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June 13th, 2009
11:24 AM ET

Improving America's Schools

There's a big push to overhaul America's public school system. The Obama administration wants to attract better teachers, raise test scores, and more.

CNN's TJ Holmes recently caught up with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. He's not sure our schools - in their current state - can compete globally.

Wake up with Betty Nguyen, TJ Holmes and Reynolds Wolf every Saturday and Sunday starting at 6am ET/3am PT.

soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Joe in New York

    I am a recently certified teacher in the state of New York. I have been amazed at how little teachers are paid for their dedication. With the cost of living and student loan payments, a large percentage of teachers must work secondary jobs just to make ends meet. This puts a tremendous strain on the teachers within the classrooms. Public schools put trust in teachers to educate the children of this country but do not compensate them for this dedication and trust. I agree with Secretary of Education, Mr. Duncan, that teachers are not compensated for the job they do.

    June 13, 2009 at 12:40 pm |
  2. Ronald J Kriel

    Anyone really interested in improving our education system must read "The Conspiracy of Ingorance" by Martin L. Gross.

    June 13, 2009 at 12:50 pm |
  3. Rosa Pache

    To extend the school day is a great idea! As a Miami-Dade County School teacher, I know this to be true; Mr. Crew (Ex-Superintendent) put it into action and he was criticized for it. However, I am seeing the difference of a shorter day. At my school, we meet students before school, after school and give them test related homework to take home. Teachers are extending the school day, spending time at school without compensation, and supporting the students. However, as we support the students, give them extra time (without compensation), who is supporting us? We can wish to even out the field, but if we want results we must make it into a verb—action. It will not be easy, it will be painful, but it will yield positive results for our society. We must pay for education or jail; it is that simple. I agree with Mr. Duncan, but when, when it going to happen? When are we going to experience the verb? I and other teachers have so much to say and so much to suggest. I work at a school full of loud mouth, action driven, ready to work teachers, excellent assistance principals, and an outstanding principal who goes beyond the call of duty for our students. Mr. Duncan, now we need the Federal Government to include us.
    Put together an education commission to develop the following, in the following order:
    1. National standards
    a. Elementary subjects teach, reinforce and deepen basic skills.
    b. Instead of one teacher for elementary, core classes would be divided into a minimum of two teachers
    i. Math and Science—one teacher
    1. Teach students the language of math, and science.
    ii. Reading/writing/Social Studies—one teacher
    1. Fund K3 and K4 programs
    2. Require that teachers, teach students to break down sentences, put them together.
    3. Currently most states have one teacher per elementary grade for the core classes.
    2. Develop Federal Curriculum
    3. Testing Criteria
    4. Test—one test for all states, and those state that want to develop their own test must meet national standards; not the current labyrinth that we have.
    We must admit/understand that we no longer live in secluded communities with individual needs. This world society requires a global education that meets global needs.

    A concern Black, Latin, Woman, Mother, Teacher and Global Citizen
    Rosa E. Pache

    June 13, 2009 at 2:31 pm |
  4. Ann Sullivan

    I am 81 years old and have had the expierence of having employers insurance that finally got so expensive that I had to find affordable health insurance. In my opinion Medicare is great insurance. It keeps the costs in line. Why can't we all have the insurance that is affordable. I'm with President O'bama.
    Ann Sullivan- Florissant, Mo

    June 13, 2009 at 2:41 pm |
  5. Ali Farivarrad

    The Beginning Of Their End:

    Today is a big day for Iranian people. This is a beginning of the Iranian government's end. We announce their sense of dictation in the world. We are ready to pronounce their absurdness, corruption and deception. Today is a day when I cry blood for our youth. Even though I'm far away from home, I will write and sing on behalf of my people for freedom and dignity. I went to Hotel Hite in Mission Viejo, California to vote. I met many people who were interested to vote for "Mosavi". I had an interview with one of the reporters from United Press and I explained that I'm here to choose the Bad from the Worst. I mentioned that as long as the Iranians are behind the fence of the superior leader (Mr. Khamenehi), they won't reach freedom. They will be deceived by their dictator and their voice will be diminished by the law which is based on their dictator and injustice.

    This is not a new thing. We experienced such dishonesty before in "The Avenue of University" in IRAN when they went to the dorms and beat up students and killed some of the innocents in the name of god.

