NBC's, Today Show Co-host, Matt Lauer sat down with President Barak Obama to talk about what may be the hottest topic being discussed across the country; education.
While per pupil funding has continued to go up in recent decades, student scores have continued to go down. Many point the finger at teachers who aren't doing what is necessary to help provide a quality education for every student.
Just two months ago, Washington, D.C., Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee fired 241 teachers under a new evaluation system that holds teachers accountable for student test scores. She also put an additional 17% on notice that if they don't improve next year, they could lose their jobs. Of the 241 teachers fired, 165 were dismissed due to poor performance.The remainder were let go due to the lack of proper teaching credentials.(The Wall Street Journal)
The head of the Washington Teacher's Union says the evaluation system Rhee used is flawed and they plan to challenge the firings. (The Wall Street Journal)
Lauer shared the results of a recent poll that stated 67 percent of Americans feel the education system is in a crisis. According to Lauer, one-third of American students don't graduate high school and only 35 percent of U.S. students are proficient in reading. President Obama says education and economics play a joint role in the future success of education.
"Part of the challenge is that how well we do economically is going to depend on whether or not we can do something about these schools," said the President.
Obama announced that $4 billion dollars has been set aside for education funding for those school systems shown to make progress. He also stated that his administration plans to train ten thousand math and science teachers. The President says he will take the issue of providing quality education for all children a priority.
When asked about Teacher's Unions, Obama was quick to point out the heroic jobs some teachers were doing. However, he said there is reason to be concerned with other teachers' lack of performance.
"We want to work with you (Teacher's Union), but we can't defend a status quo where one-third of the students are dropping out," said Obama.
The President also shared what he found out during a recent visit to China where teachers are considered important and valuable enough to receive the same salary levels as engineers. Obama continued by saying that Teachers Unions were founded to protect teachers, making sure they are adequately paid. What is also true, Obama continued, is that these unions are resistent to change.
Another solution the Obama administration has planned includes closing down the bottom five percent of low performing schools and turning them into charter schools, while also considering adding another month to the regular school year. He says many other countries who have done this have higher math and science scores.
As far as what time table the President has in mind to put his education reform plans into place, he said such improvements won't happen overnight.
"Reform is hard. It's sytematic. It takes time. But there are some charter schools who are able to achieve great results, boosting test scores and the number of students graduating," said Obama.