President addresses failing education system

September 27, 2010 7:11:53 PM PDT
On Monday, President Barack Obama said our education system is broken and only money and reform can fix it.

The president has been talking about education reform for more than a year, so why talk about it again? It's because other influential people are seriously addressing reform.

This week the documentary, "Waiting for Superman" is being shown and it focuses on the failing education system. So now the president wants to hire more math and science teachers and says underperforming teachers have to go.

Imagine a longer school year for American kids. The how hasn't been hammered out by Obama yet. It may help improve our world ranking. The Obama administration says, compared to other countries, the U.S. is 21st in science and 25th in math.

Monday he announced a new goal of recruiting 10,000 science and math teachers, even as California laid off thousands this year.

U.C. Berkeley dean of education Judith Warren Little knows where to look.

"People who have a background in the stem fields and for whatever reason find the work they are doing in industry, for example, not as personally satisfying as they would like," says Little.

But a teacher's salary has always been a deterrent for hiring the best and the brightest.

Dennis Kelly is with the United Educators of San Francisco.

"He talked about paying teachers the way you pay engineers. That's a $40,000 difference in starting pay. I don't know if anybody figured that out for him in these times of this recession, but that's a huge commitment. But it's the right intent and it is the right kind of thought," says Kelly.

The teacher's union and the president disagree on compensating teachers for their performance. The Los Angeles Times recently evaluated 6,000 teachers, linking them to student test scores. Their names were published.

That has caused uproar within the academic world. It was the topic at a conference at Cal.

"There has been an interesting outcome in that that series of articles has really propelled both public and professional attention to this issue," says Little.

And that, she says, could bring more attention to Obama's reform agenda.

One thing the president made clear was that no money will come from Washington without reform.

"We've seen an increase in resources and we've also seen a decrease in resources and neither one by itself has had a very significant effect in education," says David Plank from Policy Analysis for CALED.

In the words of Obama, "Money without reform will not fix the problem."

Finally, the president was asked about his two children who attend private school in Washington. Obama said Washington D.C. public schools are struggling, but he added his daughters could not get the same quality education if they attended any of the D.C. public schools.


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