    Mr. Khatami and Moosavi need to face with this dishonesty. They didn't say a word when students were asking them to step in and support them but they choose to be silence in front of the superior leader (Khamenehi).

    I'm so happy that they can understand the depth of injustice in the system where they used to work in.
    I think the new slogan for "Iranian Superior Leader Followers" in IRAN is: "Hail Khamenehi" in the memories of Adolf Hitler.

    Ali Farivarrad
    06/13/09

    June 13, 2009 at 2:49 pm |
  6. CJ

    I didn’t discover Tetris, Fred, until I was 55 years old. Then I got a cell phone. I downloaded the game and didn’t stop playing for a solid year. For hours every day. I was utterly hooked and became expert. Actually, I destroyed my first phone just playing Tetris. Then got another and then finally stopped playing! When I realized I’d never be able top a score I attained one day on EA’s cell-phone version of the game.

    Tetris is a terrific game, and so congrats to Alexey on an amazing invention. I’m happy he’s finally getting to enjoy the success he deserved but didn’t receive at first, because a Russian who at the time was not able to patent his own creation. The story of Tetris’ creation and then dissemination is almost as fascinating as the game itself.

    June 13, 2009 at 3:00 pm |
  7. Anamaria

    What about your Democrat Strategist supporting sexual assault on 14 years old children – yesterday, on “The Situation Room” with Wolf Blitzer?
    He did not answer my question:
    What is “THE FUN” part in a 14 years old child’s sexual assault?
    Thank you,
    Anamaria
    U-City, MO

    June 13, 2009 at 3:46 pm |
  8. alberta green

    Who could argue that we need to provide all persons with health care. the US has one of the poorest health delivery systems-and we spend for this the most money.
    The medical insurance companies are making record profits.
    We need to put this money to work for all of us. It is obscene that the richest country allows its people to go without medicine and treatment. This is not "equalilty"-this is capitalism run amuck!!

    June 13, 2009 at 4:04 pm |
  9. SOSLady

    Can American Education Compete? Yes, the real questions are, can you handle the pressure to make change and are you willing to spend the money to make the necessary changes in education? From my perspective, you spend your money on what you value. We can say we value education; however, when we look at the budget cuts effecting K-12 and postsecondary education there currently seems to be a contradictions in values. I think we are in a good position to turn education around. First, President Obama and First Lady Michelle have two young children, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden have three children (one in the military), and I think they have 5 grand children, and the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have two young children; therefore, they are not just talking from addressing education just from institutional knowledge, they are talking from real life relevant and up-to-date experience.

    Next, I would like to encourage the administration to keep an open mind for change as their team takes a look at education in the Fall. Have an open agenda that is modifiable. Try not to come in with the a template that you know what is going to work, because demographically that may not be the best focus. For instance, longer school days and more time in the classroom. sounds like a great idea for helping students compete globally; however, in a school with poor conditions a more immediate goal maybe to remove molded carpet, paint the walls, and updated textbooks. Additionally, please take a look at the schools who are being hit hard by the economy first and the school districts where the test scores are low. Personally visit these places and take time to listen to the parents. Hearing from key community leaders, administrators, and teachers are valuable. Listening to the voice of the parent is powerful, they will tell you the truth based on reality and it some cases perception. But, remember perception is often ones reality. Last, change often brings critics and a great deal of politics. As long as you know you are doing a good for overhauling American Education move forward and when you feel like giving up, turn around and see how many are following you, it will give you the strength to keep pressing forward.

    June 13, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  10. RJ

    Problem is too many so called teachers, they get a degree in education simply because its the easier degree to obtain and always a job for a teacher. Teaching is like nursing, dont get a degree to work in these fields simply for a paycheck, you want a paycheck go work in a department store or something, only dedicated need apply! Kids are not being taught this I know for a fact! One example, my daughter missed 79 days her senior year and still passed 9th in her class, go figure that out! Push em through and make it look like the kids are doing great and get that check in the mail to hire more unqualified teachers! Schools are not to be ran like businesses they are to be run like schools that have a primary goal of educating!

