Obama on accountability & excellence in education

Given we are now in the 2012 U.S. presidential election in earnest, I thought it might be interesting to look back to March 24th, 2009. At that time, I wrote:

Apart from Moira MacDonald of the Toronto Sun, little is being heard from the Canadian media on what the U.S. President Barack Obama is recommending happen in American schools and school boards. For example, here are some quotes from Ms. MacDonald’s column yesterday:

  • “This is not a review of George W. Bush’s education policies. These are a few ideas from a recent speech by President Barack Obama. It was the first major speech Obama has made on education since coming to office.”
  • “It was delivered nearly two weeks ago to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce — business leaders from a community whose children are often amongst the most struggling academically…”
  • “But he did not shy away from hard truths — truths that would be like sticking a finger in the eye of many of those in our public education universe here.”
  • “‘In a 21st-century world,’ Obama said. ‘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….'”
  • “Although short on detail, Obama said good teachers ‘will be rewarded with more money for improved student achievement.…'” [My italics.]

Wow! Increased expectations! Improved standards! That classroom teachers should be rewarded on the basis of student achievement!

Frankly, in Canada, even knowing how well individual students are achieving, let alone in comparison to their peers, is wishful thinking. In fact, the very notion that how well a student does should reflect on how well a teacher teachers, causes the teachers’ unions nightmares. Accountability? What’s that?

And, yes, I’m a former teacher AND teacher educator. Yet, I would have had no problem with anyone assessing how well I teach, no matter where my school was located or what the language, social or special needs of my students.

In fact, when I was in private practice, that is what I did. I helped children who were doing badly in school — by providing them with the learning strategies they needed to succeed, such as something as simple as using post-it notes to keep track of the main ideas in a story. Or, common sense approaches like using a tape-recorder to tape-record and listen to what you just read — thereby using all the senses.

Which makes me wonder what ever happened to all the “listening” centres that used to be a part of every primary and junior classroom? In fact, when “whole language” was first introduced, we were told they were essential, as were the phonics practise centres. And, so they were. 

But, the tape-recorders and earphones were expensive and required some careful teacher planning to shuffle the various reading groups through those centres. So, another policy was implemented well but modified over the years to the point where there is no longer anything “whole” about whole language.   

In any event, I will definitely be following these developments. They may be just what choice and other educational advocates have been hoping for — because reform of our educational systems is long overdue.

July 5, 2012: So, did the President achieve what he hoped to? Well, actually, yes. Did he achieve everything he wanted to? Obviously not, no one could in such a short period of time. But, make progress? Definitely. For full details of U.S. federal improvements and reforms to education, check out this White House link and scroll down to “Progress.”

Ohio mother jailed for sending her kids to a better school

Just when you think Western society cannot get any stranger, you read that an Ohio mother was jailed for ten days and given three years probation because she chose to send her children to a better school than the one in her downtoan Akron neighbourhood — an area that was plagued by drugs and crime.

Obviously,  the local Akron authorities don’t understand the notion of freedom of movement and a parent’s right to try and provide her kids with a way out of the poverty trap.  And, trap it obviously is. What is especially shocking is that this didn’t happen in some Middle East or African dictatorship. It happened in the “land of the free” — in the United States of America where Barack Obama is President.  

Read the whole article. It makes us appreciate the notion of open boundaries and parent choice all that much more. Imagine! The downtown Akron Ohio school district actually hired a private eye to videotape Kelley Williams-Bolar “driving into the predominantly white district to deliver the children to school.”

So, who, I wonder, complained to the authorities and why are they trying to make an example out of this woman? For any Americans reading this post, I would recommend they send a complaint to their Congressman and Senator — no matter where they live. This is 2011 and that type of rigidity and lack of freedom should not be allowed anywhere in what is supposed to be the land of the free — particularly if  you are poor and black and can’t afford to move.

Anti-Americanism & anti-conservative bias on CBC news

As Michael Coren recently said on his show (H/T Richco and General Brock), the knee jerk reaction by the Canadian media, particularly the CBC, to blame Sarah Palin and the U.S. Tea Party Movement for the Arizona tragedy, has been absolutely appalling.  I mean, as Barbara Yaffe writes today in the Vancouver Sun, we have our own history of political violence. And, Yaffe doesn’t even include the FLQ crisis of 1970 when Quebec provincial Cabinet Minister Pierre LaPorte was shot and killed — when there were Liberal governments in Ottawa and Quebec City.

