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August 30th, 2010
09:00 AM ET

How Do We Fix Our Schools?

That's the question we're trying to answer this week on CNN. 

From teacher shortages and budget cuts to high dropout rates, we're examining the challenges school systems face every day. We’re also taking a look at successes.  Which schools are getting it right and how can other schools follow their lead?

That's where you come in. We want to hear your ideas and suggestions on ways to fix our schools.

Leave us a comment. We’ll share them throughout the week in the CNN Newsroom.


Filed under: Tony Harris
soundoff (187 Responses)
  1. Nikhil Goyal

    he 20th century belonged to the United States. Who will the 21st century to? If we don't fix our education and our politics, China or India are going to overtake us. Day in and day out, I hear of another Chinese or Indian investment in education, renewable energy, technology, or health care. The United States has fallen behind considerably. We dropped from leading the number of college graduates to 12th place on the global scale. So who should we blame? The teachers? The students? The schools? Who? We should blame what we are teaching our kids. We are not teaching them skills that will make competitive and make them succeed in this changing world. We are teaching them 20th century skills. The No Child Left Behind Act signed by President Bush made schools accountable. The law brought an immeasurable amount of testing to our nation's schools. It is very fair to say that this law has not helped America increase its competitiveness on the global spectrum, but has potentially damaged our kids to compete. There is a book out there by Tony Wagner, a Harvard Graduate School of Education professor, called The Global Achievement Gap. He discusses 7 skills he calls that kids need to learn, how testing puts our kids at a greater risk, 3 examples of schools that teach these skills, and much more. I read this book and it really enlightened me. There are two achievement gaps. One is the gap between low income, minority, poor schools and middle class schools. That gap has lessened greatly in the past decade. The second gap is the skills that kids need to learn to succeed versus what schools are teaching us. "Life's not a multiple choice test." Its not about filling in bubbles. The skills that we need to teach are critical thinking and problem solving skills, collaboration across networks, agility and Adaptability, initiative, oral and written communication, analyzing information, and curiosity and imagination. What we teach in schools are the strategies to pass the state's standardized tests. They teach us rote memorization without analysis and reasoning. For example, a teacher could tell the class to memorize 20 American Revolution vocabulary terms. I will bet that just a few days or even just 15 minutes after the test, all that information will be forgotten. Its pointless to memorize over 90% of the stuff we learn in school, because it is available readily on the internet. I'm not saying that all memorization is bad, because there are things that must be memorized, but its that we rely purely on memorization. PISA administered a test testing mathematic, reading, and scientific literacy to a selection of 15 year olds in a number of countries. It was not multiple choice, but open ended responses. Guess where the US placed? They placed 15th in reading, 24th in mathematics, and 21st in science. Finland got the honors of placing first in all the categories. The US was behind countries like South Korea, Japan, Canada, Ireland, and Australia. Can you believe this? I can. We teach to the test. We teach how to answer a multiple choice test. But we fall flat on our faces, when we are faced with open ended responses. So: our schools are not teaching students skills that we truly need. In all grades, when learning how to write, we learn what nouns and verbs are, but we don't learn how to write. Also, we do not know how to research. Most kids can't write a 10 page paper in college, because they are used to 5 paragraph essay format, what they have been writing for their entire school career. College students drop out, because they have poor writing skills. They are frustrated. Over 30% of students college take remedial courses. I read a New York Times article last week discussing how college professors are countlessly saying that kids are not prepared. They can't write. They can't form an argument. They can't give an oral presentation. So let me recap. There are 2 achievement gaps. The predominant one ois what our schools are teaching us versus what skills we need to learn to compete and succeed in the 21 century. Its clear that our kids are over tested. Testing is not the answer. It never was the answer. If we do not reform our schools, this generation is in for a long ride. And America's dominance in this world is at great risk. India and China are not holding back. They have a generation that is succeeding. They have students that have these skills. So understand, America is at a huge risk. This 21st century will belong to the United States if we fix our schools. Education is what defines a generation. So lets make it happen! Thank you!

    August 30, 2010 at 9:12 am |
  2. Deborah Lawhorn

    until we hold the teachers to a higher standards. allowing them bark at the kids and there is no consequences for their actions and the parents don't have anyone or any resources to help our kids.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:18 am |
  3. Southgate Jo

    I live near Detroit, Michigan. I am sixty years old and my mother was a teacher for 35 years. In the days when I was growing up, missing school was a cardinal sin. We never missed a day of school unless we were really sick. Today, here in Michigan, one flake of snow and schools are closed all around the area. It's a joke.

    In my youth, we had moderate homework assignments. Today, kids are doing three and four hours of homework a night and not really finishing what they need to do. We always had time to go outside and throw a baseball around or for a game of basketball without feeling guilty that we should be spending time on homework. Quality of life!

    These are failures in leadership. Failures by the staff to run a program that is effective and efficient during the hours these kids are in school. Teachers today teach to pass state required tests. This doesn't allow the kids to experience and learn education as it was in my day. This is a failure by staff to demand that our kids go to school come hell or high water. It is a failure by leadership to fight the structured learning system our nation has assigned our schools. Leadership needs to be more mindful of what kids take home for homework. Too much will lead to a discouraged student and a failure by staff to get it done!

    August 30, 2010 at 9:18 am |
  4. Sofia

    Let's not separate the problems in the school system from the obvious family issues. Schools need more family therapists to address the big picture. We can't separate drop out issues and family issues. They are all related. When we work on family issues and school issues together, the results are permanent.... happy families = happy schools

    August 30, 2010 at 9:36 am |
  5. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    This is how we fix our schools we tell the government to be seen and not herd .

    August 30, 2010 at 9:36 am |
  6. Oscar

    You guys at CNN really shouldn't say that drop-outs are more likely to end up in jail or unemployed. People end up in jail more because of other reasons rather than because of school. If anything you should say, that drop-outs are more likely to end up unemployed or in a low-paying job or minimum wage job. That would be the correct term.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:37 am |
  7. Alan Torgeson

    Its shocking how CNN doesn't mention the success of homeschooling and how that is a real and viable option for parents, including single parents. And CNN should be mentioning not only how successful homeschooling is, but that on average homeschooling saves tax payers on average $12,000.00 per student per year.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:38 am |
  8. Nico

    Communication is how you fix schools, unique idea fit around the individuality of the students and how they learn. Children on the west cost are different then children on the east as are children in the midwest etc, you have to form fit if you want high performance and high results. The youth of today our more independent then any other time in history, authority is not going to produce the performances we are looking for, understanding will, understanding that because a child moves around a lot dose not make him/her A.D.H.D they just might be a dance so have the awareness to see that,and the courage to suggest that the parents put them in dance classes to see if that helps before giving them drugs. We have to realize everyone is born with a talent and gift at something when we tap into that the level of their interest at everything else in life goes up.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:42 am |
  9. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    Incentives and rewards praise a student for doing there best and reward the best with a class pizza party or a field trip give students a reason to learn besides a great education .

    August 30, 2010 at 9:42 am |
  10. Bryan Lackey

    This guy Steve Perry hasn't got a clue???? He hasn/t been in this world long enough to see the destruction of our schools when desegregation and bussing initiated the "culture" of schools as we see them today. It's no coincidence that within 5 yrs after that debacle out position globally began to slide. And look where we rank today? We were #1, 20 years ago. The reason is undeniable and quite sad.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:43 am |
  11. jefri1975

    I still believe America has a very excellent education system. The bottom line is survival of the fittest. Look at private schools vs. public schools. Private schools teaches the youth and prepare them for college. Math and science are pushed. Trades are not. In the public school systems, the only concern is doing just good enough to pass a test and graduate. It starts within the home and the responsibility falls on the parents. If I had a child or children, there is no way I would send them to a public school. Education would be their top priority. How can we improve the schools? Close them. If these schools under perform year after year, why waste taxpayers money. If the schools are failing, the children are not learning so either give them and the parents the option; send your children to a performing school or don't send them at all. Walmart is always hiring.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:44 am |
  12. Suzan

    Our children were told by the school teachers and administrators that they did not have to listen to parents. We dealt with non disclosure of what was being taught, dumbing down of subjects, social promotion, and many other inovations within the schools that have, over time, been shown to be the distruction of the American education system. As parents we requested removal of team sports. If the children wanted to participate they could join teams sponsored and supported outside the school system. Schools are for academic education and a majority of costs are with team sports. Now you have huge gym's, swimming pools, track areas, football fields and the cost of traveling to all the games.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:45 am |
  13. Harold bevIerly

    I live in Houston, Texas and question who and how determines what is put in the text books for the various levels of education for the kids.

    One thing we seem to not look at is the publishing of our books and the material they are learning. I feel we need to look at what is being taught and re-evalute the topics.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:47 am |
  14. Rose

    On the air, one person commented that sports and other extra curricular activities should be funded privately. One huge problem with this system would give the schools no control over academic requirements to participate. My friend was in a band program that was privately funded and he was allowed to continue playing in the band even though he was failing several classes. While parents should be there to prevent this, some children get lost in the shuffle and it is the child that suffers, not the parent or the school.

    In our schools the focus is passing the test not learning the information.
    Teaching to the test causes students to just memorize the information for the short term goal of passing the test instead of learning and understanding the information.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:49 am |
  15. Leon Dalton

    Fix our schools? The system that controls education needs to be changed. Why? Simply our present system is nothing but change or the latest fad or what the sales person makes sound like apple pie and blue skies forever, then next year something new and "better". If schools are failing, then the administration (school board/principals) are a failure also. Change takes time and for any teacher to become proficient at teaching the "new" programs must be given time to work. It would also be great if public schools were given the same tools and atmosphere that charter schools are. It would be also great if charter schools could not pick and choose students or geographic areas to be placed for simulated success. Charter schools should be required to accept all students in their area as public schools must. Then we may see apples to apples. It is easy to blame teachers but teachers need the tools and support that is needed by anyone to perform at levels expected. Presently, all that is going on is blame the teachers. The first administer that I would fire would be the one that blames the teachers. It is called "looking in the mirror". Problems start at the top. The top has said -teach the kids to take a multiple choice test and pass it or you lose your job. Now that is what is happening, so why blame the teacher? By the way, I am not a teacher, just someone looking at the picture from a non-education point of view. Seems like politics–finger pointing and 3 of those fingers point back at you,

    August 30, 2010 at 9:49 am |
  16. Bill Mankin

    One of the areas of significant need, among many others, is the poor condition of many school facilites.

    As an architect specializing in K-12 schools, I am aware that the learning environment plays a substantial role in the effectiveness of teaching. Funding for new and remodeled school buildings is inadequate. Votors are not passing bond elections to support these needs, due to the weak economy and unemployment.

    Had a recent bond election passed in my area, I would not have lost my job and would be saving the government the cost of my (totally inadequate) unemployment benefits.

    Funds from the stimulus package have not been sufficient for all types of construction. Architects and others in the construction industry are among the must unemployed groups in the country. More funding is needed to stimulate this huge sector of the economy.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:56 am |
  17. mary goodwin

    well i seen the the "taj mahal" school and i just about choked on my breakfast. That is the most rediculous thing I have seen in any school system. I thought the county i live in was bad but that takes the booby prize. kids across america don't have books(including my county and our superintendent makes about 180,000 dollars a yr.) Kids don't have money to eat lunch and how can they justify building this. Somebody needs to loose their job over this. A building can't teach a child.

    August 30, 2010 at 10:04 am |
  18. Gary Cooper

    I think we need to specialize our high schools better medical,enginering,etc... by the time you leave Jr. high students and teachers should know the students strong areas and have a list of good career choices.We need to prepare students for careers after high school because there are jobs out there that will help pay for college for employees who are doing well ,

    August 30, 2010 at 10:05 am |
  19. David Thelen

    The following are 7 ideas to improve schools. I have no idea if these concepts may improve schools; however it is something to consider.
    1) Brain research indicates it is most functional between boredom and too much stress. At either end of this spectrum, people begin to build unwanted brain chemistries. Teachers need to be aware of this. If lectures keep dragging on (increase boredom), students’ brains begin the process of not functioning at its best. Therefore, teachers should utilize exercise, technologies and perhaps even have students stand up and stretch – to reduce boredom in the classroom.
    2) Replace the old standard hard chair attached to a desk in the classrooms. Many students have gotten taller and heavier since those desks have been produced. Too many students are just thinking how uncomfortable they are sitting in those chairs. Therefore they begin the process of not listening. Perhaps with a new program through Goodwill, better more comfortable chairs and desks could be donated for our schools. People are downsizing their homes due to the economy. Many businesses, such as restaurants are also closing. Perhaps many of new chairs with separate tables or desks could be picked up by Goodwill to be used for our struggling schools.
    3) Increase cardio vascular exercise for students. Exercise actually causes the brain to become smarter. Students who exercise actually have fewer disciplinary problems as well. It causes the brain to burn off the negative brain chemistries it accumulates during long class lectures. Schools need to include cardio vascular exercise mid morning and mid afternoon to cause their brains to function at its best.
    4) We need to decentralize class settings. Many schools are located on huge school campuses. Studies have shown whenever many people are in very tight quarters, the fight or flight mechanism starts to take place. Students become more aggressive toward on another. Perhaps many classrooms should be moved. There are many commercial retail spaces that are sitting empty. Perhaps many classrooms could be moved to some of these empty spaces. This will result in more space for students to breathe. In addition, some of these new spaces could be converted to exercise rooms as well. Some of these classroom spaces could be used as k-12 classrooms in the morning. Then these same retail spaces could be utilized as classrooms for adults in the late afternoon and the evening.
    5) Greatly expand after school activities, such as sports, music and plays. Ask students what items they would be interested in earning for so many hours they participate in after school activities. Perhaps it is certain concert passes, sports tickets, restaurant meals or other items. Then for so many hours they participate in after-school activities, they will earn these items. There will always be extra tickets or items that still will not sell by many organizations. Why not ask business to give away these items as incentives for our youth? This country has many opportunities for those with the right attitude. Sports can be an excellent educational tool to teach these skills.
    Many other after-school programs could also be organized. Music could be taught. Perhaps if they get good enough, they could sing or play music at airports, restaurants and other outdoor activities for cash. After school plays could also be organized. Perhaps with the right play, students could learn excellent life’s lessons through their lines. For the adults who volunteer their time for such after-school programs: perhaps these adults could earn 5 times the rate in donated tickets and items.
    6) Greatly increase summer opportunities as well. Summer heat can sometimes cause negative human behavior or conflict between groups of people. Many rental properties do not have central AC. This causes many people to just “hang” outdoors in the evening at parks in the summer months. Perhaps if we increase summer opportunities for students to stay busy in cool environments: this may reduce the problems of the youth just hanging out.
    7) Help kids and parents manage high tech gadgets. Today, many kids will spend hours on social websites and on text messaging. This sometimes cuts into their valuable sleep and homework time. Perhaps parents and their kids could be a fan of their kids’ schools. They could also forward their cell phone numbers. This way videos and web links could be used to teach people how to better manage these gadgets. Better ways to parent could also be forwarded to people as well.
    In conclusion, I have no idea if any of these 7 ideas have any weight to improve schools; however, some of these ideas just may.

    August 30, 2010 at 10:12 am |
  20. William Courtland

    To pay for all that change.

    A student Social insurance number is linked to a taxation file: that taxation file creates a lean.

    When one enters highschool one often pays off that lean in communication of trade by learning skills and the products of which are created in final examinations.

    When one enters college it is on loan again from a private institution: Sponsored, or patronaged by donations. While the Naturalization process required to get into Public School is sponsored by the Federation.

    The State provides the facilities and are in communication with the USPS communications systems.

    The Textbooks and all other such things are most available digitally: in alternative learning methods: while the Text books are still available in libraries or upon USPS delivery by credit spending.

    The text-book can be stored in server and thus created upon demand of student demand and funding, as many things are done on and of this manner of funded privilages in sale by publicly sold shares.

    To access the digital Textbooks: one does pay a rental fee: which is incorporated into the final taxation for education upon graduation: the only personal debt a child would ever own. As cars must be provided or afforded upon share or private ownerships, and as homes would be rented or otherwise sold upon final sale of total required money: unless morgaged incorporate with the Federal Goverment itself in provisions for renting to own. As shelters are provided but then privacy is lost to those whom can not afford private domiciles.

    Housing should be much less expensive: and could be...

    Thus payed for: the Parent or creator of the child needing schooling will be directly taxed for that childs ordered education. As in a digital world the nature to go back to school: is provisional upon the ability to support the child created when and after a suspenion.

    August 30, 2010 at 10:16 am |
  21. Marlette Louisin

    Discipline and respect have been lacking in schools and homes for a generation, maybe more. Children must understand boundaries and know there are consequences for their negative behavior. Parents must understand and agree to the "rules" of the school. Wearing uniforms in schools eliminates the competition and distraction that trendy or inappropriate dress brings to the environment. You only need to look at the success of the Harlem charter schools to see that this works and makes a huge difference in behavior and attitude.

    Marlette Louisin
    Akron, OH

    August 30, 2010 at 10:19 am |
  22. Marcia

    Go back to the basics – reading, writing and arithmetic. Once these have been mastered a child can go on to learn anything. Get rid of the tenure process and reward the individuals who TEACH. Let the teachers teach and not spend time on social work, nutrition, etc – leave those tasks to others trained in those fields. Demand parental involvement. Cut computer time and let the children rediscover their imaginations. Cut back on time for sports to allow development in other areas. Demand and commend respect from students, parents, co-workers and the community as see what happens.

    August 30, 2010 at 10:19 am |
  23. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    Some people thinks P.E. is a bad ideal but in reality its the best ideal when most kids go home they grab a bag of chips and head strait for the computer or the video games keep P.E. strong but dont reward a false education with sports .

    August 30, 2010 at 10:21 am |
  24. Dan

    A simple solution for fixing our school system: it starts in the home. Parents need to be more involved. Parents need to discipline their children instead of teachers, allowing what teachers do what teachers were hired to do: TEACH, not discipline.
    Of course, people have excuses of why parents don't discipline THEIR children.

    August 30, 2010 at 10:22 am |
  25. D. A. Lewis

    I have worked in American schools, in several states, and overseas in DoDDS schools, since the early 70's. I have worked in all capacities from parapro to district administrator. It was my decision to return to the classroom, rubber to the road, for the last years of my career prior to retiring. In all my years and at all my levels, I have never seen education in the situation we now find ourselves.

    I majored in, and have worked for the most part, in the area of special education. I am totally amazed and frustrated by what I see happening now. In our district, we no longer (unofficially) offer resource classes for those students who are not able to meet the rigor and level of study offered in inclusion classes. Instead, we offer supplementary classes, taking away a student's chance to participate in optional classes (art, music, etc) where they could excel. Instead these students must take these supplementary classes to re-teach what they have covered in their inclusion language arts and/or math classes.

    On the surface this sounds fine in its concept. The problem is that many of these students do not have the skills that are prerequisite for their current level of classes. We have sixth grade students reading on K-1 level, who do not know even their basic addition and subtraction facts, much less how to add and subtract with multidigit numbers. It's also true they do not know any basic multiplication or division facts or how to figure problems using these operations. We are over looking these deficets and requiring the kids to work with pre-algerbraic problems. We require them to write 5-paragraph essays when they are unable to write a good complete sentence.

