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August 30th, 2010
01:50 PM ET

From Today's Show, August 30, 2010:

CHALK TALK: She's a nine-time Grammy award winning artist, an actress and all-around super star but Mary J. Blige is taking on a new cause–Educating young girls and getting them interested in science, engineering and math! The R&B star has paired up with NASA and is showing young girls that not even the sky is the limits. You can read all about what Mary J is doing on her foundation website! 

MISSION POSSIBLE: If you were watching today, chances are Tae Tae Davis captured your heart-if you weren't, she will! This 13 year-old is a on a mission to keep art in school and isn't just talking about it, she's acting! Read all about Tae Tae here!


It's the last week of summer vacation for most public school students; a week filled with dread, excitement, back to school shopping or last minute vacations.  And it's a time of stress and anticipation for their families, many of whom see school as the key to a bright future.  For NINETY percent of American students, school means PUBLIC school.  Some public schools are exemplary – with teachers and lessons and buildings that will remain in a student's consciousness forever.  Others are marred by violence, poverty, poor equipment, frustrated teachers and bullies.  But public education in the United States remains the absolute best hope for the future.  On this show, you've seen our Chalk Talk segment, but this week CNN is dedicated to a week-long discussion called "Fix Our Schools"

Literacy is high in America – among the highest in the world.  Despite that, America is NOT graduating the most competitive students, and we're not giving them the number of instructional hours that some of the world's most competitive economies provide.  Now, "Fix Our Schools" DOES presume something is broken when, in fact, much is right in U.S. public schools. Education is compulsory in the U.S. and, although schools are increasingly calling on families to provide supplies, public education is, for the most part, free.  What, exactly IS broken in public schools?  Disputes center around cost, curriculum and control.  What sort of facilities are best? Does the environment matter as much as what students learn, how they learn and who teaches them?  Is the role that teachers play more important than the role parents play? And are we adequately dealing with the fact that many students in America – in 2010 – still go to school hungry.  Then there's standardized testing.  Does it guarantee that students are uniformly competitive with their peers here and around the world?  Or does it encourage the teaching and memorization of facts rather than concepts and theories?  And should standards be set by the feds, the state, or the locals? Another issue is whether parents should be allowed to CHOOSE their children's public school, or should they just go to the nearest? And what about charter schools, which allow public money to be used for selective admission?  While they improve education, do they impoverish the overall  system by creating a two tier world?

On this show we feature solutions –  And we'd like to hear from you – Add a Comment right here on this page. We are listening and thanks for watching.

Filed under: Ali Velshi • Chalk Talk • Mission Possible • XYZ
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Mary G

    Is there a link where I can listen again to the interview Ali did with Tae Tae Davis? I have a daughter who was an art major in school, was recently on her local school board for 4 years and happens to be ill at this time. I would like to be able to send the link for that interview to her. I would not be surprised if she would be a contributor to the program. Thank you for any information you can provide. KIDS ARE GREAT and THEY HAVEN'T BEEN PROGRAMMED YET TO DIMINISH THEIR DREAMS!!!!

    August 30, 2010 at 2:02 pm |
  2. ken

    Your claim that we are not giving enough of instructional hours in school is untrue The latest survey I saw last week said the U.S. has more instructional hours than any other country. Some other countries like japan and china have more class days but still less total hours because we have longer school days. More school days and more hours will mean more money for teachers and higher taxes for all the other people who don't even have kids. All this hype about education is just like the hype about terrorism. How much more money do we need to spend to be safe or to have more students coming from mexico or the inner cities graduate from school. Just eliminate mandatory education. Students who want to learn will learn and the others can just drop out.. So what.

    August 30, 2010 at 2:08 pm |
  3. Mary Jenkins

    Regarding the iquestion of who's to blame when kids fail tests – parents or teachers?....

    What about the student? Should we expect some personal responsiblity from students? Success in school depends on lots of facors – home and school being two of them. How would you like your livelihood to depend on the performance of kids who may or not care how they perform on sometimes meaningless tests?

    August 30, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  4. Constance from Tx

    regarding education in America. Have you looked into Jonathan Kozol author of Amazing Grace and Savage Inequality. Hard read but how can it be overlooked.

    August 30, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
  5. Gene Lucas

    The main thing wrong with U.S. education is the "modern" curriculum, which does not believe in memorization, rote, practice, cursive writing, etc. That's why our kids are near the bottom. All you have to do is examine church schools and private schools where traditional education still exists.

    August 30, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
  6. Southgate Jo

    I live in the Detroit area. I see the disaster that is the Detroit Public School system. Students and teachers are in constant fear from gangs, bullies, wacko parents, drive bys, drugs,...the list goes on. Just one of these things can completely undermine the child's ability to learn. When you are in fear for your life, it makes it impossible to give your education any credence at all.

    We need to take control of the public school system and make absolutely certain that those who cause problems in the school system, are not allowed to return to the school system. Education should be a privilege in this country. A gift given to those who deserve it. I am for a system that is tolerant for strike one and strike two but, there will never be a strike three. Those who are tossed out of school are banned from attending school for the rest of their lives. This is a hard decision but one that must be made so that those who are deserving and merit and education ...get one!