Yet, there was Neil MacDonald on CBC’s The National two nights ago, reporting from Washington in the most hostile and critical tone I have ever heard. To access the video, simply click on the link in the right side bar, dated January 10th, 2011 and titled “Political rhetoric fuelling violence.” Then wait for the advertising to finish.  In MacDonald’s piece, he readily admits the alleged killer was mentally unstable and probably not a conservative or a Republican.

 Unfortunately, however, he doesn’t end his reportage there. Instead,  he shows a heavy-handed one-sided video presentation that consisted of a series of cut and paste video clips and a one-sided interview on the benefits of progressive thinking.  Unprofessional? Definitely. Unethical? Possibly. One thing is for sure, the splicing together of random clips reminded me of the time Stephen Taylor outed CBC reporter Christina Lawand for using a similar technique to misrepresent what PM Harper had said.

Specifically,  there are two clips where conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh speaks. In the second one, you can hear MacDonald’s voice over saying “This from a man who said the following” and then we hear Limbaugh saying:  “There is going to be a gang rape by a Democratic Party.” 

Now, the way I interpret that is not that Limbaugh was saying that those in the Democratic party should be raped but, rather the exact opposite, that the Democratic Party was going to rape someone else. And, given the vitriol thrown at Palin during the 2008 U.S. election, that was close to what happened.

For three examples, check out this New York Daily News opinion piece dated September 20th, 2008. Celebrity comedian Sandra Bernhard is quoted as saying Palin would “be gang raped by my black brothers,” black activist Charlie Rangel refers to Palin as disabled and comedian, Margaret Cho, says that Palin was “the worst thing to happen since 9/11.” Now, think about that last comment. More than 3000 people were killed by Islamic extremists on 9/11 but Palin is worse? If that is not violent rhetoric, I don’t know what is.

And, spare me the business about Palin showing Gabrielle Gifford’s congressional district as a target.  As Coren says so eloquently, that was a metaphor for taking back the district, not killing anyone. All politicians refer to targeting a riding or constituency. It is no more sinister than that.

The crux of the matter is that the CBC’s anti-Americanism and hatred towards all things conservative (including when Newsworld program hosts allow Liberal and NDP pundits and politicians to continually interrupt and talk over Conservative guests),  is destroying what little credibility they have left.

Updates:

(1) Jack at Jack’s Newswatch has a number of links regarding the Arizona tragedy.

(2) BC Blue has a post up about how an Edmonton journalist has linked Ezra Levant to the Arizona assassination. Truly, what is really scary, progressives in this country, like in the U.S. are attempting to shut down free speech in any way they can. Speaking of hate speech?

(3) Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post — Massacre followed by libel (H/T Celestial Junk).

(4) Kerry Forrest on how Michael Harris bashed conservative American radio hosts and found it hard to find any callers who agreed with his point of view. Interesting.

(5) Sarah Palin responds at Canadiansense.

(6) A common sense column by a progressive, Thomas Walkom of the Toronto Star. Blame gun laws, not Palin.

(7) Mark Bonokoski in the Ottawa Sun says massacre in Arizona was NOT politically motivated.

What’s not to like about Obama’s back-to-school speech?

Today, as a Canadian, I witnessed political partisanship that is so over the top, and so beyond common sense, it is hard to know where to begin. No, I am not talking about Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff or Prime Minister Harper. I am talking about the Republican reaction to a back-to-school speech President Barack Obama gave to students in an Arlington, Virginia high school.

And, what did Mr. Obama say that so outraged Republicans? He essentially told the students that they should stay in school, study hard, find out what they were good at and pursue it, take full responsibility for their own behaviour and lives and be ready to contribute to the future of their country.  Here, for example, are some of the President’s own words:

  • Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is.”
  • “You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it,” Obama warned, adding “this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future.”
  • “What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country.”
  • “What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.”
  • “You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment.”
  • “You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free.”
  • “You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.”
  • “If you quit on school — you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.”
  • “At the end of the day, the circumstances of your life — what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home — that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude.”
  • “That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.”
  • “Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.”
  • “That’s the opportunity an education can provide.”

Republican reaction has been fast and furious — literally. The words and phrases to describe it: socialist brainwashing, indoctrinating kids with socialism ideology and proof of the worship of Barack Obama, the Pied Piper. 

Pardon me? How can the recognition of hard work, patriotism, self-reliance and  personal responsibility be considered socialist indoctrination?

I suppose the speech is in the ear of the beholder. But, from where I sit, I can only assume that Canadian conservatives are not at all like American Republicans because when I ask myself the question: What is not to like about Mr. Obama’s back to school speech? I would have to say nothing. It was an inspiring speech and probably one of the best I have ever heard.