    So what do we do? We sit with the students and writie the compositions for them. The students will then, hopefully, be able to copy "their" essays. We read everything to them, from materials in class, to tests. No student is allowed to make below 50 on any assignment. And no special education students ever "fail" in any subject. These students may be behind their peers, but it doesn't take long for them to catch on to this system.

    Why do we do this? I believe it all boils down to federal funding for services. We had a representative from the GA Dept of Education come to our county and instruct personnel at all the school on how to maximize federal funding through services offered. It is far more beneficial financially to have students in co-teach and inclusion classrooms. Students in resource rooms don't bring in nearly as much funding. Therefore, we have all inclusion students now, except for a handful of the most significantly impacted students, who are in full-time self-contained programs.

    This practice is doing nothing to help our special needs students. If anything, we are hurting them terribly. They cannot read, they cannot add, subtract, multiply or divide, they cannot tell time, they cannot make change. What is needed, is a core study aimed at these students to prepare them for careers after high school in order for them to have productive lifes. All of Europe follows this rule, and they have competent prepared work forces. Here, we want to be under the allusion that "all" will be prepared for higher education.

    As a consequence of these actions, our average and above average students are being short-changed. Teachers in the co-teach and inclusion classes are spending way too much time and effort trying to come up with ways and means of getting the special needs students to pass their requirements. There is almost the attitude that the "other" students will "get the material" without much help.

    This is, of course, only a portion of the problem with our schools currently. It is, however, the area I know best and that I am most passionate about. I hope someone will someday soon look into these practices. Perhaps when the parents of our average and above average students become as vocal as the parents of special needs children, the system will change and prepare all students for the roles they will lead in their future lifes.

    August 30, 2010 at 10:22 am |
  26. Allen

    Hey Tony, here's a novel idea. Let's be instructive instead of punitive. If a teacher is lacking, let's find out why and help bring them up to snuff instead of demonizing them.

    August 30, 2010 at 10:23 am |
  27. Dennis Linville

    most importantly,control! since the 70's the government has made every effort to take away control from not only the principal and teachers but the parents as well.You can take a wild animal,put it in a controled atmosphere and teach it to behave well with humans but on that same note you can take a normally domesticated animal,release into the wild and it will revert back to wild.We tell our children to create a quiet,relaxed atmosphere to do their homework and study but yet expect them to learn in school which more resembles a war zone with the drugs and gangs not to mention the cages around the schools.Even for those who want to learn and better themselvesfind it hard while constantly being worried about being shot,stabbed or raped.If you dismiss the thought of eliminating the drugs ,gangs and restoring control back to the school staff, you may as well give up now and ad an extra stran of barbed wire to the fence surrounding the schools.
    Next,only if you accept the control issue,pick a language.How can you expect children to make decisions when the adults can't even decide on what should be the basic language of the country?
    Now, if you made it this far,Quality teachers and reasonable pay for them.two extremely sad comments I have heard far to many times over the years,"if I can't get a job in my field I could always be a teacher" or "They don't pay me enough to try to get through to these kids" .Teaching should be a passion to pass on the knowledge of the world to the next generation and we should settle for nothing less!
    As for actual education, I have always felt we are missing our main objective in basic (1-12) education. We have a guidence dept. , why not use it? 1st through 9th,basic education but by 9th grade you know if the student is college material or not so if not , teach more the trade skills .Shakespere is fine but wont help much fliping hamburgers.I realize there are trade schools but keeping children's interest through 12yrs is tough enough but at 18 they are adults (by law) and a great many have absolutely no skills to start their adult life.Why not let them graduate 12th grade as welders,electricians,plumbers and so on?If at a later date they decide they want to pursue another interest, they will be productive enough to make that a possibility rather than being as many of us saying I wish I had without the funds to do so.
    Dennis Linville

    August 30, 2010 at 10:24 am |
  28. Mary Jo Patt

    I worked for a non profit that runs a early Head Start program and felt that fraud was being committed-not as blatantly as your audio, but definitely preferential treatment to certain people-groups. I tried to speak up to the regional office, but nothing was really checked. I also remember that a number of employees were concerned about unethical practices and went before the local board (which included an insurance agent that provided our local company insurance policies and would not want the Director angry to lose our account). Letters were to be sent in by a deadline to this agent and it was done-in fact mine was directly handed to him. The board said non of the letters were received in time, but I know it wasn't true. When I called the Regional office the man I spoke to seemed really concerned that mine had been handed in personally because I did not get mine to the others in time so I drove mine over and handed to him directly. I quit after my husband died because I couldn't watch what I thought was fraud any more.

    August 30, 2010 at 10:25 am |
  29. Mike

    I live in Orange County California. I have been working as a paramedic within the LA county Health system now for almost two years. My mom has been a teacher, union lead, and on several boards within the Ca school system now for over thirty years. The problem is the under budgeting of our future(Ca school system) and over budgeting of other municipal programs. Why do we have fire departments every five miles that cost billions of dollars to maintain and staff? All the while private industry ambulance can run 90% of what they do for less than one third the cost? I would be willing to bet if the fire department went back to doing FIRE activities only and left medical response to the medical industries... meanwhile taking those huge savings and reinvesting into our future...!!??? In general government spending has gone to the wrong sectors. We need to cut and redirect where money goes because revenue will not increase anytime soon on its own...

    August 30, 2010 at 10:28 am |
  30. Brian

    In my opinion, it all focuses on how students approach the idea of doing well in school and trying to educate parents about the significance of receiving and comprehending a valuable education. I'm currently a senior in high school at one of Michigan's lowest performing high schools and what I've noticed is that it's not the teachers to blame, but society's perception of an education. If students' attitudes toward learning were to be drastically improved, it would solve most of the problems within the school system.

    August 30, 2010 at 10:30 am |
  31. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    We need to start giving teachers test every year to make sure there staying up to date with modern learning and that there smarter then the student that there teaching .

    August 30, 2010 at 10:33 am |
  32. Melanie Halcomb

    I remember being in the 5th grade and praying I didn't get assigned to this one teacher's classroom. As it turned out, not only did I get this teacher, but she turned out to be the best teacher I ever had. She taught more than reading and writing, but she taught us about respect for others and how to earn respect instead of demanding it, like the schools teach our kids today.

    When my daughter entered school, she fell through the cracks with some learning issues, and I had to stay on top of the school to get her tested and I irritated the living heck out of them, but I got what I wanted. When I went to the meeting to discuss the test results, the testors and evaluators couldn't apologize enough for not listening to me sooner, but by then the damage had been done. I pulled my daughter out of school and homeschooled her for four years, taking her from barely being able to read, to reading a novel a week when she went back into the public school system. By then, school for her was a social event, because she was so far advanced than her peers from the education she got at home.

    Furthermore, I think we need to stop teaching our children how to take a test and get back to basics, like how to read a book, how to reason, how to use critical thinking skills, while using the technology that is available to us today. I believe more dollars should be spent on funding schools that are not doing as well as schools that are not doing as well, to set a standard that can be reached, with incentives given to students and teachers to reach those standards. There is no reason for students to spend multiple hours each night doing homework, either. Where is the quality of life when you spend all day in school only to come home and do homework then go to bed?

    Our country needs to take off the blinders and give teachers a break. They have difficult jobs as it is, and assessing their achievements by how well their students score on a test is ridiculous. I have a high IQ and I'm very smart but I can't take a standardized test to save my life. Does that make me dumb? No, it makes me unable to take a standardized test and doesn't quanitify my intelligence.

    Teachers' salaries are so low, it's pathetic. Where is their incentive to teach? And where is the money to buy books and supplies? Our students now have to bring toilet paper to school? Please!

    The government who provides that money needs to get a clue on how this works. Bring back the arts, bring back drama and chorus, and band, and take the focus off sports, and hold our students to a higher standard with the incentive to reach those standards.

    Parents, if you aren't happy with how well your children are doing in school, homeschooling is always an option. Check your state's homeschooling laws, and do what you need to do, but an education is something that everyone is entitled to and something no one can ever take away from you.

    August 30, 2010 at 10:35 am |
  33. Alex Lo

    Fix the home life, parents, peers. Take the politics out of the school administration systems. Remove or retrain the teaching staff. Provide longer school day hours and shorter summer vacations.
    – Seems to work well for China.

    August 30, 2010 at 10:36 am |
  34. Kathleen Norris Kelly

    I just feel children of all ages would excel in all they do if it were mandatory that they dress in uniforms. In today’s world children are picked on, bullied, or made to feel ashamed of the way they look. This is extremely distracting to children of all ages. In doing so, there would be no distinguishing the rich from the poor, gangs members from those that are not etc. All are equal in the classroom. No matter what problems are at home or where they may live, there would be no pier pressure.

    When one dresses better, one feels better. It is a know fact that a person will walk talk and act differently when made to feel proud of the way they look. Concentration and attentiveness will overflow from these children and attendance will be exceptional. They will be made to feel special and included no matter what their home life is like. When they enter the school, they will be their own person and learn all they can on equal ground and perhaps more enthusiastic regarding their education and the way they conduct themselves in the future.

    All children have their own interest or something they are secretly passionate about but feel there is no hope in achieving their dreams and goals. Most give up, drop out of school or wind up in jail.

    All children today want “Hands on Learning” as it sparks their interest and brings out their individual talents. A child may not read well but he or she may be a wiz with ideas or inventions and he or she may be mechanically inclined. Hey may not know calculus but they can grow a garden or fix things with ease.

    We need to cultivate children and take off the pressure of learning things they may never use in life today and we will see the “Best of the Best” out there doing worthwhile marvelous and wondress things for our country.

    This is Cooperate America, like it or not. Well, since Cooperate America has control and all the money, let them give back by taking children under their wing. Offer them apprenticeships. Take classes through their place of business or plant. There is something for everyone no matter where in the U.S. they live.

    I feel in this day and age that “A step for Progress should be a Step Backwards” in some cases.

    Kathleen Norris Kelly
    Albuquerque, N.M.

    August 30, 2010 at 10:42 am |
  35. Carol DeLaney

    Hi, Tony,

    As a lifelong teacher at all school levels–including elementary, junior high school, high school, and the university level (where I teach now)–I would like to comment. The students make it clear to me, day in and day out, that their first priority is a psychological one: if they do not believe in themselves as well as their school experience, then success is difficult, or impossible. Therefore, we need to both improve the teaching aspect of our educational system (through excellent teachers who are truly responsive to individual student needs) as well as improve the physical facilities of our schools themselves. A good rule of thumb is this: if YOU would not want to spend your days in a school facility, let's not foist it upon our students. We will have to learn to put Education higher on the economic and political agenda in order to fund much-needed improvements, but make no mistake: Education is traditionally under-funded, especially by Republicans. And make no mistake, again: the children–and all students–are watching; and to some degree, they will respond accordingly.

    – Carol DeLaney, Professor of English & Communication,
    Virginia International University

    August 30, 2010 at 10:47 am |
  36. John

    In order to fix education we as a nation need to make a series of decisions and take action.

    The basic consensus that needs to be reached is what expectations and requirements need to be set for parents, students, teachers and school systems. Education is a TEAM effort. While private schools have their challenges when a secular or religious belief is introduced or imposed, they do approach the education process with a TEAM expectation and in most cases a TEAM requirement.

    Our government should make immediate adjustments to the educational system with a robust Stimulus Package considering;
    • Optional pre-school (free of cost to parents) and Mandatory Kindergarten
    • Primary Education grades 1-8
    • Secondary Education 9-11 (eliminate 12th grade)
    • Add a compulsory government service of some sort before being allowed to continue any education
    (no exceptions – participation would be mandatory and in and of itself be a stimulus)
    • Military -Technical or Undergraduate education followed by Graduate-Post Graduate education.
    • All educational and compulsory education systems should operate on a 12 month schedule

    (1)
    School system needs to administer and enforce student minimum achievements validated by an independent testing agency. Students must not be allowed to proceed without meeting these minimal benchmarks. The concept of no child left behind should not mean advancement simply due to time in grade served or age. Get supporting training should be a series of available programs to boost and empower a return to the mainstream grade only if needed. The bottom line is straightforward, do not allow a student to move forward unless basic grade-level achievements are accomplished (no exceptions).

    (2)
    Parents need to be made accountable. Breeding and producing a child places a citizen into our society with inherent rights, needs, responsibilities and obligations. As a parent and recent grandparent, my family takes our parental roles seriously. We have supported both the private and public school systems. I must admit that we participated more with the parochial school system but readily admit that was because of the ‘expectation’ and ‘required’ involvement requirement established and enforced by the private school system of the parent. For example, it should simply not be possible for a parent not to attend Parent-Teacher meetings as needed. Failure to attend and ‘participate’ in a child’s educational journey must carry legal consequences. Participation refusal cannot be an option and progressive steps inclusive of fines, DFPS (Department of Family and Protective Services) interventions (yes DFPS requires stimulus and support), escalating to parental incarceration. Producing a child places a burden on society and ‘producing a child’ should carry with it parenting educational requirements. Since not every citizen produces a child to be educated, it should be acknowledged that a citizen electing to produce and place a child into our educational system does so with parental participation expectations.

    (3)
    Teachers need an opportunity to teach FREE from administrative micromanagement, oversized classrooms and with participating parents/guardians on their respective teams. A team approach with robust technology and supplies in the schools will enrich the educational environment, raise expectations, improve standings and ‘move the nations educational standing’ forward. How fast and to what degree of success, all depends on how fast and how well, we as citizens;
    • Implement and Modify the Process and Programs
    • Enforce requirements for advancing through the educational system
    • Place all systems on a 12 month year-round schedule
    • Require and enforce parental participation in the process with legal consequences
    • Elect to enforce a compulsory government service requirement prior to being allowing to proceed to upper-level, military or technical educational opportunities

    Simply put, more of the same will not yield change. Firing all of the teachers will not yield the desired change.

    Change the Process, Change the Expectation, Enforce the obligation of a Parent to participate, Invest in a Stimulus to educate the country’s youth and the nation’s educational standing will advance with an improvement to our economy and an increase to our scientific and technology accomplishments as a byproduct.

    Get out there and do something – stop pointing fingers!

    August 30, 2010 at 10:48 am |
  37. Mathis Lee,Jr.

    Teachers can help create their own salaries, by using funding, different types of funding . money for schools, need to be re worked, some of it need to be invested in other places, some schools can pay for themselves, those schools that are behind, still needs funding but they need a new plan.we need to utilize our teachers, to be creative, and we need to cut more red tape, so that we can get this plan in place, it would be a win win situation for all involve, I didnt have the space to correct my spelling, when some of the answers came to me, I HAD TO WRITE THEM DOWN, I apologize for that,Thanks CNN for giving me a say. I think that we are in the zenith, where change is upon us. if we dont change, things will remain the same. mr.lee

    August 30, 2010 at 10:57 am |
  38. Kathleen Norris Kelly

    This is a PS Regarding my comment on uniforms for school children of all ages.

    Stimulated the economy buy opening up factories again in the garment industry and creating jobs by making uniforms for the entire school district across the country. Here at home, and not in Japan. Made in the U.S.A. A proud label indeed. Make them for every child of all ages and size. Make it affordable or better yet, let the Government invest in our future by providing them for all. That way every one can feel pride in the education system and no one is left out due to their financial abilities to pay.
    We are supposed to be a smart country, a resilient country, or we used to be back in the day. Make it work and figure it out!
    Thank you again
    Kathleen Norris Kelly
    Albuquerque, N.M.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:04 am |
  39. Anonymous

    I am a 9th grade student and have noticed several problems with our school systems so far. First of all, several of my teachers have degrees in "education" instead of the subject they are teaching. Teachers often switch subjects almost every year and usually have no clue about their subject! The curriculum (especially for science) is repetitive and boring and covers only basic topics. Even when the curriculum is good, some teachers don't follow it. I once had a math teacher who didn't teach us all the skills we needed for our final, instead she GAVE US THE ANSWERS as we were doing it. Also, there is way too much emphasis on standardized testing in elementary and middle schools. We take a week-long math and reading assessment in the spring, so we spend all of fall and winter reviewing skills and learning only what we need for the tests. We only get to the challenging stuff after the tests, when we have little more than a month of school left.
    One of the worst things you can do to students is cut funding for the arts. The best thing you can do in schools is to teach students about tolerance and respect, as well as make school challenging and interesting so students WANT to be there.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:20 am |
  40. Carole Spradling

    This morning I watched a report on school problems. A substitute teacher had written to point out that his students were abusive to teachers–even physical. He also mentioned that when parents were called, they were often apathetic to the problem.

    The joker who was there as the, "expert" made some vague comment about the school, "culture." This clown missed the point altogether.

    The first point is that physical assault of any kind on a teacher is a felony. The school should be backing any teacher it hires–otherwise do not hire the person. Some suck-up, student teacher with a few credits at a local community college will cause students to lose respect for new teachers from the same college. Only qualified graduates with good grades should be allowed to teach basic subjects.

    The second point here is that the local law enforcement should start prosecuting adults and parents who allow kids to drink and drive, or get into other trouble. One would do well to understand that the same parents who are responsible about school, are often irresponsible about drinking.

    Moreover, the main point to consider is this: It only takes one enabled bully–loser–nut job in the class to disrupt the environment for all.
    I could care less if that kid is protected by his mom the teacher, or principal, or local dictatorial deputy. At some point these sorry excuses for enabling parents need to be held accountable.

    Then there is the ever popular, "local control." "Local control" is code for teaching creationism, and hiring based on local politics instead of competency.
    I know a volunteer teacher's aid who liked to do the deed with a junior high kid–then she did his homework–free help is not free. Then there was the deputy who prowled the halls and looked at the girls butts until he was worked up at which point he went into the office and invited a female staffer into an empty room. Yes, students witnessed this event. (The guy really had extremely blood-shot eyes). Likewise, should he have even been there–as he had his own disruptive son at the same school?

    To the point: Paranoid die-hard fundamentalists, two bit power mad politicians, and law enforcement people who think they are little dictators in the third world do not help our students succeed.

    Should the national government set standards and build a grievance committee which can withhold funds to these little die-hard hold outs?
    YES, YES there is no choice. If some petty wing-nuts do not like it then let them build and finance their own schools. They won't see many of their students succeed.

    Lastly, there is much talk about the teacher's unions, I do not even know if there is a union around here. If there is, they could hardly be a problem, because they do not do anything that I can think of: Enough of the union excuse already.

    In closing, I like to quote Mr Hand from "Fast Times at Ridge Mont. High." "What are you people?–on dope"?

    August 30, 2010 at 11:20 am |
  41. Colin Colby

    How do we fix our school? Get rid of the republicans. Actually that will fix a lot of things in addition to our schools.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:21 am |
  42. Emma L Williams, Recent retired educator

    Fixing our United States of America Schools is Simple, but not easy because of the greater focus on our Capitalistic Society rather than on our Democratic Republic.
    Start at the top with the School Boards, Superintendants, and the Administrative staff! That is where the problem lie! We all already understand that qualified, certified teachers are a MUST! Who hires the teachers, and principals?
    If you really care about "How Do We Fix Our School?" PLEASE! Have the School Boards, Superintendants, and Administrative staff, Necessarily answer the question.
    Start by doing some Research of Rural Schools and City Schools, Western Schools, and Eastern Schools, and see what they all have in common with failure and success other than the TEACHERS and PARENTS. If our schools are ever going to Return to being effective for our students, we MUST Stop Just Blaming Teachers and Parents!