    August 30, 2010 at 3:56 pm |
  7. Robert Clegg

    Hi Ali & folks at CNN. Keep up the great work. In the meantime, I thought I’d provide a little counterpoint for you here:

    Trap of the Inspirational Story:

    CNN falls into the trap of presenting the “inspirational story” for fixing education. These stories are exceptions rather than the rule. They are exceptions because exceptional people are doing them. It looks all too easy in a media sound bite to say this is the way to do it, but in reality, most people aren’t that dedicated, inspired, motivated or focused or skilled enough to see things through. People run into bureaucratic walls, differing opinions, uninterested opposition, fierce opposition, and more. While it looks simple, it just isn’t for most people. And therefore, these aren’t “solutions” for education.

    The biggest mistake CNN makes in this area happens when Steve Perry contributes. He’s a phenomenal man, full of dedication, skills, vision and persistence. Yet you can’t easily duplicate his school success across America! It’s not as easy as putting all his know how in a training manual and videos and sending it out. He ends up talking about a lot of shoulds and coulds when the implementation of what he says will never happen in the majority of schools in need in America.

    For further discussion, I’ve taken the time to outline other Myths of Education Reform along with a Framework for Transformation. The following posts are a result of my experience as a full time substitute in the NYC Public Schools, followed by being an entrepreneur working to raise venture capital and launching a company to develop innovative educational products for the public schools. I’ve broken the posts up into 2 areas:

    1. Myths of Education Reform – Don’t let Politicians, Pundits, or the media fool you

    2. A Framework for Educational Transformation – Checklist for failure

    August 30, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
  8. xef

    Your map of the Iraq coalition showed Canada as having participated. We most certainly did not.

    August 31, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
  9. Iris Jacoby

    Control of the class, Making the lesson interesting by using visuals that catch student" attention. Engaging "every" student, not only those who have the answer, regularly but more importantly those who do not appear to have the answer. It's easier for the teacher to call on students who are either out going or aggressive and have the answer as opposed to those who do not participate. It's the teacher's responsibility to know why a student isn't engaged in the learning process. These students are just coasting through and not learning. This culture typically has the potential of creating a disruptive climate in the classroom. Moreover, those students usually are not vested in the learning process. It's the teacher's primary responsibility to identify who those students are and begin to motivate them to become both responsible and engaged. By merely calling on these students in class regularly can instill responsibility for learning. This method is usually effective and will create a healthy balance within the classroom. Students build confidence and success with continued interest by participating in the group. I noticed that during your short video the same students spoke for the entire class when questions were posed. Additionally the same students answered or raised their hand at least 2x.

    In summation the fundamentals, for a teacher classroom relationship to promote effective learning are: 1.Control 2.Engagment of all students, not only the ones who have the answer, but those who don't must be engaged, and made to become responsible, An unequal balance can lead to boredom and disinterest and potentially lead to a disruptive environment for the entire class. 3. Variation and creative methods of engagement i.e., all recite together, colorful visuals, a creative culture and full participation is a reliable motivator for all students in the classroom. 4. Parent participation and getting to know each student's home situation will help the teacher to formulate a more individualized curriculum as well.. Re-tooling the teacher, not only the students will create a more productive culture in the classroom.

    August 31, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
  10. wesja13

    Talking about education, I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. N.M. is ranked 46th up 2 marks from last year's rating. I want to know who the top 5 school systems are. Send the failing state's educators to study what the top 5 school systems are doing. What works for the best can work for the worst.

    August 31, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
  11. Don Willis

    I am practically jumping out of my skin listening to all the educational"pundits" tell us what is wrong with our schools (Chalk Talk) I have just retired from 38 years of teaching and no where do I hear anything about the MAJOR missing part of this equation – THE PARENTS!!! In my opinion, too many parents want to leave their responsibility at the school's doorstep and let the schools "fix my kid"! When the parents fulfill their responsibility, then and only then will schools show improvement as parents, and teachers enter into a symbiotic relatioinship to help their children improve!!

    August 31, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
  12. Melissa

    The problems with our schools today are of a major importance. I feel as though everyone can take a part of the blame for this. Teachers, students, and parents all need to know what the other is doing to be sure that all young people today can get a good education. I am in tenth grade and go to school in NY just outside of the city. Every year the state requires everyone take regents and other state tests to be sure that everyone is learning what is necessary to survive had one day obtain a real courier. People continue to complain about a lack of education, yet every time another student passes these tests, they are told they are right on track and are where they need to be. If people are upset with the amount and the quality of education that students are obtaining then the each state should require everyone do more. To be sure the majority of kids pass, teachers will be responsible for teaching more material throughout the school year. I definitely am against extending the school year throughout the summer. Everyone needs a break and a time to recharge and just be a kid. To allow for the extra material to be taught it should be required that teachers themselves learn how to react to bad behavior. So much time is lost in school due to the very common disruptions of students who really just do not want to learn. Teachers, I believe, should have less tolerance for students who make the choice not to behave and not to learn.

    September 1, 2010 at 11:33 am |