010
6:23 pm

What’s killing education:

1) Pay. The only people taking home a fantastic salary are the ones who aren’t in the classroom daily. Since salaries are public records, it is a bit demoralizing to know just how much more those people who couldn’t cut it in a classroom are making to be your curriculum director.

2) Conditions. If you’re lucky, the principal will back you up on everything. This is crucial. I’m not saying that a principal should back up a teacher when the teacher’s actions are illegal, but on everything else – even it is slightly ridiculous – the principal needs to back up the teacher. Anything less kills the teacher’s respect from students.

3) NCLB and CRCT. They’ve taken the life out of the classroom. No teacher has time to properly go through everything and try to liven things up. It’s rush, rush, rush because the state only cares about one week of 36 and that week just happens to take place in March or April.

4) Parents. Thanks a lot, some of you (not here, but in general). Thanks for telling your monster child that this doesn’t matter and the teacher doesn’t deserve to be respected. Look, even if the teacher is a complete fool who should’ve retired 20 years ago, s/he still deserves a quiet classroom and a basic attempt at being decent and attentive.

5) Kids. My job wasn’t to entertain you. My job was to educate you. However, if you had actually made an effort and didn’t try to cheat the computer program, we could’ve had a bit more fun.

6) Money. We’re poor down here in south Georgia. We know no culture. And we’re going to continue bringing up the rear in dropout rates until someone pays us some attention. Our big cultural experience used to be a bus ride around the county, but we can’t even afford that these days.

8) Online CRCT. An absolute abomination of a test prep program. The state deliberately made it as boring, limited, and messy as possible. Thanks a bunch, especially on those days that your server wouldn’t do jack squat.

Wounded Warrior

February 23rd, 2010
6:28 pm

how ’bout 47th-50th place?? that is where GA has been last 20 years.

shooting a barrel of fish

February 23rd, 2010
6:41 pm

guess we should just bring in MIT or GT professors to instruct all the students in GA and Im sure the elementary, middle school, and hs students will understand everything the professors say? if ur trying to insult math teachers go ahead, but its kind of like complaining about farmers with your mouth full

Fed Up

February 23rd, 2010
7:17 pm

Legend of Len Barker: SO TRUE!!!!

[...] Read more here: Obama: We can't accept second place in education | Get Schooled [...]

Please

February 23rd, 2010
7:29 pm

Can’t accept second? As if the US was even remotely close to second. We are about as close to second in education right now as Toyota is close to second in consumer confidence at the moment.

I’m sure there’s a mama out there changing a diaper right now who could find an apt metaphor for education and number two, but I’m not sure it’s the one the White House wants to hear, however truthful it may be, or however indicative it may be of the federal government’s role in education, be it this administration or the last.

Been there for 32 Years

February 23rd, 2010
8:11 pm

I applaud you Legend of LB!!

Attentive Parent

February 24th, 2010
7:08 am

For anyone questioning where the information that the Common Core math and English standards are weak and are noticeably weaker than Massachusetts, please read the following report: http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/100223_why_race_to_the_middle.pdf

The title is “Why Race to the Middle? First Class State Standards are Better than Third-Class National Standards” .

Attentive Parent

February 24th, 2010
9:47 am

I urge everyone who cares about academics in Georgia to read the above report.

It will break your heart that the feds are essentially requiring such a nonacademic, sloppy vision for the US K-12 classroom.

So weak that the authors see CCSSI as damaging to the “entire fabric of public education in this country”.