Notes: This is from the google cache as I lost this post when I moved to a new hosting service. For the original 47 comments on this threat, check the cache here.

Obama on accountability & excellence in education

Apart from Moira MacDonald of the Toronto Sun, little is being heard from the Canadian media on what the U.S. President Barack Obama is recommending happen in American schools and school boards. Not surprising I guess, given that what Mr. Obama is saying sounds positively conservative.

For example, here are some quotes from Ms. MacDonald’s column yesterday:

  • “This is not a review of George W. Bush’s education policies. These are a few ideas from a recent speech by President Barack Obama. It was the first major speech Obama has made on education since coming to office.”
  • “It was delivered nearly two weeks ago to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce — business leaders from a community whose children are often amongst the most struggling academically…”
  • “But he did not shy away from hard truths — truths that would be like sticking a finger in the eye of many of those in our public education universe here.”
  • “‘In a 21st-century world,’ Obama said. ‘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….'”
  • “Although short on detail, Obama said good teachers ‘will be rewarded with more money for improved student achievement.…'” [My italics.]

Wow! Increased expectations! Improved standards! That classroom teachers should be rewarded on the basis of student achievement!

Frankly, in Canada, even knowing how well individual students are achieving, let alone in comparison to their peers, is wishful thinking. In fact, the very notion that how well a student does should reflect on how well a teacher teachers, causes the teachers’ unions nightmares. Accountability? What’s that?

And, yes, I’m a former teacher AND teacher educator. Yet, I would have had no problem with anyone assessing how well I teach, no matter where my school was located or what the language, social or special needs of my students.

In fact, when I was in private practice, that is what I did. I helped children who were doing badly in school — by providing them with the learning strategies they needed to succeed, such as something as simple as using post-it notes to keep track of the main ideas in a story. Or, common sense approaches like using a tape-recorder to tape-record and listen to what you just read — thereby using all the senses.

Which makes me wonder what ever happened to all the “listening” centres that used to be a part of every primary and junior classroom? In fact, when “whole language” was first introduced, we were told they were essential, as were the phonics practise centres. And, so they were. 

But, the tape-recorders and earphones were expensive and required some careful teacher planning to shuffle the various reading groups through those centres. So, another policy was implemented well but modified over the years to the point where there is no longer anything “whole” about whole language.   

In any event, I will definitely be following these developments. They may be just what choice and other educational advocates have been hoping for — because reform of our educational systems is long overdue.

If anyone from the Ontario PC leadership campaign reads this, guaranteed this would be a winning policy platform. Who, for example, could condemn the ideas when it would be condemning Mr. Obama?

H/T Educ8m.

President Barack Obama on education reform

While this is a Canadian site, I have to congratulate U.S. President Barack Obama. Who would have thought that it would be a democratic president who would say what so many of us have wanted to hear for so long?

He wants to recognize and reward excellence in teachers. He puts the responsibility for learning on teachers and students alike. And, he sees the need for measuring student achievement on methods that, not only test for rote math and literacy skills, but also creative thinking and problem solving — so that our children and grandchildren are ready for tomorrows world.

And, last but not least, President Obama apparently sees the benefit of parents having choice when it comes to how they want to educate their children — including setting up charter schools where and when needed.  

Here then, in his own words, is what the President said on education on CNN (note pause between videos) and in print from the White House website:

The President explained why, on education in particular, we cannot afford to wait, noting that even within a few years America will see a different reality: ‘By 2016, four out of every ten new jobs will require at least some advanced education or training.’

The President pledged to end pointless partisan finger-pointing, and to ensure that new investments also came with new reforms.” 

He pointed to deep commitments both in the recovery act and his budget proposal, while also telling the audience that ‘It is time to start rewarding good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones.'”

He proposed four pillars of reform:

  1. Investing in early childhood initiatives like Head Start;
  2. Encouraging better standards and assessments by focusing on testing itineraries that better fit our kids and the world they live in;
  3. Recruiting, preparing, and rewarding outstanding teachers by giving incentives for a new generation of teachers and for new levels of excellence from all of our teachers.
  4. Promoting innovation and excellence in America’s schools by supporting charter schools, reforming the school calendar and the structure of the school day.”

 Well, one hopes Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative government in Ottawa and all the provincial and terroritial premiers — especially Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty — are paying attention. One also hopes that the Ontario Progressive caucus and possible leadership contenders are tuned into this issue because, without a doubt, this opens up a Pandoras box for Ontario’s Liberals.

Update: Another link has been provided by Educ8m with thanks. Check it out here. It apparently has the full text.