    June 13, 2009 at 10:14 pm |
  11. Katie

    After teaching for 20 years, participating in at least five major "overhauls" of Language Arts/Reading instruction....all of which simply consisted of simply "reinventing the wheel," I am annoyed that intelligent people still think that millions of tax dollars, hundreds of professional hours, and countless statements of political rhetoric will solve the problem. It won't. I was trained to teach special needs children and, also, students who were academically gifted.........both groups require instruction that meets their needs. (And I preferred the challenge of the special students–although the gifted kids satisfied my egocentric love of content.). That does not mean "dumbing down" the curriculum for less able kids, and it certainly does not mean simply giving the academically gifted students more work in an accelerated manner. Each child (and I taught junior and senior high school) has as much value as every other student, but the process of teaching needs to be understood, and each level requires a specific kind of instruction. I was a very skillful teacher, was tough but funny...and the kids knew they had to work, but would have fun in class. However, I was financially subsidized by my family, took every class I could find that would increase my teaching skills.....not simply add to my knowledge of my content area. Just because you can read–or know something about history–does NOT mean that you can teach. Hold us accountable. Require that we be as skilled in teaching your children just as a plumber needs to be to fix your pipes. Do not be deluded in popular thinking that young, new teachers should replace the "old" ones–some of the worst teachers I supervised (as department chairman) were newly graduated and desperately needed mentoring-. You must, must demand that the old tenure system be replaced/modified to get rid of teachers who don't care or can't do a stellar job of teaching your children. And say "thank you " to those who spend inordinate amounts of time, energy, and money on our profession, because many of us believe that it is a holy mission. Remember...most of your children's teachers can't afford a home in your school district, and most of them do not take their children to Europe or Hawaii for vacations. I believed that your children were worth the sacrifices, but i'm not certain that their parents shared my view, nor do I think that the current administration(s) value the time and effort that it take to develop the skill to teach in depth and with the understanding of each child's educational and cognitive style

    June 14, 2009 at 12:59 am |
  12. RJ

    Katie I commend you for being a teacher and having the guts to admit the biggest problem with teachers is the teachers and the fact they run schools and make decisions based on money! I`ve known several of teachers that I grew up with and their primary reasons for being a teacher was all the time off teachers have and a decent wage! Now many teachers will claim they are under paid but in reality the are above the national average and when you figure in all benifits and paid time off they are paid well! No one ever said you can become rich teaching but thats what these so called teachers are looking for fat apycheck and lots of time off! Our kids spend less time in school than any modern industrialized nation period and the teacher cant figure out why our kids dont measure up to other countries with way less resources!

    June 14, 2009 at 8:35 am |
  13. Larry

    Over the last 30 yrs I've watched the decline in our educational system, just as I've watched the decline of every other aspect of our society.

    We blame the schools and the teachers for poor education but the real problem is as simple as this......Until parents start engaging in their childrens' lives again and take a sincere interest in their education nothing will change, regardless how much money you throw at it.

    Schools have become babysitting centers for parents who are too preoccupied chasing their next SUV and their next mansion. Of course that is changing now with the financial collapse. May be needed this to wake people up.

    June 14, 2009 at 11:10 am |
  14. Ali Hamdani

    Improving the schools in america will be hard. There are a lot of kids that lack creativity. Some just be apart of the scene. Then there are some kids who create and go far. Like the kids on this link. The kids are so creative they put this video on youtube. You should watch. True producers and directors of the future. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3B6xJy-uYHs

    June 15, 2009 at 12:34 am |
  15. Auth

    I agree with Rachel as an Elementary teacher the best adcvie I could give you is finding a teacher that would be willing to let you go into there classroom. Teaching is hard work but very rewarding. You will never make a lot of money, have to deal with angry parents, spend a lot of your own money of resources for your classroom, and work a lot outside of school (grading, preparing etc) but if this is the right career for you all of these things become less important and trying to educate a teach achild is what really matters.If you want some questions when I was in college we had to go and observe and some questions I asked my cooperating teachers were:What is the most/ some rewarding things that you find as being a teacher?What are some of your challenges that you face? Hardest things about being a teacher?Describe a typical dayHow do you deal with angry parents? demanding?Why did you become a teacher?What keeps you teaching?What are three (or whatever number you want) things you wish you knew going into teaching your first year that you didn't learn from school or student teaching?those are some things I thought of otherwise google what to ask my cooperative teacher? questions to ask a teacher?S

    June 16, 2012 at 5:40 pm |

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