    August 30, 2010 at 11:22 am |
  43. christine

    fire the school board, where were they when all of there students were failing/dropping out? obviously there teachers need there help not there criticism.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:22 am |
  44. Gloria Purnell

    Interesting story; throw the "test" away. Teach a good, solid curriculum, let the students takethe test from their own knowledge after a good year and let the chips fall where they may. There will never be progress as long as they just "teach to the test."

    August 30, 2010 at 11:23 am |
  45. lisa blake

    Tony, the bottom line in our schools is that the curriculum needs and entire overhaul.Since church going seems out, kids need to learn values and also some practical things like money managing and so forth. great topic. lisa

    August 30, 2010 at 11:24 am |
  46. Lloyd Colson, Belen, NM

    I would lessen, but no eliminate, the influence of the child psychologists and behaviour therapists whose focus is offering inane excuses for a child's problems, even going so far as to come up with idiotic jargon to describe bad behaviour. i.e. We can't say Johnnie is a truant; he has attendance issues. Or we can't say Johnnie ran away from home; he eloped. Obviously learning English is NOT a requirement for a psychology degree.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:24 am |
  47. Grace Bohman

    The best way to fix our schools is to get the federal and state government out. Let the teachers teach instead of filing out forms. Does the way our government officials have messed up our country tell you anything.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:25 am |
  48. Avraham

    As to how to fix the schools, it begins with looking into whats before school. Let's try fixing a generation of parents. A child is only as good if not should be better than the previous generation. Today children are raising themselves if not their own children... honor respect and integrity must return to family

    August 30, 2010 at 11:25 am |
  49. Valli Leone

    The only way we can fix our schools is the same and only way we can fix our families and the world - through prayer, personal attention and caring more about others than about our individual needs and desires. When we work for unity as administrators, staff and one-on-one in the classroom, true respect forone another will rise. The same two enemies exist is government, schools and everywhere - the love of money and personal ego. When we truly care more for others and the well-being of our children's futures and the world, corruption and hatred will cease in every arena. In times of trouble, God humbles his people to say, "Wake up. Look around you; and start doing what's right!" Let's start by acknowledging Him and by loving each other.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:27 am |
  50. Ronen Kauffman

    We can improve schools by cutting out the hedge fund managers who profit from the creation of charter schools, regardless of whether those schools perform well or not.

    We can improve schools by funding them fully, unlike here in NJ where we just lost $1.4 billion and Race To The Top.

    Another way to improve schools is for the U.S. and state Departments of Education to listen to teachers when it comes to crafting education policy. Secretary Duncan says that the best ideas come from teachers at the local level – but basing teacher performance on standardized tests is not a way to measure performance.

    How do you measure the value of a teacher whose name you remember 30 years later? The teacher who knows how to capitalize on a teachable moment? The teacher who leads and teaches with compassion (not found in any text book)?

    August 30, 2010 at 11:28 am |
  51. Matt Lipeles

    You have to hold the STUDENTS accountable. I'm all for holding teachers accountable, but it's the students who have to do the learning. The problem now is that in too many places, if a kid doesn't learn that year's material, if he doesn't do his work and fails, he is still advanced to the next grade. It's called social promotion. And places where this is now allowed, test scores are rising. Big shock!!! You make kids learn, and they do. Amazing, huh?

    It might not be sexy. But this is the big change that needs to happen: End social promotion. I know because I am a teacher. I've been a high school English teacher for 10 years, and our incoming 9th graders enter the school years behind on their skills every year, often arriving at 3rd -4th grade in reading and writing skills.

    Give the kids extra help, but hold them accountable, and you'll see a huge transformation in this country.

    Or you could just keep talking a bunch of nonsense. But I don't think that'll work.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:29 am |
  52. Angie

    I worked in the school system for only 2 months as a permanent sub and in that short amount of time I noticed that students aren't as respectful as they should be. It all needs to start in the home, and getting the parents involved with the child's school and not go against everything a teacher says. Parents need to back up the teachers..they are trying to help these students get ready for the world and they need all the support they can get. Parents need to get out of the habit of "teachers are wrong and my kid's always right". I had several incidents where a parent blamed myself or another teacher for their child's behavior or failing grades, but when asked if she sits with her son or daughter during hw, or checks the hw, or if she knew that her son/daughter had a project due two weeks ago, her answer was no. Parents need to be held just as responsible as teachers and they need to be involved!

    August 30, 2010 at 11:30 am |
  53. Larry D

    A lot of the problems in the schools stem from lack of parent participation and not money for teacher as most of the Unions want to elaborate on. We spend a lot of money per student and still do not get results. My wife was a teacher for 15 years and all of this talk about the teachers pay that the Unions want to bring up will not change the way a teacher teaches. If we were to give each teacher an account of say for $2500 for argument sake that the teacher could use to buy any item that he/she feels will help them to teach the class then this would be a start but the Unions would want this $2500 in salary increase. My wife spent money out of her pocket to help with her students as she always felt teaching was a calling not really a job. The Unions make it more of a job and want to stress the benefits. You can pull a student into a meeting to see what they have done and you may have the student, maybe one parent but you will have 5 or 6 representatives from Federally funded programs sitting on the other side along with Principals, and local school officials. If they would end some of these salaries and give the teachers the tools they need instead of just wanting sabbaticals, pay raises we would be better off. Most of the Federal Program Directors I have met have been teachers who taught in the school systems and found out they didn't like the classrooms so they went back to school to get their Masters or Doctorates and then came back with more money in a Federal Program and are trying to tell teachers how to teach but have no experience themselves. This perspective is coming from a person whose wife was a teacher, I have a Son in Medical School now and have a Daughter who went through the Special Programs as she has a learning disability so I know from different perspectives of how this stuff works.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:32 am |
  54. zohar deshe

    Hi tony
    Baisclly the inner problem with achivment and druping school is the CHILD MENTAL SITUATION
    more psycholgies and or education cansulares
    A group of valuntirs and me, put back in school, 1002 childs

    August 30, 2010 at 11:32 am |
  55. Richard Stasenko

    Having taught for the last 44 years I see a problem never addressed. The role and background of the strongest power in the school: the Principal. In Japan, a highly effective education system, the principal must have been a teacher for 25 years to be eligible to become a principal. Then that principal's main duty is leading the teachers. Our principals often are facilities managers and/or teacher dropouts who weren't effective teachers; so, they moved into administration after teaching a year or two. Nobody is discussing this.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:33 am |
  56. Margo

    One of the most important things that should be done is to understand there are many children (DIAGNOSED AND UNDIAGNOSED) with attention and learning disabilities which may be seen as behavioral problems in these children, Teachers and Administrators should be required to learn alternative teaching methods to support these children. If properly supported, the students can become productive members of society. If every student is expected to fit into a mold, they will often drop out or be become behavioral problems.
    Hire teachers that want to help students succeed.
    Hold parents accountable to support the teachers
    Hold Administrators to developing and encouraging good teachers.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:33 am |
  57. Melissa

    I am a parent of 3 children. I am homeschooling my 9 year old autistic son and on- line schooling my 15 year old. My daughter is still attending school because the elementary's in our area, Delaware Ohio are okay for typical students. I am doing these things because of the flaw in the system. Schools are so pressured to have the kids pass a test. They want the kids to become little robots who all think the same. We are forced to ither go with what the government wants or take our children out and make big sacrifices to have children who are educated and well rounded. Bushes plan for no child left behind forced my 9 year old to be 2 years behind in his education. Since I've had him home, for 2 years, I have not delayed any of his education and he is now only 1 year behind. I estimate he will only have 2 more years of home schooling to be exactly where he should be. The schools are failing the children because they are treating them all the same and they are not the same.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:38 am |
  58. Ray

    Schools are not the problem. Teachers are not the problem. Society and the government are the problem. There's a total breakdown in the family structure today and government laws and regulations encourage it. Kids are not guided and disciplined at home anymore. If parents try to guide and discipline kids at home they are in jeopardy of going to jail. When I was growing up you went to school and did good or punishment was coming at home. It could be strict restrictions or possible corporal punishment. Nowadays, kids will ignore their parents and threaten to call the police for abuse if any type of discipline is used. I speak from experience as a parent having been jailed just by an allegation of corporal punishment from a child. When that happens, parents just give up.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:39 am |
  59. Carla M

    Like with any company, success begins at the top. Superintendents appoint principals; teachers have no say. When you have an incompetent principal youl will not have positive results. Principal training does not include management classes. They study educational theory.

    I am a business executive that changed careers to teach middle school mathematics. I did this 11 years ago and the inefficiency of education still amazes me. This past year at my school the superintendent appoint a 29 year old principal, who taught 1 year in a public school, to our building. Our school pulled itself of out of state receivership and now is on of the top publics schools in urban areas. This 29 year old change that. He lack of people and managerial skills demoralized that staff. His inability to make decisions caused poor curriculum choices and prevent the staff to plan ahead. He was acting principal therefore a principal search was conducted in March of 2010. I served on that committee. He was one of the 15 canditates Human Resources recommended. The committee interviewed the top 7 and the current principal per the superintendent had to be interviewed. After all was said and done the committee chose 3 candidates for superintendent review. The acting principal was not one of them. The conversation went back and forth between committee and superintendent. She was not please with our decision. On August 15 a new principal was appointed. School begins September 7. This means that the new principal must implement a schedule and assignments within 3 weeks. This does not give teachers to prepare.

    This inefficiency leads to poor scores. Competent principals know how to work their staff so that they want to always try their best for the students and the school.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:43 am |
  60. Bernie Gilmore

    It is unfortunate that a a union created to prevent wrongdoings in the public education system has inflamed the problem rather than mitigate it. It is hard to criticize the teacher's union without receiving fierce retaliation, but the truth is that it is near impossible to get rid of bad teachers with such strict definitions of teacher tenures. There has to be an easier way to get rid of bad teachers because they are out there in large numbers, and many of them have tenure. From there we must establish national grade standards to ensure that students' levels of knowledge are generally equal when they advance to the next grade. Education is one of those things that should be run at the federal level. The best examples of this come from the Scandanavian countries who have strict national standards for there students.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  61. Catherine

    My concern is my 4th grade son growing up on the Texas / Mexico Border (US side). The school system down in the Rio Grande Valley is quite different from what I witness in Central Texas on a daily basis. The school system down on the "bloody war zone of a border" challenges the children with activities like "Fun Friday" in which they are rewarded for good behavior. This is nice. What is not nice is that a lot of time is being wasted when my son could be learning more. The school system is much slower down there and the obesity rate is ever so high! The teachers are stressed with large numbers of students not allowing the teachers to communicate to a mother from a 333 mile distance via email or, maybe it's just politics? It concerns me greatly that my child is not getting the challenges and courses offerred that should be. For example, Spanish is not offered to the students yet the communities speak spanish though my son knows absolutely no spanish (he is part hispanic). Another issue, the food: Full of sugar and high cholesterol type foods and my son has high cholesterol and is a bit overweight. What is a mother to do to help change this school system "agenda" before it's too late? I regularly contact the school in hopes to continue communication. I have written the Superintendent in the past with no reply. I pray for our Texas Border daily. We all should. Thank you for any thoughts on these matters from anyone who may just be listening.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  62. Jim B

    When was the LAST TIME YOU were in your childerns school rooms? YES I said ROOMS. Try Teaching 36 kids who dont want tobe in math or science class. Where are the funds to get more teachers? YES more teachers so that class size can be reduced to 24 or 25 kids per class. Make sure the $$$$$ is where your mouth is.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:48 am |
  63. Melissa

    Get the government out and the community involved.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:50 am |
  64. Karen Horwitz

    This is why our schools are so dysfunctional: those in power refuse to listen to those of us reporting crime in our schools as well as the DELIBERATE purging of intelligent, principled teachers who get in the way of a system focused on money, not children. Rather than replicate good teaching, those in power squelch it. it is time to wake up. What are the people with power doing to our banks, to Wall Street, to health care, to our government, to you name it? They are using it to amass their own wealth and power. Then think about what many of the priests did when no one was checking on them? Do you really think the people with power in education are Sally Sunshine's, out for the public good? It is irrational thinking given the greed that has ensconced our culture! Sure some teachers are not up to par, but isn't deflecting all thought in that direction a convenient way of getting rid of experienced teachers and replacing them with less expensive teachers so there is more money and power for those at the top? I can get you hundreds of award winning, great teachers who have made a difference and then been purged because they have the "wrong" agenda – they care about children. Their principles and ideals are in the way of the White Chalk Criminals.

    You are reporting cheating with test scores. Education experts have reported teacher abuse. There are books out there documenting corruption galore such as White Chalk Crime:The REAL Reason Schools Fail and School Corruption:Betrayal of Children and the Public Trust, and When Teachers Talk, yet Arne Duncan is saying no finger pointing (except at the "bad" teachers). There are times when finger pointing and investigations are in order. Why is he not considering that corruption is the issue and why is he not reading our books and finding out the truth, particularly when one of the books was written by a Chicago Public School teacher describing all kinds of corruption during his reign as superintendent?

    And we are asking CNN why you do not contact those of us constantly writing you to tell you the truth, which includes children being bullied while administrators are too preoccupied with money and power to get involved? We can report the corruption, but no one wants to know this as no one wanted to know about priest abuse and so it went on and on. Cheating on tests is encouraged. Robotic following of bad practices is encouraged. We can prove this. Why aren't you interested? You cannot make the grade if you don't become educated in the truth! Go to EndTeacherAbuse.org for starters. Contact us if you REALLY want to fix the schools. Those in control of our schools do not because if the schools implode they can justify charter schools and MORE control over public funds, their underlying agenda.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:52 am |
  65. Myron

    Being an individual born and partially raised in a mid west small town of Utah. At the taxpayers expense I was forced to experience a variety of schools through out high school. In doing this I had seen the difference in the teachers curriculum and expectations. I have to say that the trend of teachers in small towns and the "dedication" of the individual is highly misunderstood. Dedication being confused with an individuals bread and butter, wherein small towns tend to have very few options for employment. taking this into focus we have to come to terms that a teacher is enclosed in a closed world and not so much in the real world and its externalities of everyday changes. I think that a program that would coerce teachers to change classrooms with others around the country for a period of time every year or two would begin to expose a teachers level of curriculum in which they teach and therefore help raise the bar..

    August 30, 2010 at 11:53 am |
  66. Ralph Friedman

    My wife is a retired 30-year teacher in an inner-city school. You would not believe the stories she can tell. Want a solution? Make it mandatory that the parent(s), grandmothers, etc. – those in charge of the child – come to the school before classes begin to be interviewed by the teacher, and be told that if the child does not come to school fed, clothed and ready to learn, that the responsible adult will be held for child abuse. It all begins in the home – don't make teachers responsible for the child not being ready for school. Their job is tough enough under the best of conditions.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:54 am |
  67. Jean

    I work as a teaching assistant in a suburban district outside of Rochester, NY. My job is to work with science students who need an extgra push to get through the school year successfully. I work with small (1-6) groups of students once, or twice, a week to be sure that they are keeping up with classwork, understanding what has been presented in class, previewing upcoming topics, etc. My counterparts in the Math and Social Studies departments do the same. Additionally we take studetns who have failed state tests and work with them to be successful on their next attempts.

    By looking at the students as individfuals, we are often able to pinpoint the areas and make the adjustments needed. I'm happy to work for a district that offers this kind of service to the students who need/ choose to use it.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:55 am |
  68. Doreen Crowell

    Hi Tony,

    I am a day care provider and instructor to 2 to 4 year old children. At this very early age, I can see how the influence of a father affects their relationship to learning.

    Because there is such a lack of men in the teaching profession, perhaps having them visible in the class room periodically may be helpful.

    My suggestion is that every employer should offer to the men in thier work place, paid 2 to 3 hours of leave (perhaps twice a week) to go to our schools, as teachers' aides. Although they can't teach, just being available to answer questions or to help a troubled child could go a long way in avoiding problems our children (especially our boys) are having today.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:56 am |
  69. Jack A. Carter

    There is nothing wrong with our schools. The problem lies within the structure of our homes and community make up. When you have a community where more than 40% of the house holes are not fluent in english, where is the child to get help with their home learning? Home learning will always top school learning everytime. No matter how hard the teacher stresses learning at school, if this effort is not supported in the home it means nothing. This failure is not the results of having "bad" teachers. The teachers efforts end at the school.

    August 30, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
  70. Rich from Texas

    When a football team doesn’t perform, you replace the coach and maybe some of his staff, not all the players. Bad teachers and administrators should be weeded out and replaced, but what they did in Rhode Island was nothing short of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    August 30, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  71. johnny

    tony, we live in a small town and our superintendent and the board of trustees are just interested in making their pockets BIGGER $$$ rather than the main purpose EDUCATION, our children and teachers along with the parents are in a non winning battle with our school district. they have been closing schools and building new ones ????? WHY??? we have so much info on our Madera Unified School District. not good that they do this to our students they think we can't do something about what they are doing wrong. THINK AGAIN MADERA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT. this just might be another Bell,CA

    August 30, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
  72. Frances Venn

    Thank you for your focus on "FIX OUR SCHOOLS". I started teaching
    kindergarten in 1946. Our California schools were the best in the nation. Now we have large numbers of children entering kindergarten already "left behind." They neither speak or understand English, nor their home language. They do not have the social skills to navigate in a classroom of other children. The chief of police in our city once said "I'd give up a cop on the beat for an additional qualified, pre-school teacher in the classroom".
    I hope you do a segment of "FIX OUR SCHOOLS" on the importance of early childhood education. We spend so much of our educational effort on remediation that instead should be spent on preparing young children to be successful learners. High school drop-outs, overflowing prisons of illiterate young adults are the result.

    August 30, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
  73. Valerie

    What are our purposes for education? We have to answer this question before we can decide what to do.

    My vote: To preserve and foster creativity and imagination, a sense of one's own worth and the worth of others; speaking to the whole human being. This is the foundation for developing other skills and capacities.

    The how: exposure to fabulous biographies and other wonderful stories; and teaching skills in the context of students' real lives, what's going on in the real world, not in the abstract, not teaching to a test.

    Integrating disciplines, e.g. illustrating artistically what one has worked on (there is much evidence that the arts inspire students' activity in school); trusting that music does promote math skills as well as feeding the soul,, and that drama enhances social skills.

    Correcting the movement and nature deficits our children are experiencing.

    Finding ways to minimize addiction to the "jolts" provided by electronics, which mezmerize and distract our children from engaging in other pursuites, that provide the illusion of a life, and an alternative to school life.

    Examples from some schools: Including in math curriculum such activities as jumping rope, making/building things, music. Teaching chemistry/biology by maintaining a fish pond, bee hive, garden. Reinstating activities such as wood and metal shops for the many students who are talented in such areas, so they have a place to learn and be successful along with those of us who are happy to sit in a seat and read/converse.

    The possibilities are endless, as this bit of writing must not be. Warm regards and deep wishes for a better tomorrow.

    ps We must not ignore the fact that there are forces who do not wish for a populace of creative, imaginative thinkers who do not shut up and do as they are told, who wish to work for the benefit of all mankind, and not just a powerful, rich few. The decline of our education didn't "just happen".

