Saturday, October 2, 2010

How to Improve Education? Obama Says: Longer School Year, Great Teachers, Parental Involvement

President Obama’s interview was broadcast to an audience at the NBC News’s “Education Nation” Summit.  (Photo and caption from
This week, NBC News has given special attention to the problem of public education.  They're talking about how few students graduate from high school with the preparation they need in order to go to college.  They're asking questions about how the education system can be improved: Do we need better teachers?  More involved parents?  Different methods of teaching?

Dozens of people have shared their opinions, but only one of them is the most powerful person in the world.  In a live interview with the Today Show on Monday, President Obama said our public education system needs "radical change."  An article and the video of the interview are available here.

He said that some of the responsibility lies with parents:
"No matter how good the teacher, if the kid's coming home from school, and the parent isn't checking to see if they are doing their homework or watching TV, that's going to be a problem," he said. "And that, by the way, is true here in this White House. Malia and Sasha are great kids, and great students. But if you gave them a choice, they'd be happy to sit in front of the TV all night long, every night. At some point you have to say, ‘Your job, kid, right now, is to learn.’ ”
Take note: Alejandro from 703 shared a very similar opinion in the post about Mark Zuckerburg's donation to the Newark schools.  The president agrees with you, Alejandro!

The president added that he thinks more money can't be the only answer.  In the past thirty years or so, our public school system has doubled the amount of money it spends per student.  The additional money hasn't led to an improvement in test scores.
"We can't spend our way out of it. I think that when you look at the statistics, the fact is that our per-pupil spending has gone up during the last couple of decades even as results have gone down," explained Obama, invited to appear by NBC as the network launched its weeklong "Education Nation" initiative.
"Obviously, in some schools money plays a big factor ... ," Obama said, pointing out that schools in the poorest areas often don't have up-to-date textbooks. "On the other hand, money without reform will not fix the problem."
 He said that he would support a longer school year.
Obama repeated his support for a longer school year after being asked about it by students from a sixth-grade class in Cincinatti, Ohio. He did not specify how long that school year should be, however he noted that U.S. students attend classes, on average, about a month less than children in most other advanced countries. 
"That month makes a difference. It means students are losing a lot of what they learn during the school year during the summer ... The idea of a longer school year, I think, makes sense," Obama said. "Now, that's going to cost some money ..., but I think that would be money well spent."
He also said that we need to improve teacher quality.  He thinks we should train teachers better, support them when they're in the classroom, and fire them if they consistently do a poor job.
"The vast majority of teachers want to do a good job ... We have to be able to identify teachers who are doing well," the president said. "Teachers who are not doing well, we have to give them the support and the training to do well. And ultimately, if some teachers are not doing a good job, they've gotta go."
The president made a special plea for great students to enter the teaching profession:
"We're going to have to fill about a million teaching slots around the country and I want young people to understand that there is not a more important profession for the success of our economy over the long term than making sure that we have great teachers in the classroom."  
Yes, he's talking to you!

So, President Obama has offered a number of solutions: parent accountability, tying money to reforms, lengthening the school year, and improving teacher quality.  What do you think of his ideas?  Be thoughtful.


  1. I agree with Obama that to improve education, there should be longer school year, great teachers and parental involvement. If the school year is extended, there would be more time to study and go over the things you need help on for your future. Great teachers would be nice too because they could have easier ways to help you on the things you need help on. They could also have more time to tutor you because they would want their students to have a bright future. And parents wouldn't have to worry about their kids because they know they will not miss a homework or do bad in a test because teachers would have the responsibility to make sure that all students are doing the best.


  2. I agree with obama but I don't at the same time. Why i agree with him is because our parents would like us to have a very good education and it would be good for us so we can have more time to study on our subjects. If we had the extended time of school more kids would be doing better because we have more tome to be there and more time to get educational facts. More students would be doing better than the are now. Why i don't agree with him at the same time is because a lot of students would drop out. Why some of them would drop out is because they do not want more time at school they want summer and some feel the need that school isn't important. For CCAA most kids wouldn't want the extended school year because our school makes us come in july to.

  3. We need to improve our schools, but its the lack of students attention that makes the difference. The teachers teach but the students get distracted easily. We just need to change our teaching techniques. For example in Japan if you even disrespect your teacher they can hit you so they barely do that. I am not saying they need to hit us but we need to change our ways. Extending the school years will add more stress. I already have stress because of all the homework so extending the school days might cause me to rebel....

  4. Yes, I agree a little bit with Obama. I agree because yes we need school.But not that much.Eventually tecahers are going to get tired of us. And yes Parental Involvement will be super good cause there are certain kids that do whatever they want with there Moms, and Dads. I walk through the streets and I see little kids of 5,8. cursing like if they know whats really going on. Extending more the school year won't be good because students will drop of or slack.Finally, I kind of disagree because having alot of homework and school work won't be that good because then teachers are going to be always going topic by topic and confusing us. So really I agree and disagree with what Obama is saying. - Jaileen <3

  5. I agree with Obama for many things, but at the same time I also disagree. First of all I believe that some kids believe already that the school year is too long. If some kids don't go to school for 10 months out of 12,I would like to know in what ways will making the school year longer make kids go back to school. I also believe that some teachers will have difficulties working for a longer amount of time. Some of the reasons to why I agree with Obama are the following: If we extend the school period time we will gain more knowledge which is the most important thing everybody has because any person can take anything they want from you but they could never and would never take away your knowledge! I also believe that sometimes it's not the students itself that make the school bad sometimes it's the teachers he has hired. I am not try to say all teachers are bad, but I've had an experience in the last school I was in.

  6. I Agree with half of what obama says because their should be more parental involvement because in the beginning of the school year their mom or dad thinks their child is doing well and stuff like that without having no idea whats really going on. When they have to repeat a grade their going to feel like they wernt there for them or failed them to probaly cause them stress or depression. if they knew what their child got in a H.w or quiz they would knew if they need to study or maybe relax if they over study. So this is when i go to my next point. Extending the school year. Our school is special. They have many programs and take our vacation time for education. yes we did improve with these programs but then again there not only one reason why you failed a test... and what teachers automaticly think is "oh look this kid didnt STUDY" well he probaly did maybe all week and weekend this whole month. but their could also be nervousness and putting yourself down or you probaly think you didnt study enough thats all over exercising or over training. That is unhealthy mentally and phisically. So if your in a situation like this you should study but rest to if you know everything there is to know about and your relax and ate a good breakfast you'll do find. Therfore, Barack Obama is half right half i would'nt like to say wrong but i just disagree about it. -Alejandro Mena

  7. An e-mailed comment from Jennifer of 802:
    I disagree with Obama that we should have a longer school year. I think that having a longer school year will not really help because it’s not about how long we should be in school it is about the students. If the students are willing to learn then they will learn but if they don’t want too then having a longer school year will make it worse. If Obama decided that we should have a longer school year then it means that the students will get really upset and they will not want to go to school. It also depends on the teachers and the way that they teach. If a teacher is really boring and just makes students read from textbooks then the students will not learn anything and they will not pay attention in class. Teachers should improve in their teaching techniques to help a student learn something in a better way. I strongly believe that the school year should not be extended.

  8. i believe that the school year should be longer but also i dont believe that it shouldnt. if the school year is longer i get how this can affect you in the future. your future would be more acurate and become more inteligent. but i also disagree with obama because if the school years are longer then more people are going to drop out. or maybe some people are going to commit suaside because it is too much for them. obama needs to think about the effects that the new changes would have on everyone because not everyone learns the same way.