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.