On Thursday I had the opportunity to hear President Barack Obama speak about education reform at the National Urban League’s Centennial Convention. Held at the massive Washington Convention Center, President Obama arrived by helicopter to fulfill his promise of speaking at the convention if he was elected. The theme of the speech was empowerment and The President spoke at length about much needed education reform to transform the nation’s schools.
We live in a time where school budgets are leaner than ever and school systems have furloughed teachers as a cost saving measure. There is little money for professional development or new curriculum. Teachers are digging deep to pay for things out of pocket when they are not getting salary raises to reflect years of experience and pay to reflect the increased cost of living.
Cleary changes are necessary and President Obama’s recognized all of these factors when he talked about Race to the Top. The ambitious plan is designed to change education in this country. It’s completely different from No Child Left Behind but just as controversial.
The President announced that part of the initiative includes a nationwide competition by states for federal dollars. The new plan ties teacher evaluation to student performance, adopting common student achievement standards, and charter schools as an alternative to public schools. Currently only 2 states have received federal educational reform money based on this new plan.
In the past, states have been allocated a dollar amount based on need. Need was always calculated via a formula that took into account socioeconomics, such as the numbers of children receiving free and reduced meals, and doled out to states through federal Title I and Title II grant funds. The needy populations got the most money to help decrease the achievement gap.
Through this new program, competition is tough. NBC Nightly News reported that Tennessee and Delaware are the only 2 states that have won federal funds so far but there are 19 states that are finalists for the second round of funding.
More states do have the opportunity to win funding but the concern is that the right schools and student populations won’t be served through competition-based funding. It is unclear if those that really need the money are in the running. Those that really and truly need the money might not have applied for funds or perhaps didn’t qualify in this round. I wonder how school systems being considered propose to make all the necessary changes in order to ensure student success and mastery of the curriculum when there are no federal standards to guide the change.
I was awestruck by the fact that I was in the same room as The President and while his inspirational speech made those around me utter starry eyed dreams of teaching and at times, had me reconsider my leave of absence from teaching, I remain a skeptic.
I wanted to cheer and shout “yes we can!” along with the crowd but as a veteran teacher, I know the hardships first hand. I’ve seen the achievement gap that is very clearly divided by race. I’ve experienced how difficult it is to get an entire staff on board to make the necessary changes in order for every child to do well. I’ve been part of school system budget cuts both as a central office employee in charge of half a million dollars of centrally purchased online services (ex: BrainPop, WorldBook, etc.) for our county and down to my own classroom budget of $35 for supplies. In May I was allocated a mere $35 to purchase a year’s worth of supplies for me and the students that I would be meeting with in my new academic intervention reading focus position.
I want to believe that we can change education for the better in the United States. I want to believe that all parents will be involved in their child’s education. I want to believe that kids will come to school knowing their letters, shapes, and numbers and be ready to learn when they enter the building in kindergarten. I believe in my colleagues, their ability to teach, and dedication to all students- even the most challenging ones.
I want to see President Obama’s Rise to the Top succeed and for states to get much needed funding in order to make these changes but as he said, it is hard to change and we won’t see immediate differences right away.
Time will tell. I can only hope that these changes to our education system will be effective enough to prepare our kids for a brighter future and help elevate our country on the world stage.
Lots to ask for? Yes, indeed!
Yes we can? I hope so!
Full text of President Obama’s speech can be found here: Remarks by the President on Education Reform at the National Urban League Centennial Conference
Special thanks to Blogalicious and the b-Link who made it possible to attend President Obama’s speech to the National Urban League and T-Mobile for providing me with the Dell Mini with WebConnect to take notes throughout the speech. I was not compensated to attend the event or write this post and all opinions are my own.
Thanks for reading Tech Savvy Mama through your feed!
Original post by Tech Savvy Mama