    August 30, 2010 at 12:17 pm |
  74. ken

    We can fix our schools by eliminating mandatory education and teacher tenure. More money for teachers and administrators is not the answer. Stop wasting money on the 60% of the students in the inner cities who don't want to go to school and dropout. Eliminate teacher contracts and teacher tenure. We also need to stop the hype about how important education is. We have 12 millon illegals doing manual work and millions of teachers, scientists and engineers from countries like india, and russia taking and waiting to take jobs away from college educated americans. Good paying jobs are gone forever, all outsourced to mexico, china or india. Straight talk is what is needed by the media.

    August 30, 2010 at 12:18 pm |
  75. guy

    From a George Will article; a great explanation of why there is a difference in schools’ proficiencies. It can be explained by five factors: the number of days students are absent from school, the number of hours students spend watching TV, the number of pages read for homework, the quantity and quality of reading material in their homes — and, most important, the presence of two parents in the home.

    Educational spending policies can have little effect on these five, and least of all on the fifth. We are facing a social dilemma. Let’s get the “students” suffering from these maladies out of the education system and in a social program where they can be targeted and helped. And; let the school system concentrate on educating our youth. Once the ailing students are healed they can be reabsorbed into the education system.

    August 30, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
  76. George Moreno

    What is really wrong with the Schools in the USA....... ?? The answer is not just the teachers...........IT IS THE STUDENTS and POP culture and Society in general that is the problem !

    I can start by saying that I came to this country in 1980 when I was 12yrs old ... I now have a BS in Electrical Engineering and was a product of public schools. I was successful because I was not influenced by the POP culture which seems to have a strong hold on US Society which I believe is the culprit of the huge failure in education we see today. This is true for the attitude parents and students have in general about education in the US.

    As a 12yr old kid I was astonished to see how relaxed the attitude was towards doing well in school. If you got an "F" in school it was no big deal for the kids... They just brushed it off because it was more important to be "cool" than to be doing well in school. In my country when you do well in school it means that you are "cool". If you don't do well in school it is shameful and peer pressure makes one do well in school just to fit in. In the US it is just the other way around and peer pressure is strong to do all the wrong things.
    The success in education in my home land is because all of the society places high emphasis on education.
    Until this is done in the US no amount of money or highly qualified teachers will make a difference.

    When this society idolizes all the wrong values and individuals then all efforts to educate will fail. Think about it. One can not tell kids to stay in school and say no to drugs when all you see on TV, Movies, Papers, Magazines, is this relentless admiration with people that are simply examples of what person should not be. Must people that are constantly on TV did not do well in school, they all do drugs, etc.....
    As adults we all know this is simply entertainment and done for TV ratings. It is just like watching a train wreck in slow motion and cannot stop watching.

    However, for a young person just coming into the school system this POP culture can be very influential and can have devastating effects on their perspective of the world and the importance of education. Some of this news junk should be rated "R" and not be allowed on TV because of the effects on young minds.

    I was lucky in the sense that my early education in my home land was very strong. I must say that I was negatively influenced greatly and went from an "A" student to a staight "C" student when I entered into the US school system. Not because the teachers were not doing their job. It was because I was not doing my job. I just wanted to fit in with the rest of the kids... I never really studied all the way though high school. I only did just enough to pass with a "C". No one liked a smarty pants in class. However, in the back of my mind I knew that I could do better. Luckily, when I graduated high school reality set in and realized I would need to do well in school to have a shot at a good job. I was able to turn myself around and ignore the outside distractions and became a "A" student in College. I give credit to my early education for this success. Unfortunately, not all my friends can say the same. Many simply peaked in high school in popularity but failed academically.

    Until this society stops idolizing the WRONG people and the values promoted in POP culture (TV, News, Papers, etc) than then school system will continue to fail to prepare kids not only for good careers but also life in general. Unfortunately, I dont see this changing any time soon.... My suggestion to parents is to send your kids over seas for some schooling. Let them get away from the poison that is US POP culture for a year or two.

    George Moreno

    August 30, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
  77. D C Britt - Arizona

    DATE NIGHT? Tuned into your program for the first time today, and thought I had accidentally run into an SNL re-run when you started touting the Date Night fix for our shattered economy. But, then I realized it was at least as good an idea as those the morons surrounding the President have come up with so far: bailouts, taking over car companies, taking control of banks, socialized health care, etc. At least your idea involves a capitalist, rather than a socialist, approach – urging people to spend their own money, rather than having the government confiscate it to redistribute to those the elite have decided are more deserving. Then, I thought again and decided you were just trying to lighten up the incredibly sad news that our failing economy has become. Even though it was a really lame joke, thanks for trying.

    August 30, 2010 at 12:43 pm |
  78. tukeind

    I believe teachers should be part of the solution regarding how to fix our school system, thus, their involvement in acknowledging poor performers amongst their rank is important, and vital.

    The CNN’s reporting piece (Tony Harris) involving Rhode Island’s Central High school is a good example why teachers should play a key role in acknowledging poor performers, otherwise, the state will do the job for them, and do so upon unreasonable criterions or standards.

    Therefore, teachers must set the standards themselves, broadly speaking, fixing our school system is not one-dimensional and teachers should not become the sole escape-goat, however, they must accept that in every step toward solving the problem their presence is key, and not all the news can be good news along the way.

    Along the way, I wonder how the teachers at Central High (CF) qualify, explain those 2009 statistics, such as CF’s 47% graduation rate, and its 37% dropout rate, and especially, the fact that only 7% of their 11th graders were proficient in math.
    Hence, it is not those CF teacher’s students who profits from their teachers being rehired, it is clearly those students teacher’s, and from what I can see, therein, explains Cf’s 2009 horrible statistics.

    August 30, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
  79. Karen

    The kids are good until they get to school. Then, they gradually learn that it's cool to be bad. It's up to the school who has our kids more than we do to supervise them and teach them to be good. I could tell you stories!! I taught and subbed. I finally had to home school my kids. The school that had the best learning was where the principal employed a program with assemblies to teach the kids good social skills. That's the only way they will behave well enough so learning can take place.

    Also, I can NOT believe I just saw your answer to the economic problem to bring back date night!!! OMG!! At least you did put up that person's good idea about having closing costs be deductable, but it was glazed over and then you spent way too much time on bringing back date night!!! I was so appalled that it prompted me to submit my comment here!

    August 30, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
  80. Ron

    As a long time educator in a samll town in New Jersey, one of the major problems in education is the involvement of politics. If you are part of the ":in" crowd that donates money, attends political functions, and hits the streets during an election year, you get the position you desire.
    It doesn't matter if you've built a reputation as an awful educator or if you only have 3 or 4 years of experience in the classroom under your belt. Being politically connected means you can get what you want and do absolutely nothing. If you can get the political appointments out of the way you will be well on your way to creating a better school system.
    Secondly, incompotent and uncaring school administrators who set a tone of "I'm just here for the money." It destroys school morale when work with school administrators who are simply in the position because they gave $10, 000 or $15, 000 to the mayor's coffers!

    August 30, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
  81. Floyd Prince

    You cannot have successful schools in failing communities. The high drop out rates are mostly in communities where students and families have limited options. It is foolish to think that we can educate children when they are hungry, scared, housing-challenged, and families are dirt poor. We keep comparing the results from other countries against students in the USA, but we are failing to look at the strategies that countries like India, Germany, China, and others are doing with their students. Our schools will continue to fail if we set them up to achieve goals, but not provide the resources to help them reach those goals. Public schools should not be competing with private entities to educate our children. You (CNN) needs to go and spend time in the schools that we call "failing schools" so that you are telling the whole story.

    August 30, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
  82. Dennis

    There was nothing wrong with our schools until schools got the blame for dropouts and then dummied down everything to try to keep those, who no one could keep, from dropping out. That is what" no child left behind" is. Do kids drop out because of what is going on in school? They drop out because of social, family, personal, drug or behavior problems or some combinations of these. If you let them smoke, take drugs, love each other up, cuss, defy authority, or do whatever they want to in school, some might stay, but most would drop out anyway. It is not an education problem. It is a social problem. "No child left behind" has dummied down education and a few months ago we complained about fewer college graduates. You can't have it both ways. Dennis West Virginia

    August 30, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  83. Barbara Wagamon

    Hello Tony!

    As a public school teacher of twenty years (twelve in an inner-city school) and as a retired professor of education, I am responding to your request for comments on why our schools fail.

    There is no short answer to your question. Much has been said, but there are several factors that are never addressed by the media.

    1. The present way we teach (standardized education) developed in response to the Report of the Holmes Group in 1986, which convened because business and industry perceived it could do a better job than education administrators of designing curriculum to preparing students to enter the workforce. As a doctoral student, I examined the makeup of committees that contributed to education policy that followed the Holmes Report. An overwhelming majority of committee members came from strong military backgrounds, including the women. What we have today in No Child Left behind is a model for education based on ‘raw material in, process applied, finished product out’.

    2. We prepare teachers to teach, not to lead. We teach children to standards; we do not focus on helping them to examine issues. We do not seem to place a high priority on the independent and creative thinking that leadership requires.

    3. Human resources are wasted when teachers are prevented from using their unique talents in the classroom. For example, if a teacher is fascinated by insects, and has studied them all of her life, unless insects are a component of the curriculum for her grade level, her vast knowledge and enthusiasm for the topic is deemed of no value.

    4. Unless teacher preparation programs are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), an independent agency, programs rely on state and regional accreditation, which is often politically motivated. The result is that there is disincentive for universities to graduate capable teachers. Accountability is lacking.

    Think about it, enrollment in teacher education relies on a steady demand for teachers. A steady demand for teachers results in large part from teacher burnout. So, what is the incentive for universities to graduate highly capable teachers? Also, school systems employ new teachers at a lower salary than experienced teachers. Thus, the bottom line affects the problems we face in the classroom, and not in the way we traditionally assume. This is why pouring more and more money into the mix does not necessarily make better education for our children.

    Tony, until we take a critical look at the source of the maladies, our system of public education has little chance of improving. My daughter envisions a future in which algorithms will be developed and gradually applied to enable teachers to identify and address problems in their classrooms. This would be a gradual process, much like the on-going identification of components of human DNA. It will take time, but because many teachers face the same issues in the classroom, she believes that putting math to use to help develop creative responses to problems could help us. We desperately need creative minds like hers to propose new approaches, based on their critical examination of issues.

    Thank you for inviting your audience to comment.

    Sincerely,
    Barbara Wagamon, Ed.D.

    August 30, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
  84. Bill from Greensboro

    You will not like to be confronted with this comment, but people need to face reality.
    Our forefathers determined that we should have an educated populace. The reasoning was to provide for an informed electorate. Our government representatives are now 'bought and paid for' by corporate entities and special interests, therefore, the need for an informed electorate has been eliminated.
    Those families with the financial means have already removed their children from the public school systems, enrolled them in private schools, and have no concern about success or failure of the public school systems as long as their taxes are not increased.
    The great transfer of wealth and elimination of the blue collar working class is continuing, creating a giant 'underclass' of poor people. Wall Street has outsourced our jobs, let us deplete our savings accounts and 401K's to survive, eliminated our pensions and health insurance, and now is taking our homes through foreclosure, leaving the masses 'broke'.
    Without prospects of jobs, a decent standard of living, and real elected representation, there is no need for public education to continue. Remember, free public education is not a 'right' guaranteed by the Constitution. We need to cut our losses, eliminate public education, and take the cost savings since, without jobs, the tax base is no longer available.
    This is not a pretty picture, but rather, a realistic one.

    August 30, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
  85. Nadira

    Our children need good traditional parenting. Our pop culture is too much main stream news.. The parents need to be more of a guidance in their children's lives. Yes we have problems in the schools but if the children are taught the value of education early in life, it becomes priority...The teachers can only do so much.......

    August 30, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
  86. jeanne byrne

    I am shocked that a news reporter is such a verbal cripple that she would use a crude expression to express the word "courage". I fell she should aploogize , as well as be chastised for this remark. This was in reference to President Obama's remarks on the economy.

    August 30, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
  87. Floyd Prince

    I think i was too general in my last comments. Education is a complex issue. Schools in poor and failing neighborhoods have their unique issues. We are trying to fund and run our schools based on corporate models, and as the failures in the corporate world has shown; it is not workable. The goal of the corporate/business model is concerned with distribution of scare resources, and return a profit at any cost. While education is supposed to provide students with career skills and businesses with a talented labor pool; this model ignores the social and emotional needs of our students, their families and teachers.

    I am a teacher at a school in Watts, CA. Our school was a New Tech school, our school did not receive all the computers it should have had for fidelity to the model. The school changed principals 4 times in less than 2 years. In 10 weeks our school was broken into 17 times, we lost over 25% of our electronic resources. The District did replace most of the equipment because they had either failed to insure the equipment, or did not hold the security company accountable for not been able to track the equipment. Our school is attached to a housing project. School personnel have to pan out in the community at the beginning and end of each school day.

    Each year, I spend about $5,000 out of my pocket buying classroom materials, uniforms for students, meals, hotel rooms, transportation, and just about anything that children in a failing neighborhood need. Many of our students come to school traumatized, we add to this trauma by forcing them to take standardized tests that they DO NOT feel benefit them in anyway. Our students require a teacher to be a parent, friend, social worker, psychologist, mentor, cheerleader, advocate, and instructor.

    Teachers that teach in poor minority neighborhood are under siege. Teachers are highly educated, and are required to continue to be enrolled in professional development courses. Teachers are underpaid for their levels of education and for the hazards they encounter on the job. Fifty-five percent of teachers do not last more than 2 years at my school. How do you build communities with these challenges??

    August 30, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
  88. Lew

    There is an obvious response to the old right-wing saw, "Get the government out, get the government out". Sure (!), look how well that worked before we had a government mandate to provide basic education.
    The problem with that solution is that we have moved all the child labor sweat shops to China, so one wonders what we would do with all the children for whom we don't have any work or interest in paying for their education.

    August 30, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
  89. Grace

    Dear Tony and all who are interested,
    As a 30 year experienced,now retired teacher I would like to strongly tell you that the first best way to improve all education is : SMALL CLASS SIZES. (Ideally 15 or less students.) Today there are so many variety of problems and personalities ( 30 students/60-100 parents/ grandparents/ that are given to each classroom teacher that there is hardly time to teach the basics.
    How about if the health community taught cleanliness, lice,bed bug etc. problems, the police dept. taught bus,vehicle safety problems, child porno and such awareness and so forth having the community take some of the burden off of the teachers.
    Most teachers work a 12 hour day. I know I was there from 7:00 a.m to very often 7:00pm . Weekends are used for lesson planning and preparation of materials. Everyone should go into a classroom and teach their lessons for 1 day to realize the magnitude of the job.

    August 30, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
  90. Catherine

    Hi Jim B, I thank you for your comment. Maybe I should have mentioned in my comment as few other things: that I frequently drive to the school (666 miles round trip, no kidding) and I do visit the classrooms, the teachers, the principle and the school nurse. I admire the teachers that take on the task of the large classrooms with little accomodations. I wish to help them in order to help me help my son. There is a lot of money from the son's father that allows him to stay on our dangerous border. Even if you beat the kid, they don't care. As a parent, when my son is with me I read with him and I make him read on the days he is with me in the hotel rooms, as well as math and science and art and music. It is my only hope for a safe place for him. If the money in the mouth is what it takes, well, I am not so fortunate as the other side. I also encourage and speak spanish (I do have a degree in it .....) myself and try to teach him this when he is with me as well. Again, thank you to the teachers that do assist "the other parent" in assisting in a solid education but the politics and money on the Texas / Mexico Border are failing a what was a straight A student and is fully capable .... having been in the Gifted and Talented Program and the Superior Honor Roll. The use of funds allows maybe just 15 students out of 700. My son was not invited this year. Please know, I am very involved in the school system under stressful circumstances I have mentioned. I just pray the school system would do a better job for the children and, well, we know who makes those decisions ......

    August 30, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
  91. Sheila Airis

    After listening to several hours of your education in America show, I find it hard to believe Washington State's cooperative process was not even mentioned once.

    Since the 60's, when a cooperative was created to process student, financial and administrative records and activities in over 200+ of our school districts, countless dollars have been saved each year for our classrooms in the way of teachers, aides and specialists. Because of the great success of this cooperative for public schools it has expanded to many of our private schools where it continues to save countless dollars for them also. It is a shining example for any state to save our education dollars.

    I was the Budget person for one of these non-member districts 30 years ago. When I discovered this cooperative at a State conference, I immediately took the information back to our District, hoping to save a gold mine. The administration told me that it wouldn't work for us because it wouldn't be "our system". At that point I explained to them, that since I now understood their point of view, I could no longer be a part of the "problem" and would look for another job. I was quickly hired by one of the coopertive served districts and have never looked back. Now I am retired so I can speak freely.

    I think that Washington's example is a shining example of how districts across the Nation could, with little effort, learn from each other and put those dollars back into our classrooms. That's where they belong.

    August 30, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
  92. Elvia M. Chalmers

    I just retired from education after 35+ years. I worked as a college administrator, high school guidance counselor, and finally as a middle school counselor. You could say I was demoted but my original degree was in junior high school education. I love the early adolescent.

    I worked in a small town college, a rural community college, 2 inner city high schools, and 2 small city middle schools. I worked with upper middle class, working class and poor students in a magnet middle school.

    We were a model and won awards at the magnet. We had the freedom to write our own curriculum, it was reworked each year based on the group of young people in front of us. That seemed to work. It was most effective when we had partnership with a corporation that funded staff development sessions for teachers to write, rewrite curriculum and to team build for a more effective work environment.

    What I have learned over the years is there is no one size fits all, there is hard work, care for students as if they were your own, and honest discourse among staff without threat of reprisal. When that changes the effectiveness of the school for students changes.

    It helps to have parental involvement, but it is not the solution. Students, especially poor and very wealthy students who are both often not nurtured by parents, require a lot from staff. In order for a staff to give the required support, they need to be valued and treated as professionals. In that type of setting hard work results as people will work to develop their own ideas.

    August 30, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  93. William Corcoran

    A comment re your Fix Our School Program.

    Judging from the plethera of comments, this subject must be on the top of many personal lists. I offer an opportunity that is a win, win, win, position for students, teachers, and job creation.

    SUBJECT: Jobs Creation in Education.

    I welcome this opportunity to recommend additional jobs creation under HR 4812. There are many reasons that teachers require the support of Teacher Aides and the rationale for job creation today is only too painfully obvious. By my calculations, almost 3 million aides could be hired across all school districts at minimum wages, under a 1099 contract, for approximately $65 B per year plus training and administrative costs. It could be implemented very quickly for qualified individuals and immediately raise the teacher time spent on every student. This is a win, win, win situation for children's education, jobs creation, and teaching effectiveness. I offer my most sincere appreciation for any consideration and discussion of this suggestion. William Corcoran

    August 30, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
  94. Lisa

    I hear so much talk about who to blame for students' bad grades. Teachers? Parents? Ever think of 'blaming' the student? Some may have bad days, don't feel like studying, don't speak English, don't like the subject, don't like school, ain't that smart, or any combination of the above. Teachers can't force students to learn and parents can't take the tests for their kids(although some these days might try).
    Face it. Not everyone is cut out to get straight A's or B's.

    August 30, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
  95. Marle

    Find out from other countries what makes their schools a success.

    There are school text books that are not worth the bindings that hold the useless pages. I really feel for the teachers that have to work with them. A teacher is as good as the materials she/he has. Or we could go back to the McGuffey readers and math. Children need to know the basics. Parents have most of the responsibility of how their children learn and process information . This means being creative with learning. My youngest child hated reading but loved putting models together. I bought a few models the rule of thumb was he had to read the instructions with understanding what they met. Hard words were looked up so learning how to use a dictionary was part of the lesson. The reward was he could paint it, give it to a friend, keep it for his room. Required reading became fun. Raising 5 boys I ran into just one teacher that I had trouble with and all it was is that she kept changing her agenda every other week.

    August 30, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
  96. Bruce H.

    Parents, administrators, educators, and politicians are all responsible for problems within our school systems.

    Parents should be supporting the school, particularly the educators who are making an effort to teach their children. Too often parents these days are not parenting, but instead are trying to be their child's friend or overzealous advocate. Not enough parents are pushing their children to make the right choices and do the hard work that needs to be done. A number of parents actually "attack" the educators in "defense" of their children when in actuality it is the child who is wrong.

    Educators need to be weeded out according to their abilities and efforts. Their are some who do not care about the children as much as they are "marking time" until their retirement. Some teachers are capable of teaching discrimination or favoritism, whether it be racial or gender. One female teacher my son had gave superior grades to anyone she liked, but most particularly favored females. He quit his plans of going to college after his encounter with her. She was later murdered by her ex-husband and after hearing all of the "male-bashing" she did in the classroom one can only wonder if she took that too far with her ex-husband (who had been well-liked and mild-mannered prior to the murder).

    Administrators need to support the teachers more with common sense. Some administrators play more into the overzealous parents' hands when a "complaint" is made. Some administrators prefer to "pacify" the angry parents rather than stand up for what is fair, correct, proper, right.
    Administrators will sometimes squawk like a "broken record" about needing to do more to raise children's test scores. Sometimes it's the fault of the children not caring if they don't score well, not the teachers attempting to teach them.

    Politicians need to realize that children can easily become apathetic about working to achieve a goal that means nothing to them. That is to say, scoring well on a test that has no bearing on their overall classroom grades (such as no child left behind) means little or nothing to MANY children these days. Why would a child spend extra time and effort into studying for a test that doesn't affect them? It would be like asking you to do a lot of work on a story that no one will ever see or care about, for which you will receive no recognition or compensation, etc. whatsoever.

    Military parents and military school administrators need to realize that pulling their children from school for thirty days straight to go on "leave" (vacation) during a school year is not a good thing. Neither is keeping a child out of school for the first 45-plus days because the family is in transition from one military post to another. Then the administrators push the teachers to issue a grade for a child who has missed so much school, is not required to do "make-up" work, and hasn't done much of anything for the period of time being graded. This is not every military family or every military school, perhaps, but it does happen.

    August 30, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
  97. Gene Lucas

    The reason that 25% of kids drop out of school is that the students do not believe that academic-only education serves their needs.
    In California we have a multi-hundred page standard on career/technical education. The problem is that it is unfunded; and even if it were, very few schools would teach it. That's sad, because 50% of our graduates do not go on to post-high-school-education of any kind.

    August 30, 2010 at 3:49 pm |
  98. Aiko Schatz

    There is not a single solution to the problems in our schools. Nor is there one solution that will fix all schools. There are many issues that need to be addressed, and those issues, and their solutions, differ from school to school, district to district, state to state.
    I have seen interviews with the Secretary of Education, national union leaders, and educational experts. They all speak of ways to improve our schools. My question is: Where are the teachers? Why is no one talking to them? Why not ask the people who are doing the job what they need to do their job? And not just the teachers who have won national accolades. Let's ask the regular teacher who works hard at the profession. Talk to any one of my colleagues; they have a lot to offer.
    As for the expertness of the Secretary of Education and union officials, well, when was the last time any of them actually taught? Every day. For a full year. I'm guessing, from their rhetoric, it's been a while. And yet, their opinions and ideas are considered credible. Really? Would you go to a physician who had not actually practiced for 10 or more years?
    The problems with our educational system will not be solved with a single one-size-fits-all solution. Many avenues need to be explored and acted on. We've all had enough talk. How about some action?

    August 30, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
  99. David S

    The title of CNN's focus sheds some light on part of the American problem. As a supposed world power we have thought that we can simply "fix" things, like schools, communities, and government. Our thinking paradigm is always about an 'outside-in' approach to change or transformation. More money, more accountability, more pressure, more testing, more curriculum, more standards etc. This is a private-industry model being sold to the public, and used to impact change. It may have worked during the industrial revolution, but what you have is an outdated system, designed for an outdated period in our history and world. The lens for which our government and society evaluates and judges our schools is distorted. Data and statistics can be skewed and misrepresented, and sold as 'facts.' We often accept the face-value of the data and do not ask the deeper questions of why the data is showing in the way that it does.

    As a former school principal in an inner-city school and urban school district, I have the privilege of experiencing and learning first hand what may work and what doesn't. Necessary change is about transformation. A transformation, in thinking, in feeling, and doing. Schools are organic institutions, which require time, flexibility, creativity and commitment. It should be a 'process-oriented' inside-out approach. We already know which best-practices will increase learning and student achievement. The federal government should play no central role whatsoever in public education, but only to support what the states need to do to be successful. Centralizing or federalizing public education is not the answer either. Top-down control and manipulatives will not sustain the type of change that is necessary for our schools. Reliance on standardized test scores to evaluate teachers, administrators, and schools is dangerous and unreliable. Merit pay will not increase student achievement, and again, is based on faulty, private industry assumptions. Paying students for their achievement will not work either!

    Transforming (not fixing) our schools take time. There are solutions, but they are multi-dimensional, not linear. We cannot operate well in a climate of pressure, fear, and unrealistic goal setting. We should not be fooled by quantitative measurements that do not provide us the full picture, but stifle our creativity, flexibility, and need to ask the deeper questions. We need to dispel the myths and uncover the national lies about education. The economic and social crisis in our country was not caused by bad education, but bad policies, self-centeredness, desire for power and control, and war. There are many educated people in America, now without jobs! And, we bought into the formula of our parents and government. There are no more guarantees that traditional education will bring us a better life. There are only correlations and possibilities. Let us be transparent and honest about this reality.

    Is learning only about competition and world dominance? Or should it be more about personal and societal awareness, transformation, democratic participation, and aspiration? The current path in education is a result of government policies that began to seep into public education over 20 years ago. We are now responding to a supposed and/or manufactured crisis that accelerated with NCLB.

    Throw away the current and outdated governance structures of public education and allow the real professionals in the field to work collectively, for real and sustaining change. Nothing can be done well in isolation, and too many moving parts in any mechanism is not a good thing. Communities will need to organize at the 'grassroots' level and begin to take back their schools, and their country once again...

    August 30, 2010 at 6:50 pm |
  100. CWH

    I have been on our local school board for over 20 years. There is a myth that local school boards really control the schools. However, after you sift through the state and federal unfunded mandates, No Child Left Behind and fancy financing along with powerful employee unions able to sue the school for little or nothing, your local board is a group of tight wire walkers. In Minnesota, our governor ran as the "Education" Governor 8 years ago and this year he withheld 26% of the school funding (payable at a later date if there is enough money) in addition to cutting the base funding. But I suppose if you're running for president, your own state can be balanced on the backs of the children, to make it look like a balanced budget?????Go figure

    August 30, 2010 at 8:12 pm |
  101. Ken N

    A way to have all politicians put there money where their mouth is, would be to require all people running for public office match the amount they spend on running for public office, with an equal amount that goes to public education.

    With Meg Whitman spending already over $120 Million dollars to get into office, that would mean she would have to match that amount and direct $120 Million to public schools and education. Even if she only spent $60 Million, $60 Million for schools would go a long way for education. Every candidate gets treated the same way. What a war chest education would have.

    If someone feels the need to buy their way into office, they would be supporting schools too.

    The easiest money to raise these days seems to be political fundraising. Take the 50% out right away from every donation.

    August 31, 2010 at 3:01 am |
  102. frankie

    There should be a standard in the United States of America, that there is not one single school in any city or town or locality, where even one resident would not be willing to send their child.

    August 31, 2010 at 8:32 am |
  103. Bill Upper NYS

    A good history teacher is one who can go beyond the text books, quizzes and test, and get his/her students to understand that those names in history belonged to REAL people with REAL feelings, the events were REAL, and the battles, blood and tears shed were REAL. Having names and dates shoved at them without empathy for those who went through those times doesn't have the same meaning, will not be retained as well. The great history teacher must make history a REALITY. The old axiom is very applicable: we can't get where we want to go unless we know where were came from, and the mistakes we made along the way.

    August 31, 2010 at 8:32 am |
  104. Karen Dannewitz

    I find it interesting that we hardly ever mention the role of the parent in fixing education. The parent is the first and most important teacher in the life of a child. If a child is influenced from day one by a parent who stimulates those crucial synapses in the brain, through touch, speech, movement – singing, reading, helping them to be curious , and most importantly- helping them feel secure -they will be ready to learn when they walk through the door on their first day of school
    If you haven't done so, you should just go visit a classroom and see what teachers go through on a daily basis. I am not a teacher, but have worked in classrooms as a volunteer, and what i found was that teachers have so much more to deal with than teaching. You have so many children coming through the door with issues that many times disrupt the entire class. You have kids that need meds and you have to make sure they get them. You have parents drop the kids off and expect you to fix them. You have kids that have never been read to and have no desire to learn how to read. You have kids whose parents had bad experiences in school and are hostile towards the whole idea of education. I worked in a first grade class one time and was a one on one associate with a child who spouted off obscenities constantly – even with meds. The teacher told me it was the worst year in 24 years of teaching.

    I was on a school board in the late 90's and we held "Parent Universities" at the school to try and promote parents and teachers as partners. I think that could be a huge part of the solution.

    August 31, 2010 at 9:58 am |
  105. Michael

    The greatest predictor of success is not whether I sing to my students', it's the level of interest and involvment of parents. Show me a student that cares about their academic success, and i'll show you a student I can teach.

    August 31, 2010 at 10:15 am |
  106. Robert Mcgann

    what makes a good teacher is a teacher who can not only teach what he or she knows but teach what he or she knows from the heart and build a connection with each student they teach

    August 31, 2010 at 10:17 am |
  107. Michael

    The significant narrowing of the curriculum caused by the overuse of irrelevant standardized tests has increased student boredom and caused teachers to have to use tricks like singing to reach the children. Make a dynamic curriculum relevant to students and you won't have to show them a song and dance. Just teaching them to pass a multiple choice test teaches them nothing.

    August 31, 2010 at 10:18 am |
  108. sam

    I have a Masters degree in World History, recently I contacted the school district in my area because they had a posting for a high school social studies. I was told that I could not apply for the poistion becuase I am not yet state certified, because of this they could not tell if I am "highly qualified." I have been pursuing a Masters of Secondary Education to become certified for the last year and have been extrmely unimpressed with the classes in comparrison to my history classes. An example of this is making posters versus studying Marx. If we want to fix education in America one of the first things that we need to do is focus more on content, hire people who love their subject, rather than those who have only been taught to create lesson plans.

    August 31, 2010 at 10:18 am |
  109. Sharon

    Watching the "Fix Our Schools" spot this morning is making me totally CRAZY! I spent 30 years teaching......some years overseas working on American military bases. I tried my best to gear my apparently-successful curriculum to make learning "fun" and "authentic" for my students. I also watched the interaction of Asian families and their ultimate respect for education.

    WHEN DID THE RESPONSIBILITY of an American child's learning fall COMPLETELY on the teacher? When did the student's home/family STOP emphasizing the need, respect, and love of learning in each and every child?

    Let's do an extensive spot on how the HOME/FAMILY can instill the importance of an education.

    August 31, 2010 at 10:26 am |
  110. Maggie Craig

    I have been an educator all of my career and don't have the time to weigh in on these conversations much as i am spending time plaanning, correcting, conferencing BUT this AM, I just have to comment.....when are we as a nation going to realize that it is the PARENTS and only the PARENTS that will change our schools? You are at this minute talking about making a change for Afro-American boys/men and academic success. Standards, a moral compass, discipline, love and CONSTANT watchful eyes from BIRTH ( and the recent explosion of brain research shows us the first 3 , not 5 years, are the most critical for some of these behavior/discipline and learning bases) and later constant parent involvement in the school process for all 12 years of education is essential. Every year i see the kids falling off the edge have uninvolved parents who are more concerned with dating, working out, working or if NOT working, doing something other that being involved in thier child's school! iIfind it humurous that the schools you highlighted this AM (low SES and suceeding) were charters with kids wearing uniforms and I'm going to bet also a parent-signed contract for involvement or you are "out" if you misbehave. Bottom line, no teacher-improvement and practice will EVER take the place of a stable home that VALUES education from birth, established discipline and love balanced with respect from the start and this does not take $$$$...how about more required PARENT training from the minute a pregnancy is diagnosed and requiring and monitoring the first months or years of parenting? THEN and only then will you deliver a prepared human to the schools and THEN let teachers take these beautiful kids and move them forward?

    August 31, 2010 at 10:29 am |
  111. Michael

    Why are we sending the message that school needs to be interesting, fun, and not boring?? Was 2nd year Calculus fun in college? NO...but we did it anyway because we wanted to learn and we wanted the degree. Children need to be told that despite whether they find the material interesting, they need to do their best. Some children just don't like math, even with a 'fun' teacher, so should they just be given a pass because it's boring? Give me a break!

    If you really want to fix student boredom, how about making a more diverse school system that allows children to study more of what they like? If a child loves art, let them concentrate on artistic classes! Why does every child have to take the same classes and learn the same thing? Not all children are the same and we need to stop trying to squeeze square pegs into round holes!

    August 31, 2010 at 10:31 am |
  112. Bridgett

    We can change our schools by giving the students a way to learn where they will still have fun. Where they use techniques such as the IQ Program as well as others in which they learn memory tricks and math tricks to remember what it is they have learned. I had a learning disability and I found a program along time ago that taught me this technique and I remembered a list of word for two years.This kind of thing could really help our students out. Right now we are sending our students through school no matter if they learn anything or not. My son passed the 8th grade even though he did absolutely no work this is ridiculous. No child left back rules are horrible you wonder why our kids can not read.There are many programs out there that can help our students learn better and no just be talked to they can play games to learn what they need.

    August 31, 2010 at 10:35 am |
  113. teacher

    it is the missing fathers in the children lives,no structure of family,its the bad role models in the entertainment industry. parents who don't are the main reason children are in a bad situation. if you care about your kids you will find a way to help them.schooling black males ?how about education all males no matter what the color. poverty has no color just victims.. to bring race into it would only be sad and keep driving more of a the wedge in relations. it is a struggle to be a hard working person in this world. jail in a place you go when you commit crime. so get smart stay in school,we need more of these celebrities to stand up for the kids,preach and teach and come back to their old schools and help out.if we can spend millions of dollars on other countries to have schools,we can spend it here.

    August 31, 2010 at 10:35 am |
  114. Gary Anderson

    I started teaching in 1972 and saw immediately that many students were not prepared for a challenging academic program. For the last 35 plus years I've been problem solving this very issue. I went back to school and became a school psychologist to understand what the real issue was.
    Today, we have one of the answers: focused parental involvement not as a tutor, but as a investor of books and language. This past Feb. we had 6,000 families of the whole month particpate in our program in one city, Bentonville AR. It's not perfect but it does create a systemic change to engage the home, the school, and the community.

    Here is who we are:
    Read To Them is a non-profit literacy group based in Richmond. In 2003, Read Aloud organizations from five states came together in a collaborative effort to form Read to Them (originally incorporated as Read Aloud International). Since the first statewide Read Aloud program was founded in Delaware over 20 years ago, similar organizations have been established on local and state levels around the United States. The directors of five such organizations in Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia, Nebraska and Hawaii gathered together with an ambitious vision: to make reading aloud to children a regular practice in every home in America. Our mission is to effectively intervene in the lives of our community’s elementary school children by encouraging their parents to take an active role in reading quality literature aloud to them. Every child needs a parent to be involved in encouraging and supporting them in their education. Statistics demonstrate that when parents get involved, children have higher test scores and a good chance of getting a high school diploma and continuing on to attend college. The goals of Read To Them can be summarized as follows;
    1) Give parents a program which empowers them to read aloud to their child every day.

    2) Encourage parental involvement in each child’s education which can begin in the elementary grades and continue throughout their schooling.

    Description of the project
    In many homes, especially in low income neighborhoods in Richmond, few books are available to children. Many parents do not recognize the importance of reading aloud to their children or take time often enough to interact in a way that promotes positive parent-child interaction. Studies have shown that children in middle and upper class households are exposed to two to three times more language than children in poor households. These disadvantaged children are not as well prepared to listen and learn at school. Their peers have been empowered by exposure to two to three times the amount of language both verbally and in print. From elementary school on it can be an uphill climb for these children to succeed in school. It is no wonder that so many of our impoverished youth in Richmond do not go on to finish high school. Many are not able to find gainful employment after leaving school and too many get involved in illegal activities that eventually result in incarceration. We feel that early intervention is the key to preventing this outcome and we view our program as a fundamental part of these efforts. To date our reading program has been used by only five of the thirty elementary schools in Richmond. Three of the schools have been doing the program for several years. The reason that most schools in the Richmond City District have not participated is a lack of funding. Our organization has been in contact with most of the schools in the District and they would like to use the program during the Fall of the coming school year. Unfortunately, the budgetary constraints many schools are now dealing with will prevent implementation of our programs in Richmond during the 2010-2011 school year. We would like to obtain the funding necessary for all of Richmond’s elementary schools to participate for this coming school year.

    August 31, 2010 at 10:36 am |
  115. Thelma Fowls

    I was a high school teacher for 28 years and have found that students will succeed in the classroom if the learning environment is fun and all students want to participate. People like Ron Clark and Doug Lemov have it right. They suggest that teachers engage the students by playing games (and we have great technology that makes this available to teachers) or singing rap songs about what they're learning. I used Ron Clark's 55 Essentials (even at the high school level) and it helped with establishing the discipline that was needed.

    The teachers who do not succeed in the classroom lack classroom management. Many times, parents expect the teachers to teach their children how to respect elders and that is something that begins at home. Parents must be involved in their child's education in order for them to do well in school. I raised 3 children from ages 7, 8 and 10 through college and never used the excuse that I was a single mother not to be involved in their education.

    August 31, 2010 at 10:38 am |
  116. Brenda

    My mom is a wonderful teacher in Dumas, TX who inspires her second graders with very creative projects. I mentioned the "Quilts of Valor" to her a few months ago and she immediately jumped on that. She loves to quilt as well as teach. She got her entire class involved in the project and used it as a learning tool for writing, geometric shapes, citizenship, geography and a sense of appreciation for our armed forces. So, if you want to fix what's wrong with schools, get more teachers with an imagination who make learning fun. And I'm not saying that just because I'm her daughter. She's truly an American hero fighting for our troops in small town America. Call her. She would make a great interview for this series.

    August 31, 2010 at 10:42 am |
  117. april

    My favorite teacher was Mrs. Reynolds at White Elementary in Cartersville, GA. She was the only one that ever pattled me. I knew she cared for me and my education. She was incredible.

    August 31, 2010 at 10:46 am |
  118. Marla

    The Impact of Teachers Emotional Intelligenc on Students Motivation to Learn- My ResearchMy spin on this is that we need to ensure that our teachers must be trained in emotional intelligence skills. The ability to be empathetic, caring, understanding and building confidence in a students ability to learn is imperative. Honestly, I do not believe ( as I am teaching University students for the last 7 years) that the intrinsic motivation to learn which deteriorates by grade 6, or earlier, does not return until the student finds his/her area of passion in a specific area. Sometimes this does not occur until students finish undergrad or later. If learning was a safe enjoyable experience , students would not be fearful of making errors ( which sometimes evolves into a students' "learned helplessness" ). So why not have education- learning be an enjoyable experience. We need teachers who can connect with their students. If you think deeply about this- when a comfortable connection is made – I believe the enjoyment of being with that person instils hope and belief in ones potential. ( of course if that student has the mental capability)
    Marla Spergel M.A

    August 31, 2010 at 10:47 am |
  119. ak

    Hi! You just asked who our favorite teacher was and I wanted to say that my favorite teacher EVER was Ms. Devonshire @ American Sr. High in Miami Lakes, FL. She was my senior year AP English teacher and what made her the best teacher ever was her way of treating us like soon-to-be adults. She encouraged us to be creative, to read, to write and we had a lot of group discussions. She invited us to her house to study for the final exam, where we were able to reminisce on our year spent together. I hope she's doing great today and that she knows what an impact she had on my life.

    August 31, 2010 at 10:47 am |
  120. Harriett Bohnet

    I was inspired by my teacher's enthusiasm and passion for the subject taught. The enthusiasm was infectious, and got my attention right away. I was also attracted by a teacher's willingness to innovate.

    August 31, 2010 at 10:49 am |
  121. sondra jordan

    Fixing the schools means fixing many of the parents...the home life...the standards and values or lack of them. These kids come to school with baggage and an attitude, much of it from their home situation. Parents, buy, appease and ignore in lieu of implementing rules, talking to their kids, saying "no" more often and ensuring that homework is the priority. what's wrong with a trip to the local library instead of the local mall? Teachers are not to blame for this mess by any stretch. Parents need to reassess or – in some cases – establish guidelines with no wiggle room. Only then will real change come.

    Sondra/ former teacher

    August 31, 2010 at 10:50 am |
  122. carlita

    When I was in school I connected with the teacher who cared the most( willing to reach out to me the student). The teacher that was willing to listen w/ o judgement and willing to work with me at all times. What makes a good teacher? Creativity, caring, knowledge w/ the willingness to share... we have lost that in teachers today because a lot of them are not willing to care for the student.

    August 31, 2010 at 10:52 am |
  123. ciara slade

    my favorite teachers were Ms McGlotten and Mr Edgerton becaus altho they thought my worst subject, math, they made class fun and offerd humorous ways of remebering the things that didnt come easy to me.

    August 31, 2010 at 10:53 am |
  124. Michael Bonham

    If you want to talk about favorite teacher as in taking their time and really working hard with me, it would have to be my second grade Special Education teacher in the Rockville, MD area in 1974. I was born with a cognitive learning disability, and Ms./Mrs. Coles really worked hard with me. I don't think I would be as far along with my English/verbal skills if it were not for her....Thanks Ms./Mrs Coles!!

    Michael Bonham

    August 31, 2010 at 10:56 am |
  125. Jake Hollander

    I'm a freshmen in college now, so I'd say I would have expertise in knowing what makes a good teacher/professor or not.

    Great teachers get the students engaged, they don't simply talk at the student but to and with the students. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink some may say, however you can make that water look appealing as hell. Make learning appealing. Another key factor is a mutual feeling of respect. If a student doesn't feel that their own level of intelligence is respected then why would they show respect towards a teacher.

    Some schools just need better funding. It's ironic in our school systems that those who need the funding least receive it, but those schools (particularly inner city schools) who need funding most do not receive it.

    ****The key to solving the larger issues in society (poverty, crime, environmental awareness) is providing equal HIGH quality education for all schools, including after school programs.

    ****Our education system is only strong as our weakest student.*****

    August 31, 2010 at 10:57 am |
  126. Cornell Varvara

    Fix school? One answer: return to basics: Mathematics
    Everything is based on Math. You don't learn Math in 20 hr/week, not in 30, but all the time; you brush your teeth in the morning, you think about unsolved problems and exercises that you couldn’t solve last night, you go to school, you think about Math, you take lunch, you think Math, etc.
    Not only you will have good grades, but it is helping you develop cognitive skills. Take Romania or other countries on Eastern Europe:
    - several years in the row, first places on Math Olympics
    - second language spoken in Microsoft, Romanian….most of programmers informatics gurus are located in RO.
    - Any student coming to US is placed on Math at least 2-3 levels up.

    Being student in both countries US and RO, I noticed several issues with school here, there is list of it, but the main idea is : return to basics- Mathematics!

    August 31, 2010 at 11:01 am |
  127. Fix Our Schools

    Tony,

    The stat on CNN that struck me the most was the drop out rate. And how that relates to a child going to prison. It seems to me that the streets are robbing our kids of their future and our country's future. They see the quick money and all that comes with being the man on the street and what it brings! Well I suggest as the kids enter into middle school that we test to find out what their interests are. By high school its to late. Once you find out what they want to be or do in life and teach around their interests. Work in the mandatory classes around this concept. For example, 30 percent want to learn about money and business, 30 percent want to learn about politics and another 40 percent for social work. Whatever it may be and block the kids into their interests and teach around the interests of the children. Teach them about managing money and how to get things the right way in life. By the time they graduate high school they have the building blocks and the ambition to chase what they want in life. WATER THE FLOWER! Thanks! CNN is the best period!

    August 31, 2010 at 11:02 am |
  128. Evelyn Slates

    Thank you very much for featuring "Fix Our Schools". I am an African-American mother, grandmother and great grandmother – and I am soooo happy to see this issue at the forefront of dialog. There is no doubt that our African-American students have fallen behind their peers, because they come to the classroom with a different set of circumstances and life issues... but there is also no doubt that given creative instruction and nurturing, they are capable and eager to achieve! Change is needed!!! I applaud CNN for highlighting this issue, and for caring!

    August 31, 2010 at 11:07 am |
  129. Julie

    as for the question who was my favorite school teacher, it has to be my high school AP economics teacher. He was mean, but at least it was consistent; if I was late by even a 5 seconds I'd get a detention, the same was for everyone else. He would also call anyone up to the board to draw graphs or explain them and give you hell if you didn't know what you were doing. Daily quizzes were peer graded then said out loud so that the whole class knew if you got an A or a 54%, one incentive to do better in class. He also incorporated the real world and what was going on at the brink of the recession, that's how I learn who Ben Bernanke was before most of my other classmates. despite this, he was fun so his class was anticipated with fear and eagerness at the same time. How effective was his no b.s teaching style? 100% passing rate with over 50% 4's and 5's. I took both his courses (micro and macro) the same year and got 5's, and I had this along with 3 other AP exams to study for. So i guess what made him a goo teacher for me was that he was consistent and had it known that he had high expectation for us, in essence a teacher who cared whether we understood the concepts.

    August 31, 2010 at 11:07 am |
  130. Bondo

    How about Grammar to be mandatory.

    August 31, 2010 at 11:09 am |
  131. Robin

    I think the best quality in a teacher is consistency and straightforwardness. No fluff and no confusion. It's a huge help when the topics you were told to study for are garenteed to be on the exam when you take it.

    August 31, 2010 at 11:40 am |
  132. Albert

    Dear Mr. Harris,
    My wife, mother-in-law and I are retired District of Columbia Public Schools administrator and teachers. My son and I have been watching the Fix Our Schools segments on CNN today. The problems in our schools are wedded to a three part partnership that has been at fault for decades. Here is a comment by our son, an electrical engineer whose engineering jobs were outsourced to India and who then prepared himself by taking educational courses for teaching math in a neighboring state.

    "I have been watching your Fix Our Schools segment and the problems do not only come from the teachers. Problems also come from the administrators, parents and students. I have a bachelors degree plus 30 hours towards a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering with a very strong math background and have been working in the high tech industry. After being laid off from my fourth job in the high tech industry, I went into teaching since I came from a family of teachers and wanted to use my strong math background to improve the student’s ability to utilize math for their future. In my personal experience as a former first year teacher, I was told by my principal to pass failing students in my Algebra I class where their failing grades and progress were on record. These students did not belong in this class since they had failed the Math Functional requirement to take Algebra I. In my opinion, some of the student's math records showed that they should not have allowed to be passed on to high school. Summer school with intensive remedial math would have been their best bet. At this school, the parents resorted to threatening the principal's job if their children were not placed in my class. The principal, under the intimidation of the affected parents, tried to force me to pass these unprepared and failing students. I was forced to resign when I refused to pass these students. Additionally, although this was my first year of teaching the union did not inform me of my rights and any recourse or remediation."

    Knowing what awaited these students in the working world, my son thought that he would have been doing his students a disservice by just passing them because both the parents and principal threatened his job. The result: Although math teachers are in dire need, he has been blacklisted from teaching positions in that state. Because of our family's over 40 years of bitter experiences in education, I would not recommend anyone to go into teaching. For example, my wife is a Native American and the product of the segregated school system and a high achieving DC Public School. While teaching in 1996, she was injured in a fight between students in her high school and had to have spinal reconstruction. To have better ratings, the principal covered up the incident. My wife was the only teacher who responded to a girl's cry when another student, an amateur boxer, was pummeling his classmate in the face just because she said, "I am not interested." My wife's reward for over 30 years of many awards for effective teaching, including a Fulbright Scholarship? The loss of her teaching position at this N.E. DC high school when she returned after surgery and recuperation. Two years later, although she was very successful with her new students, she was forced to retire from an elementary school in an affluent white N.W. DC neighborhood to which she was moved. Why? Because of ageism and racism.

    August 31, 2010 at 11:44 am |
  133. Omar

    My favorite teacher, was born in the Dominican Republic to a humble family, went on to graduate from Harvard University, moved to the island of Puerto Rico to teach high school students math, and let them know that we all had the power to fight our fears when facing the "math monster". God blessed me for putting him in my life!

    August 31, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  134. Louis Wesler

    A Good Teacher=is enthusiastic about their subject, they want their students to know, understand, and realize how the subject matter applies to their life.

    A Good Teacher=does NOT have preconceived biases because of where their students live.

    August 31, 2010 at 11:46 am |
  135. Lynnae Jackson

    Hey Tony:

    My favorite teacher was Mr. McDonald at McClymonds High School in Oakland, California. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to share this story with you. Mr. McDonald died from an unfortunate boating accident while I was at college, so I never got the opportunity to tell him just how much he influenced my life. He was caring, compassionate and demanding. He always expected the excellence from me and he wouldn't allow me to become lazy when I felt the work was unchallenging. He taught math by the way. Funny how it ties into the story just aired. Anyway, I just want to public acknowledge the influence he has had on my life. I have a rewarding job in the biotechnology industry and I know he would be proud of me if he were here. God Bless, Lynnae

    August 31, 2010 at 11:47 am |
  136. jeffrey sanders

    My favorite teacher at San Francisco State University was a Calulus professor name Eric Hiyashi. During my undergraduate studies at SFSU, I was assaulted by sheriffs deputies...long story short, professor hiyashi knew of my situation, the stress the trial to send me to jail, the lack of money to pay for a lawyer, he would not let me fail. he extended office hours listened to me, encouraged me to be better in the face of adversity. I passed all of his Calculus classes en route to my degree. You don't get that anymore

    August 31, 2010 at 11:49 am |
  137. Gary

    Hi Tony great Job all of you there.Anyway while watching you have the UPDATE in red Well I saw that 3 russian pilots were kidnapped,& now the possible trial run of those suite cases with the plastic bottles,watches,knifes etc.Did they ever find the pilots?Or who did it? Maybe there is a connection?? This Fix the School show you are doing You got to keep asking the Kids what will work for them.
    Thank's GG

    August 31, 2010 at 11:49 am |
  138. Tony Woolum

    The question Tony posed was what makes a good teacher. High expectations of your students regardless of their background. Teacher enthusiasm for the subject. Class room discipline. All is for naught without the discipline. Finally a teacher must have tenacity, the stick-to-itiveness on a daily basis.

    August 31, 2010 at 11:50 am |
  139. Harriett Bohnet

    Mary Katherine Reynolds, music teacher, and my 7th grade homeroom teacher. She was a jolly person, and as my mother described her, "lit up the whole room". She made it evident that she cared about a room full of students starting in our newly-built, scary junior high school. She told us that she remembered how it was for her.

    August 31, 2010 at 11:52 am |
  140. kelly

    mrs.hill was the teacher i went to detroit schools tell 9 th grade but i just would like to say thank you for showing that people care about detroit my class was first class prof. boehm tryed this on but then it project seed we did so good he has the tape. thank you so much it was good to see him agin.

    August 31, 2010 at 11:53 am |
  141. Bob

    getting excited about math like the school in Detroit is like a candle that shines in the darkness, a hope, an opportunity, dreams and goals a chance to better yourself. These kids are an inspiration.

    August 31, 2010 at 11:53 am |
  142. Francisco Valle

    Hi Tony,

    I commend you for highlighting successful educational achievements mainly among the African-American community and the need for improving the educational success rate of this racial group.

    Are you planning to discuss the educational underachievement of the Hispanic community? In 1980, Hispanic and African American communities were equal at 7.9% of their people with a college degree or higher. Now Hispanics have reached 13.3% while African Americans have reached 19.7%.

    The underachievement of Hispanics is not only an important issue for this community but for the entire United States. This issue will not be solved until a culturally relevant educational system custom developed for Hispanics is implemented.

    I appreciate your consideration of this note.

    Respectfully,

    Francisco Valle
    Ph.D. In Management student.

    August 31, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
  143. Lois Hankin

    Thank you for allowing me to tell you about the best teacher I ever had. Her name was GLORIA MALONE and she taught 11th and 12th grade English at Alliance H.S. (Alliance, Ohio). I learned more from that lady than any teacher before or through college. She taught me how to easily understand correct grammar and how to LOVE learning new words. She never criticized WHAT we wrote in our essays. She said we were all entitled to our own opinions. She did, however, criticize our poor grammar and our delivery. Mrs. Malone and her husband were the only African-American teachers that I recall in High School, but they were the best. And, no, I am not an African-American. I am a very successful and grateful 65 year old lady who makes a very good living as a medical word editor and a "grammar cop". I only hope Mrs. Malone's children know how much she impacted so many lives.

    August 31, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
  144. annette

    (1) Consult and listen to the teachers and students, not the bureaucracy (2) pay teachers as if they were PROFESSIONALS (3) consistent curriculum across the country (4) headstart should be a fundamental part of the school program (why is it a separate agency?)

    August 31, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
  145. C brown

    I know this suggestion would be unpopular, but have we considered what school sports programs cost the taxpayer, and the student in lost educational opportunities. With the funds spent on these programs we could have more teachers and educate our students better. Building a better future for everyone. Then the foccus in school would be on education. It is after all a school for education not a sports training center and there are outside opportunities to play organized sports outside of school paid for by parents.

    August 31, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
  146. fm44

    It is a question that fills the news media when it needs to fill time between disasters or sensational crimes. It is the first words uttered by politicians running for office. It is SCHOOL REFORM. The constant message that fills our ears is how terrible the schools are and how inept teachers are that fill these failing classrooms. The hysteria fired by such rhetoric has accomplished the decline and fall of the American Education System.

    There are those that wave the banner of destruction of the education system. They point to "failing" schools and overpaid teachers. They use state and national tests as evidence of American school's failure. International testing consistently show that America lags behind the rest of the world. The drop out rate is high and crime seems prevalent in some areas. The tax dollars poured into education is creating an unfair burden on a dissatisfied public. They demand improvement. They offer the solution as closing "failing" schools, fire teachers who "fail" their students, and cut spending for "waste" in the schools. The measure of "quality" is in the quantity of correct answers on a test developed by a group of people in New Jersey or Iowa.

    How should we improve schools?

    1. Change the mindset of what makes a good school
    a. It is not test grades
    2. Create a viable community
    a. Inclusive with the theme that "as different as we are and no matter what we do we all work to the same end."
    3. Involve Parents, Teachers, Administrators, Civic organizations, local business, and political figures
    a. Schools fail because some aspect(s) of this involvement has failed to join
    4. Provide the finances to operate a school system that is wanted
    a. Money for supplies, school environment, programs, attract quality teachers and administrators
    5. Attract and educate teachers to be teachers
    a. Colleges of Education need to research education, entice and train teachers to teach, extend its program to "lab schools," involving future teachers in classrooms
    6. Develop the school climate
    a. Positive.. You are good
    b. Supportive… love
    7. Develop viable curriculum based on children needs that is designed to produce the whole person (Bacon)
    a. Not everyone goes to college
    b. Training for future success and happiness
    c. Using Francis Bacon's idea: "Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.
    8. Use standardized testing as a diagnostic tool
    a. These tests are great if used as they were designed for rather than a punitive instrument.
    9. Use fair measures of determining the quality of schools
    a. This must include testing, graduate direction after school, attitude of students, attitude of students, programs to allow a variety of student growth, and much more
    10. Schools that experience difficulties need constructive assistance not destructive.
    a. My mother, the wisest 8th grade graduate I ever met, always said " the carrot works better than the stick!"

    Words are cheap. Actions are quite different. Reform is not a national issue or even a state issue. It is a local task: school by school, district by district. Municipal, state and federal resources are needed as support: financial, consultants and positive reinforcement. Money needs to flow directly to the schools without the filters that siphon off administrative costs. State can help organize consultant teams to aid schools in developing their own model of improvement and long term success.

    Support from all areas. Schools used to work. They can still work. All we need is a little faith.

    What makes a good teacher?
    1. Trained in the techniques of teaching and dynamic s of classroom
    2. Like kids and understands the mind of age group
    3. Is a model of a decent person, a learner and a communicator
    4. Loves his/her job
    5. Be knowledgeable in grade level and subject matter

    August 31, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
  147. Barbara E. Connor

    Your biggest fan here, Tony. Thanks for the opportunity to introduce you to the most innovative, successful teacher in the Gwinnett County elementary school system:my daughter, Babette Wallace, Literacy Special Teacher at Holt Elementary in Lawrenceville. She began her teaching career in an ESEA Title 1 school up on the Cotton Top in Newark, New Jersey. Nineteen years later, she has managed to operate within many environments, most of which never had enough resources offered in so-called "better" schools. She has one regret,. Though she has provided hygiene kits, meals stocked in a refrigerator and heated by a microwave, plaiting the hair of a little girl who didn't want to enter the classroom because she didn't feel good about heself . . . well, you get the picture . . . her only regret is that she does not have what she consdiers to be the one necessity every student needs for success–parental partnership. Who would send a child to school blind folded and hands tied behind their backs? We were poor as dirt but because of our pastor, our loving home, and supportive teachers, one of my daughter's has a doctorate in education, Babs has a Masters, and Camille recruits for Kaplan and at fourty-four has just embarked on her undergraduate degree in psychology–and all because of a solid base to build on.
    Thanks Tony
    P.S. Maybe along with Date Night (a great idea), you and your great gang at CNN could come up with a "Parents Support Your KIds". Babs offers a number of different options for Parent Partners, knowing that –when there are two parents– both have to work and taking a day off is risky in tooday's job market

    August 31, 2010 at 12:16 pm |
  148. Kelley Weber

    My husband and I opted to homeschool our 12 yr old son this year.

    Last year as a 5th grader at Stoddard elementary school in Beatrice Nebraska, Our son was faced with two Teachers(Michelle Blum and Chrissy Strubel) that were just horrible.
    His classroom teacher Mrs. Blum, repeatedly told him he was a waste of "HER" time. She would mumble under her breath mocking him that he was "stupid" and "retarded". She would call him out in front of the entire class and make fun of him. She refused to answer his questions and told him he should pay attention the "first" time. Eventually he stopped asking for help and stopped trying. In front of the entire class she would yell at him, telling him that he was not going to advance to the 6th grade. He felt threatend by her as she would tell him that he would end up spending the next year in her class again. He did pass the 5th grade but we didn't trust her evaluation or his grades and took him to an independant study/learning center over the summer. We found out that he read on a very advance level (which we had already assumed) and that they didn't think his report card reflected his abilities at all. This center is now helping us as we homeschool him.

    His resource Teacher Mrs. Strubel, spent much of her time gossiping on her cell phone and with other staff that entered her room while she was working with students. She talked/gossiped about other students and her class was able to listen to her talk about very private issues with her husband, Mother and other people that called her through out the day.
    She told our son that when he grew up he would most likely live in a "card board box"! She also would pick on him and mock him in the same manner that his classroom Teacher did.
    We spoke to the Princilpal numerous times and she would always assure us that it would not happen again. We spoke with the classroom teachers and spent as much time at the school as we could. It wasn't enough.
    The Principal told us that they had never had a complaint about either of these two Staff members. When we started talking about what our son went through we found out that this was not true. Things that other Parents have told us are outrageous.
    There was even a Paraeducater that we spoke with that acknowledge what our son was telling us was true. This Para quit her job at the end of last year and in her resignation she stated that she could no longer work with these two staff members because of the mistreatment of students and the gossiping.
    After the year ended we spoke with the school Superindentant-he was on the way out-retiring. He didn't want to set up a meeting and just spoke with me over the phone. All he did was thank me for my call and concern. As far as I know nothing was done. When the new Super started I made an appointment and went to his office and spoke with him. Yes he took much time and care to get my entire complaint and we spent over 2 hrs talking about the situation. He assured me something would be done and asked what we wanted to happen. I told him that we didn't want these teachers in that school or to fire them (we have another son in the 4th grade at that school). He assured me he would be "on it".
    First day of school for our 4th grader and those two staff members are still there. It seems as the district has done nothing. I would really like to see these two so called Teachers have some type of punishment for the way they behaved. They should not be Teaching.

    We decided to spend the year homeschooling our oldest son and next year along with his younger brother we will transfer them to a different school district which means going to a smaller town/country type school.
    We would have pulled our 4th grader from this school this year but the 4th grade Teachers at Stoddard are two of the very best Teachers in the entire State. We have had 5 children attend this school district and never would I have thought that an issue like this would be ignored like it has been.

    August 31, 2010 at 12:26 pm |
  149. Name*skyprindle

    9What makes a good teacher?
    Is the ability to be to basis of study by your student,
    The understanding of a great teacher will always be a student continuing to learn as time and knowledge continue to change. The
    Ability to shape young minds , challenging them to find there own abilities,strenghten there weakness while everbroadining their horizions.
    So in short my cousin sarah fillman is a english,gymnastics and cheerleading coach.she is 29 and a amazing teacher in the dc school system. She is highly driven with all her classes even while a auto ammune disease attacks her body trying to fuse her hips and back,
    She works out everyday to stay mobile,and she never stops moving,
    During summer breaks she takes kids on oversea school trips ,shows them the world,I do not see her as much as I would like.
    When we were kids and played school sarah was always teacher,
    I would spin the globe and trace my finger to a hault,sarah would say...,where we going ? Sarah you are a great teacher and I still learn from you,
    Keep up the good fight ,your my hero...rachel prindle

    August 31, 2010 at 12:36 pm |
  150. Janie Edwards

    I think the first thing we should do is make sure that teachers use correct grammar. During one of the teaching sessions shown on CNN, Kelli Ragin used the phrase "What do I got?" instead of the correct phrase "What do I have?" I was shocked that one of the best math teachers uses incorrect English. We need to make sure that teachers are educated in many fields and can be role models for our children.

    August 31, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
  151. Kimberly

    I only graduated this past May, but I was in the top 10 of my class. I believe schools should have curriculum that students have to be involved in, lower student to teacher ratios, and work that is more challenging. When a few students become bored and uninterested/uninvolved, the classroom as a whole gets out of hand.

    August 31, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
  152. Make Parents Pay

    What we need to do to fix the schools is make the parents pay for them. Quit giving tax breaks to people for each extra child, intsead tax people more for each extra child they have. They use more roads, busses, schools, jails, and every other resource. Why should they pay less? Or make all schools private, parents need to pratice planned parenthood and pay for their childrens education. Stop rewarding people for flooding the system and draining our resources.

    August 31, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
  153. Make Parents Pay

    What we need to do to fix the schools is make the parents pay for them. Quit giving tax breaks to people for each extra child, instead tax people more for each extra child they have. They use more roads, busses, schools, jails, and every other resource. Why should they pay less? Or make all schools private, parents need to practice planned parenthood and pay for their children's education. Stop rewarding people for flooding the system and draining our resources.

    August 31, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
  154. Stephen

    It is far easier for an illegal to cross the border into the United States to pick fruit or do domestic work than it is for an experienced Canadian Master teacher to continue their career in the United States. If the system that governs entry into your country was streamlined so that experienced Canadian and other Foreign educators could seek employment in the States your education system would be benefitted,

    August 31, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
  155. Abhijit Parab

    At last we realized the need for Change. Thanks CNN for taking this initiative. Now majority agrees that change is needed but who should change? Govt, School, teachers ? very easy solution that they should change. Why not we ? Remember when we point finger to them there are 3 remaining fingers pointing to us.

    1st I would define issue that at least I am facing. My Son studied in USA , he is going to 6th grade . He score 4 in Maths for two consecutive years and also scored 96% in Stanford Test. So he is considered to be above average student in USA.

    This summer I made him take some exams in India to know where he stands , here are his scores

    Maths – 3 out of 10 – Failed
    Physics – 5 out of 10 – Average Pass
    English Grammar – 2 out of 10 – Failed.

    Then I studied India and Our Syllabus in details for above subjects to know the reason:-
    1. Syllabus in India is revised upward every 3 years, Here in my son’s school district(Which is one of the top 10 in USA) we still follow Syllabus set in Year 2002. Last Year I was in California and they decided to scale down to easier books to maintain higher % of students passing rate? So we are lowering expectation bars and do not want to encourage competition.
    2. India’s emphasis is on Open ended questions than multiple choice. So one has to put together thoughts with right flow using correct words and grammar.. Our students are far behind that..
    3. Students and Parents in India are forced to participate in competition and minimum level of expectation is to graduate in any stream of study. Drop out of school is very less and do not go well in social status.

    Final following is the way I would differentiate this education systems :-

    Here in USA we teach kids to follow rules when crossing road. Go to Zebra crossing, wait for cars to stop for you . Cars will stop for you and then step in to cross road.
    India – All students are forced to cross road, No zebra crossing, no car stops for them. Still students have to cross. Whoever crosses wins and moves ahead for next challenge.
    Now let’s ask question to our self, from day to day life at work, business: – Do other stop for you? Is there a safe crossing zone available?
    If NO how will our students survive in this world? And then we will cry on China and India for taking our jobs.

    Change is inevitable but it should come from within – every one of us should change and prepare our self to rebuild our nation.

    Some suggestions that we can take up :-

    1. Need to completely overhaul our Syllabus and make it competitive internationally. Also this should be periodically revised upward to be ahead of time – Who can do it? – Universities, Private Corp, Teachers, Schools and Districts can take it up.(Accept we are behind the world. Remember 3 years back Ford openly accepted Toyota as superior in quality and now this year Ford vehicle quality scores has succeeded to take over all Japanese cars. GM and Chrysler did not change )

    2. Build infrastructure in terms of all resources to support above – Govt, Private Sectors and School districts can take this up. We should expect to take small burden of it – Nothing will come free- lets Pay for good here – Avg $100/ month/student as schools fees is reasonable amount. Subsidiary for those who can not afford can be worked out. But those who can should come forward to contribute for future

    3. Control Dropouts :- It’s largely Parents responsibility for not letting kids come out of this system , Take 2-3 hrs of everyday to work out with Kids and help teacher, kids to prepare for this competition. we also need online tools available to parents

    4. Encourage competition at all levels.

    August 31, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
  156. Leticia Sierra-Montelongo

    I think the best possible way to start fixing the school system is getting teachers that care about the further of our country and give them an insentive in pay. after all its only appropriate that a teacher who cares for his or her student be compensated and rewarded, We will all gain in that more children become better prepared for life and leadership

    El Paso, TX.

    August 31, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
  157. Ronald Percy

    Teachers need to bring in people from industry to speak and tell what they do in their jobs and to tell all the students struggling with what they will do when they finish school. What are you going to do when you grow up? I talked to some graduating seniors about engineering/ architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, communications engineering jobs and pointed out in the room what part was done by what dicipline. In college we visited plastics injection molding shops, Lawrence Radiation Lab, and other realms.

    Ron

    August 31, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
  158. Karen Fenton

    If we adults focus on the level of individual children and their needs, we will be able to eliminate truancy, bullying, violence, behavior problems and all the things like this that keep children from being able to learn. Children will be able to focus if their basic emotional needs are met. Each child needs to be heard when they are in some way troubled or isolated.

    We need social workers and many counselors in the schools on a daily basis so teachers can focus on teaching and not spend their time disciplining and counseling. It needs to begin with our youngest. We don’t have enough healthy, intact two parent, stress free homes in which our children feel loved, respected and heard so society must switch to providing this if we are ever going to see our children excel in schools.
    I know we can provide a “mentor/listener” for every toddler and child in every day care center and grade school across America.

    The first step is to educate the public on (1) the truth…that babies as well as young children need to feel heard and therefore feel respected. Our toddlers can never learn how to appropriately express what they feel all by themselves, without healthy role models or guidance. No child should be left behind in either their educational OR emotional development.

    Second, we need to (a) Redesign our schools by “marrying” the educators with the social workers and psychologists together under one roof in our schools and colleges, so that teachers will be free to teach and the emotional needs of students will be tended to by those most qualified. (b) Implement a plan that will allow for every school and day care center across the United States to provide trained listeners who will listen to the children on a daily basis, in groups and individually. Have mentors/listeners that will maintain a trusting relationship with the same children year after year throughout their preschool, elementary and middle school years. This will allow each child, to have that opportunity to safely express their pain, frustrations or anger, BEFORE they turn into rage, fury and later on, inward or outward violence. It will cost billions of dollars each year, however, it will be spent on the front end of prevention and not on the back end of destructive violence.

    With a program like this in place thousands of social workers can go to work and daily listen to the children instead of being overburdened with caseloads of families and yanking children out of homes away from parents who didn’t know how to listen to them. Thousands of psychologists can work in public schools and day care centers every day listening to the children instead of working with the damaged psyche of adults who were never listened to when they were children. Teachers can then focus on teaching. The prisons can be emptied because would be criminals will have been listened to and respected as children. The pain and anguish that parents and others suffer from murdered loved ones will be non-existent.

    The unprecedented amount of federal, state and local monies that are now being spent for a criminal justice system that simply doesn't work can be redirected toward covering the cost of an education system that also includes emotional development, with NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND.

    August 31, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
  159. Dana Keller

    1) Better, updated facilities that incorporate technology
    2) Take risks with a variety of innovative teaching strategies
    3) Provide options for all kinds of students (i.e., highly academic schools, schools for kinesthetic learners, kids with LD's, "gifted" programs for all kinds of giftedness, etc.)
    4) For teachers:
    - better training
    - rewards for results (NOT based only test scores)
    - accountability for performance (NOT based only on test scores)
    - more leeway for using a wide variety of educational strategies
    5) Parents who stop making excuses for their kids and get involved in a productive way
    6) Less district level administration
    7) Principals that can manage and lead staff...well
    8) More art, PE, extra curriculars (especially in conjunction with the community)
    9) More counseling staff

    August 31, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
  160. Alvin

    To fix our schools we, as a society, need to change our priorities. We need to make the job of educator one that will attract and hold the best and the brightest. That means paying educators more than professional athletes and entertainers.
    As well as attracting the best and the brightest, we, the community, need to celebrate educational achievement. A friend told me that, in her community, straight A students were driven around to the churches in the community and their achievements celebrated at the Sunday morning worship service. [Talk about a village raising a child!]
    Additionally, we need to take some of the responsibility off of the schools to be everything to all students i.e. psychologist, doctor, nutritionist, behaviorist, social worker, spiritual leader, police officer and parent, etc...

    August 31, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
  161. Sylvester Robertson

    Hi Tony, I’m a technology educator at one of the California State Universities. I viewed your segment with California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O’Connell. Let me share briefly why I believe California is having a difficult time in meeting its educational goals and my solution to this national problem. (1) California schools are in the hands of three governmental agencies and two educational leaders, one appointed and one elected (state board of education, state senate education committee, and secretary of education). These groups have a difficult time agreeing on the best direction for education in the state. (2) All education policy in California is law. To change education policy requires changing in the law. (3) Most funding for California schools comes from the state’s general fund with a cap on local property taxes. All of these factors make it very difficulty for consensus.

    You asked your viewers to give their solution on how to fix our schools. Here is my two cents:

    1. We need to start with administrators and train/or retrain them in the use of technology in the classroom. We currently prepare teachers and administrators to work in schools designed for the 19th century with 21st century students.
    2. We need to infuse 21st learning skills in all curriculum areas. We currently prepare teachers and administrators with teaching tools (paper textbooks, pencils, notebooks, etc.) that are not the tools students use in their every day lives (handheld devices, Internet, cell phones, video games).
    3. Teaching methods should be more student-centered than teacher-centered (Union City School District in New Jersey is a good example). We already know that when students are actively engaged in their learning more learning takes place, attendance goes up and disciple comes down. Providing teachers with staff development time to learn and implement these strategies leads to sustainable learning for students. Teachers are still taught direct teaching methods versus project/problem based-learning approaches that engage students.
    4. Finally, we need to reallocate funding resources that directly effect student achievement. In Union City School District, New Jersey they reduce their spending on textbooks and increase it on children literary material, applied for technology grants, move to a project-based approach in their teaching, and infuse the use of technology in all aspects of instruction. These changes made the district more effective and increased their test scores.

    Sylvester

    September 1, 2010 at 12:19 am |
  162. michelle

    As a current college student I am speaking out as someone who as recently been out of public school. Honestly adults NEED to listen to some of their children's suggestions. If a child is telling you that they feel like they can not wake up at 6 o'clock and then spend 7 or 8 hours sitting in school then listen to them. In my old public school the reason why everyone skipped first period was because they wanted to sleep in. The days where we had some sort of a delay, those were the days mostly everyone showed up. YOUR child is the one that has to endure whatever the school board decides so if they are telling you they don't like something try to reason with them and see their side of things. Being in school for 7 hours a day used to give me massive headaches because the only break we had was a 20 minute lunch break. If only we could have some time to get some fresh air besides lunch and take our mind off of school for a few minutes.

    Honestly I feel like one of the BIGGEST problem in American schools is the fact that students are forced to wake up so early. Studies have shown that if a child receives more sleep they will do better overall. There is a school in New Jersey that has there schools start only 30 min later and student attendance, grades and overall attention span during the school day has dramatically improved (search it up, they have worked around parents work schedules and everything!)

    If the school day begins at least 30 minutes later then students overall performance will dramatically improve. Also I feel like public schools need a more structured way of teaching. The reason why I was never able to learn math was because it got so confusing when every teacher contradicting each other and telling you to do different methods. If Public school curriculum could be more structured and instead of teachers doing things very differently then I feel like students will also have a better grasp on the material being taught to them year after year.

    Also a lot of people are complaining that asian students are better than our students over here then what is so hard about looking at what they do differently then trying to do something similar to them?

    September 1, 2010 at 8:48 am |
  163. Rachael

    Don't blame the teachers explicitly for your child's failure because ultimately it is your fault and your kid's fault if he is not trying to perform well. Teaching is one of the hardest jobs because you're trying to get a bunch of bored kids to listen to you and they aren't logical; my little sister is like this (she's 13). She doesn't see why it's important to go to school. Parents need to reinforce the importance of school and support the schools.

    September 1, 2010 at 9:50 am |
  164. Kym

    At what point do we hold parents responsible for their children's education? when my children are bored at school or not getting what they need, then I step in. I talk to the school and teacher. If needs be, I give them more challenging homework at home. If we want schools and our teachers to just be babysitters, then we need to pay them what we pay the daycare providers!

    September 1, 2010 at 10:06 am |
  165. Kate Wilson

    I was once a teacher at Becky David Intermediate school in St Charles, Mo.. our entire school district had year-round school. The Neighborhoods were divided into A-B-C-D neighborhoods. When A went "on" for 9 weeks, ( then 3 weeks off), the buses/ child care/ friends/ neighbors/ teachers and entire family with kids in elementary/middle/high school went "on" at the same time. Being ON for 9 weeks then "Off" for 3 weeks allowed FOUR vacations a year, in EACH season. A Good Vacation. Families can ski in winter, camp in fall, go to the beach in summer...it was great!
    The kids scored better on tests, retention and review was not near the problem I saw in regular classrooms.
    Schools only had to house 3/4 of their population at any one time, so our school district didn't have to build as many schools. Teachers were on the same schedule as the neighborhood they lived in, and had families in.
    Most new people were skeptical at first, and won completely over after being in it awhile.
    I think the "dumbing down of America" could be reversed with wiser policies such as this. I have also been a host parent for many exchange students in high school... the overall comparison of education level between our elementary and high school students is usually NOT in our favor.

    September 1, 2010 at 10:08 am |
  166. Bill

    When I was in school, we were taught the basics, english, math, science, history, and physical education. We had recess and required to go outside if the weather was good. Seems schools today teach everything but. And teachers were allowed to teach, not told WHAT to teach.

    Students respected the teacher and feared the principal's office. If we got into trouble we also feared our parents when we got home. Today, teachers and principals fear the parents and their lawyer.

    Parents took responsibility for their childs education and took part in the process. Seems that today parents only want results with no responsibility.

    Children in the elementary grades need strict discipline and a high expectation of success and parents must let that discipline take place. Social promotions should not be allowed to continue. If successes are made early, students will be more likely to succeed in high school.

    Finally, teachers should not be penalized and be held completely responsible for sudent failures. Some schools have students who will fail regardless of the quality and abilities of the teacher due to lack of parent involvement and responsibility, and the inability of teachers and principals discipline as needed.

    September 1, 2010 at 10:16 am |
  167. Robert Clegg

    Has anyone noticed that kids don't need any adult help or supervision with complex video games?

    ... hint hint.

    September 1, 2010 at 10:20 am |
  168. Nicholas Boonstra

    I, a student of Leominster Public Schools in Leominster, MA, am trying to help Leominster Public Schools have enough money in their budget to do whatever they need to do. Last year, they were left without any money in their budget. I don't want that to happen again. I want my schools to thrive. I am trying to get this money through a grant given by the Pepsi Refresh Project.

    P.S. Sorry about the double post, I forgot some parts in my last comment.

    September 1, 2010 at 11:39 am |
  169. jeisook thayer

    Yes, Parents bear most of the responsibility. That said we need to teach these young parents how to be parents. We all need to take responsibility when it comes to our youngs. The most urgent need i see in education system in this country is how do we overhaul the teachers union. How can we start holding the teachers accountable. We need new measures and standards for our teachers....

    September 1, 2010 at 11:41 am |
  170. Lee Barrios

    Re San Francisco college savings account for kindergartners: Louisiana has had its TOPS program for years. It began in New Orleans via a pledge and seed money by oilman Patrick Taylor to students who maintain a level of achievement in school that they will receive scholarships to state institutes of higher learning. The legislature later picked it up and continues the funding.

    Re conversation with Tina Bruno of Coalition for Traditional Schools: Her organization and commentary are right on and teachers throughout the country are gathering their voices against Sec. Duncan's so-called education reform design – NOT AGAINST REFORM per se. Teachers are being demonized as the CAUSE of failing education when it should be recognized that they have been PREVENTED from effectively doing their jobs as a result of policies that persist in promoting testing as teaching.

    Re Andrew Bett's K-8 turnaround decision of his failing school: The Feds' unprecedented funding for failing schools come with a huge price and strings attach that will strangle traditional public education. The four "Turnaround" strategies required by RACE TO THE TOP and now being employed in many states in an attempt to meet Duncan's requirements are worse than ineffective. Let me ask you a question – Principal Bott said that "The quality of teachers will make the biggest difference." Where will he get those quality teachers when he fires half of his current staff? I can tell you – Teach for America and TNT. It's opening the door for the privatization of public education. Notice how many of these intiatives are funded by Gates, Eli Broad, Waltons, Millkens? They support the privatization and tranformation to charters because of the huge returns that their INVESTMENTS in education will bring. They MAY actually believe that they are improving education because they are not educators and are not education experts.

    May I suggest that you include Diane Ravitch and Linda Darling-Hammond in your commentary. Big business and money interests have the lion's share of commentary because they have the money to buy that voice!!!! Speak to teachers!!!!

    September 1, 2010 at 11:44 am |
  171. Michael

    Greetings Tony,

    My primary education was in Jamaica where I was born. I came to the US to pursue a university education and later became a teacher, beginning in the school that the President's children now attend. I later taught on the university, high school and elementary school levels in the Nation's Capital. Now, I am retired from teaching. The opinion about the US educational system that I have held for over 45 years is that Americans, by their actions, did not put a high priority on education. It is said that "you must put your money where your mouth is" and until now only the mouth is speaking. This is evident by the fact that teachers have been some of the lowest paid professionals in the USA. As a foreign-born individual, my impression was that many negative attitudes towards education in this country must change before anything can be done to catch up with the rest of the world. A good example of a negative attitude towards the educated is that many Americans think that President Obama is "too intellectual." I found this attitude on all of the levels of education on which I taught. The motivated or bright child becomes a "nerd" in the eyes of may classmates. Some high school graduates ridicule people with a college education, etc., etc. Teachers were once revered in our society. Today, they are attacked, physically by some students, and verbally in both the press and by politicians.

    How do we change attitudes from the ground up towards education? By their actions, the Media, politicians, parents, students and businesses must make concerted efforts towards emulating other societies that place a premium on education. and the educated.

    September 1, 2010 at 11:49 am |
  172. Rachel Ross

    I'm going to be a sophomore in high school this year and I know firsthand about many of the problems adults are talking about right now. I have a 4.0, I participate in extra-curricular activities, and the public school district I attend is great, but I will still have to fight hard to get into the top colleges in the country and the world. This is because I am competing against kids from Finland, Japan, and South Korea... countries that have blown us away on several different tests. This is not fair. I am doing everything I can to prepare myself for college, but there are opportunities that I am missing out on because I don't have the financial resources to go to camps and such that could really boost my applications. Another thing is, even if I do get into an Ivy League college, I would still graduate with thousands of dollars of debt. Our country needs to help kids like me. I want to go to a great college and become a successful member of the work force the moment I graduate and not have to focus on paying off loans. Please, keep talking about fixing our schools, someone will listen, and hopefully do something!

    September 1, 2010 at 11:55 am |
  173. Gene Lucas

    To reduce teacher drop-0ut (50% within 5 years), get the teachers some classroom experience early on. After graduation is way too late. Six weeks after entering teacher's college, my mother was in a classroom with a master teacher. That way, only dedicated teachers will get their credentials – saving lots of money and student's' futures.. Teaching and preaching both require total commitment.

    September 1, 2010 at 11:59 am |
  174. Joan Swim--AVID Elective Teacher/Coordinator

    In elementary school, it is typical for teachers to be nurturing, warm and caring. As students move into the upper grades, that personal connection with students takes a back seat to accountability systems and test results. At L.V. Berkner High School in Richardson (first-ring suburb of Dallas), Texas, we have an amazing program called AVID, Advancement Via Individual Determination, that has changed the thinking of teachers and students about who can go to college. At Berkner, our AVID program has taught us to believe in the potential of every student, particularly those who are in the academic middle and often overlooked, and to expect them to live up to that potential. Students in our AVID elective class are taught the skills needed to be successful and receive the support they need to overcome challenges they face. The AVID elective teacher and students form a bond that creates a family-like atmosphere where the students do not want to disappoint the teachers and will push themselves to achieve what the teacher believes they are capable of achieving.

    Last year, one of our senior AVID students received a full scholarship to Boston College, the Dell Scholarship, the Gates Millennium Scholarship, and the Jackie Robinson Scholarship. He is enrolled at Boston College this fall and plans to major in physics and math. He never knew his father. He was separated from his mother and brother during high school. In 5th grade, his teacher told him he would be nothing more than a "burger flipper." Since 8th grade, he was enrolled in the AVID elective class where his teachers encouraged and pushed him to do what he was always capable of doing. His goals now are to earn a doctorate in physics so that he can work on the Supercollider project. He attributes his success to the skills and support he received in AVID. He is exceptional but not the exception. AVID has helped thousands of students achieve what they did not think or know was ever possible.

    September 1, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
  175. Suzette Kuehl

    How to fix our schools. Great question that truly can't be answered. Money is the number one thing. Cutting the pay of the over bloated principals, superintendant, district attendant, who spouts policies, but does not follow thru with it. Money, money, money.

    Give the power back tot he teachers to do their jobs. We are a society that is teaching these kids that no one can dicipline them and that there is no fear of loss. We are raising the gimme generation without teaching them repercussions for their actions. We are teaching the bullies that they can't be touched, and the one they hurt will go away. Can we really win the war on bullying, and budget cuts, and teacher layoffs?

    MY solution? Virtual School. Our children are on the Michigan Virtual Charter Academy (MVCA K12) and Connections Academy. What don't we have. We don't have teacher layoffs. We don't have crowded class rooms. We don't have disruptive students. We don't have budget cuts. We don't have bullies. We don't have peer pressure. We don't have inappropriate topics being shared. We don't have self-esteem trampling. We do have teachers. We do have principals. We do have extra-curricular activities such as chess clubs, quiz bowl, etc. We do have a love of learning. We do have individual time. We aren't timed constraint. We do have pride in our work. We do perform well on our MEAP tests (even as a homeschooler). I could go on.

    I pulled my children from the public schools here in Upper Peninsual Michigan. For many of the reasons listed above. I send my children to school with confidence in who they are, they come home beaten. I send my kids to school to respect their elders and they come wondering why they don't believe them, stand up for them, protect them. I am done with the brick & mortar schools. They can't get it right. If they haven't gotten it right yet, they will nevr get it right.

    My answer.... take my childrens education into my own hand and find a different solution. There are many solutions, even if you can't afford to homeschool. Find the virtual school and find an available Learning Coach to support their school work. Virtual schools are public schools, private schools, international schools. Are we still connected to the b&m school? Yes, sports. Do my children want to return to a b&m school? No.. they were taught that those adults in those buildings, are not their advocates.

    September 2, 2010 at 8:41 am |
  176. Dianne Marquis

    Some students who repeatedly cause disruptions and harm to other students should also be taken to task. One excuse is that because (in this case) the district is so small the administration cannot deny any student from their education. What about the other 20 or 30+ students in those classes?
    HOMEWORK: A tool with which teachers pass the responsibilty to the parents to educate their own children. Homework is often repetitive and boring. Only the worst of us workaholics bring our own business work home. Why should children? Have a small check list for the week so parents can check the progress of a child, not pages and pages of mind-numbing work sheets.

    September 2, 2010 at 8:42 am |
  177. Elizabeth Thompson

    I am tired of hearing of the "failure" of public schools. News media have focused on large, city schools and have ignored the many small, rural and village schools that are doing a good job of educating students. Our own community school has produced many doctors, lawyers, dentists, banking executives and nurses. My own two children have a doctorate and masters degrees. Our small church congregation (less than 100 members) has three school superintendents and eight teachers . Our school system has even produced an Emmy winner. We are not unique. There are many small rural and village schools that have produced very successful and well-educated people. Our farmers have ag degrees and their wives are nurses, executives, and teachers. Our schools are not ALL failing!!!

    September 2, 2010 at 11:10 am |
  178. James Bauserman

    I have followed the discussion relative to fixing our schools as closely as I can and have not heard one critical factor discussed. I am a retired teacher by the way. The ultimate source of a good teacher is the college or university from which he/she was ALLOWED to graduate. I believe Northwestern (Chicago) issued a kind of guarantee with its graduating teachers: If they don't work, we'll take them back and fix them. Obviously this is tongue in cheek, but it makes a great deal of sense: Colleges should evaluate teacher candidates not only on the basis of passing grades but also on communicative ability and those associated areas.A college should instill (recapture) the idea that teaching is not a 9 to 5 job. and by the way, who Really evaluates the principals?

    September 2, 2010 at 11:23 am |
  179. Mark Reardon

    It's about teacher competence. It's always been about teacher competence. Although teachers attend and graduate from a teacher program for the most part they are inadequately equipped to facilitate learning with today's kids in today's world; a world of technology, graphics, multi-tasking, quick information “sound bites”, and relationships. Kids are immersed in a world of instant connectivity, instant gratification and advanced visual stimulation. These characteristics impact students’ attention spans requiring teachers to rethink and redesign the learning environment and the way students learn the content.

    With the growing implementation of value-added analysis, the statistics are undeniably clear– teacher competence is a significant contributor to the quality of student learning. This is not a new belief. We've intuitively known this for decades. The analyzes now prove it. It's about teacher competence. How to fix that? Implement teacher residency programs modeled after the medical profession. Teacher competence is enhanced by consistent and frequent interactions with master teachers. These master teachers impart best educational practices and partner with the teacher-in-residence to ensure competence.

    It's about student competence. The unfortunate and disproportional emphasis on standardized tests as the sole determinant of student achievement has misguided our educational efforts. Tests on standards are important to show content mastery. The missing ingredient is the teaching of critical thinking to boost students' competence in approaching, analyzing and finding solutions to real-life problems. The direct orchestration of business, political, social and scientific experiences that immerse students in the complexity of today's problems creates milieu in which critical thinking and collaboration grows.

    It's about character. There is an undeniable connection between character and content mastery. Teachers spend a considerable amount of time addressing character–effort, choices, and responsibility–for they know that the development of our character is the foundation to achievement. Character development is a conscious and deliberate act. It is not left to chance. Building the culture of the classroom upon character traits sets a strong foundation for a healthy learning environment. Kids feel safe and respected as they improve the quality of who they are. Additionally, character traits can be developed as they emerge within content–literature, social science, science, and/or math. Through the lens of character traits, students see the connection character has on other people's as well as their own attitudes, choices and actions.

    It's a daunting endeavor to "fix" our schools. No one solution is the answer. The passion and commitment of educators to do what is effective for their students is a great place to start.

    September 2, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
  180. Tukeind

    Floyd (I agree)—

    In today’s society, people can claim they know the difference between right and wrong, however, we live in a time where politicians tell lies, and measure their lie’s effectiveness by polls.

    Coincidentally, “schools in poor and failing neighborhoods have their unique issues,” to which politicians treat as the gift that keeps on giving, and peddling (if not offering) it as a new securities issued on sale to the public at large—underwriters...

    September 2, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
  181. Bill Lane LA, CA

    I am sorry Tony but you are asking the wrong kids about fixing our schools these kids are already on the right track. What we need to do is ask the kids that end up being the drop outs. These are the kids that need our help the most.

    How do we save these kids? What do schools and teachers need to do to meet their needs and turn them around.. We don't take a well running car to the repair shop. So we need to fix what is broken. Ask the kids that are failing what they need to help keep them engaged. We can not afford to lose that human resource we need to harvest all the brain power we can in this economy.

    September 3, 2010 at 10:26 am |
  182. John

    The best way to fix our schools is to learn from the high performing schools. The ones that are consistent in meeting their state standards and use them as a building block for "WHAT WORKS" .
    Instead we lower the bar to teach the test so that low performing schools will just "get by"
    With no child left behind as our nations standard we really need to look at the funding of education and the fact that the people who have the most time and influence on our students are the parents yet the "No child left Behind" has NO accountability for the parents. If a parent can go to jail for their child not attending school why can't we hold them accountable for their child's homework or school projects? We as a nation need to remember that as a parent it is our responsibility to raise our children to take over the country when they come of age. We are not here to be the face book friend or a friend at all. Our jobs as parents is to parent. Not always easy but a huge responsibility.

    September 3, 2010 at 10:55 am |
  183. Judy

    Who is the character, Steve Perry? Why is he your expert, a charter school proponent and teacher basher? How about putting Diane Ravitch on with a different point of view? How about talking about the economics of the situation and exposing the money made by corporations, test makers, and textbooks manufacturers? How about showing the salaries of the CEO's like Michelle Rhee, superintendents, and other so called administrators? Show the stats on how long school heads last before being sent to other districts to make the big bucks. Teachers don't make policy unofortunately by the way. We have a new "reform" movement every few years-this one is just the most destructive. How about an expose on what really happened on in Chicago with Arne Duncan? I hope my comments and other viewpoints will soon be shown be shown on CNN. Your reputation has a fair and objective new organization if suffering.

    September 3, 2010 at 10:57 am |
  184. Cynthia Jones

    I am a teacher and a parent. I have taught in rural, suburban and urban schools in different states. I think that you are completley "missing the boat" with your interviews. It seems that you are interviewing mostly high school students whto appear to be from fairly stable backgrounds where there is at least one parent who encourages them to get a good education. I wouldn't be surprised if these students are on the student council and/or on the honor roll. They are not the ones you need to talk to. They are not the ones we need to worry about.

    The problems in our schools start at the elementary level. Sadly, no one wants to admit that the trouble with our schools is intricately tied to the huge, growing number of children who come from families and homes where children are lacking in parental involvement, discipline, socialization skills. educationally stimulating converstations, and worthwhile educational experiences before they even start to school. Many come from situations where they are often mentally, and/or physically abused.

    Teachers have to deal daily with children who are seriously emotionally disturbed or have no desire or motivation to cooperative and participate appropriately. Of course, part of that motivation should come from the teacher, especially in the early grades. But far too many teachers spend what should be instructional time having to deal with behavior issues. Because of this, the needs of most of the children in the classroom are being compromised. Some of them are frightened and discouraged by witnessing improper behaviors, while others, may "copy" the inappropritate behaviors.

    Consequences used by teachers and administraters are seldom effective. Many children really don't care if they lose their recess. They can't stay after school because of bus schedules. Many administraters are reluctant to suspend children because more often than not they will be left alone at home to play and watch TV. (Some punishment!) Or , they may be subjected to severe physical punishment. Either way, they are not in school learning what they need.

    Schools need to provide more special classes for students who, because of emotional problems are consistantly distracting other students and interrupting instruction. These students are certainly entitled to a good education, but they should not be in classrooms where they interfere with the instruction of the other children!

    These problems won't be fixed with fantastic technological teaching tools or state-of the-art school buildings. ( Many highly-educated Americans received their early education in one-room schoolhouses). We don't need "better" teachers, we need systems that enable teachers to teach without constant interruptions and interference, and we need more help for those students with behavioral and emotional problems.

    September 3, 2010 at 11:44 am |
  185. Henrietta M. Bayne

    I retired in June 2010 from teaching public high school math for 33 years. I taught in Arizona, New Jersey and South Carolina. I taught across the curriculum from tech classes to AP Calculus. I have a few suggestions to fix our schools.
    First, we must understand that today's students are smart, they are totally aware when the curriculum is not necessary or important to their lives. I suggest that public schools teach students through eight grade basic skills in communication, health and finance. After eight grade students (along with their parents and guidance councilors) may select one of the following: a trade school, academic school or technology school. Students will be interested in the choice they make and engaged in the process. Changes can be made based on student performance.
    This is a complete overhaul of our current system, but we must all agree that something major needs to change.

    September 3, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  186. Tukeind

    From gleaning over some of these discussion threads, I am concluding that schools need to do a better job dealing with students with behavioral issues, as a result, schools need to collaborate with parents, as well as, psychologists in extreme cases; in addition, schools need to a better job dealing with students using drugs on school grounds…

    Now, should these kinds of issues be resolved by schools prior to fixing our schools or somewhere in between, I think Ken’s remarks concerning mandatory education not only makes sense, but also resolve the nonsense of identifying, and associating fixes to the school system under a plethora of negative externalities—connected to far too many revolving—identifiable (cultural/political) origins.

    Eliminating, teachers contract and tenure, as well as, reducing the pay of a school’s top administrator (principal) in poor performing schools, intuitively, not only reflects an earnest start to fixing our schools, but also it makes sense from a business perspective that it occurs, not remain missing.

    September 3, 2010 at 11:25 pm |
  187. Cleon Roberts

    What's the beef? What we get out of the education system are the things we value, football, basket ball, etc. I would venture to say no country in the world produces football players as skilled in the sport as the United States. And no wonder. look at the money we spend on the sport, the hours of commentary, the reverence, the bands, the cheerleaders, the parades. Just imagine the return we would have in math and science scores if we spent as much money and energy to promote academics.

    We could give math and science so much prestige that kids would be waiting in line to sign up. Teachers could select their own students. The math and science scolars would wear cool uniforms, have a pep rally once a week before the test, and the principal would announce a thought by thought description on Monday morning of how his students approached each problem .

    My beef is the hubbub of talk shows and politicians, complaining about teachers unions and tenure. Both are largely nonexistent

    September 5, 2010 at 10:03 pm |