Archive for the ‘Obama administration’ Category

While speaking at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Virginia, President Barack Obama laid out key changes to No Child Left Behind.

“I want every child in this country to head back to school in the fall knowing that their education is America’s priority,” Obama told the crowd. “Let’s seize this education moment. Let’s fix No Child Left Behind.”

Some of the items include:

  • A fair accountability system that shares responsibility for improvement and rewards excellence, and that is based on high standards and is informed by sophisticated assessments that measure individual student growth;
  • A flexible system that empowers principals and teachers, and supports reform and innovation at the state and local level; and
  • A system focused on the schools and the students most at risk — that targets resources to persistently low-performing schools and ensures the most effective teachers serve students most in need.

According to the Department of Education, NCLB’s broken accountability system means that the overwhelming majority of schools will not meet NCLB’s goals and the students most at risk won’t get the help they need. 

During his speech, the President praised current efforts by Congressional leaders to replace NCLB and urged Congress to make these vital reforms before the next school year begins. 

Sources: Department of Education, Whitehouse.gov

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By Jeff Pett, Fleetwood Group

I sat in a local restaurant early this morning next to a table of retired gentlemen who were “solving the world’s problems.”  A lot of their conversation centered on the planned visit this week of President Barrack Obama to our fair city.  He will be here to highlight a new battery plant via its groundbreaking ceremony, actually one of two new battery plants gearing up here in Holland, MI to produce batteries to power electric cars for Ford and GM.  (Yes, I did talk about another west Michigan presidential visit just last month in my blog!  He must have figured out that summer is a great time to be in west Michigan!)

Promoting alternative energy is probably the president’s primary reason to be here this week, but certainly the addition of jobs to our local economy will be highlighted as well.  What difference does manufacturing make in the USA nowadays, anyway?  Does it matter if we outsource making things to other countries?

It has become fashionable over the last 15 or so years to claim that we are moving “beyond” a manufacturing economy to a service and information economy.  After all, the logic goes, manufacturing is a dirty business and many of the jobs in manufacturing are “unskilled”, so maybe it’s best to let those jobs go to other countries.  As Americans we fell in love with our computers, the internet, the tech bubble of the 90s, and our smart phones, so it seemed like maybe a good idea to ship our manufacturing jobs overseas… to let someone else do the dirty stuff while we do the “intelligent” stuff.

Even here in Ottawa County, where I live and work, there was some acceptance of that logic despite the fact that, at 30 percent, we possessed the nation’s highest proportion of manufacturing related jobs.  Nationally only 10.1 percent of non-farm jobs are manufacturing related, down from 25 percent in 1970.  Within the triangle formed by Holland, Muskegon, and Grand Rapids, we were enjoying the highest economic growth rate in the nation back in the 1990s.  With our strong work ethic, a high density of entrepreneurs, and a generally union-free environment (and employers who understood how to take good care of their employees to keep it that way), we were in our own bubble enjoying the good life.

As a country we now seem to be taking a long second look at the value of manufacturing these days.  Because we have allowed so many of our manufacturing jobs to move to other countries, most of what Mr. Obama would like us to invest in to stimulate the economy, it turns out, will add employment to OTHER countries first.  Want to invest in wind energy?  Look to Europe.  Want to invest in high speed rail?  Look to Europe or Asia.  We do manufacture automobiles, still, though the “New American Manufacturers” (foreign car companies that now build their cars in the USA) have been kicking our tails for years.  Toyota now has 15 manufacturing plants here in America.  They have figured out how to do manufacturing in the USA.  They pay a lot less, have no unions to deal with, and have pretty happy employees.

But I digress.  The point is that we need to make stuff.  We need to be proud to make stuff here in the USA.  The “intelligent” jobs are a small percentage of total employment in the product development/manufacturing cycle, and even those jobs are following the manufacturing jobs elsewhere.  If we allow ourselves to further wade into being a “service and information economy” we will generally have less innovation, fewer good paying jobs, and we will be more at the mercy of other countries for the products we need.  And, as we are beginning to see with China, they will own us.  If there ever was a national security issue, this is one.

I, for one, am proud to be employed by a manufacturer of educational furniture, all built here in Holland, Michigan.  We don’t import products to resell.  We employ 160 people, and we buy steel, wood, paint and fasteners that we cut, bend, weld, paint, and assemble into very high quality furniture that students, teachers and administrators use nationwide.  We all need to become passionate about re-growing our national manufacturing base going forward.  Our future, and that of our children and grandchildren, depends on it!

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By Jeff Pett, Fleetwood Group, Inc.

Here in west Michigan we had the privilege of having President Obama give the commencement address at Kalamazoo Public High School this month.  It was quite an event.  It brought a lot of excitement along with extensive local and national news coverage.  For some people the most significant take-away was the poor young man who was desperately fighting off sleep just over the president’s shoulder.  Before the speech was over there were new Facebook accounts and YouTube video clips highlighting his struggle.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did not vote for Mr. Obama.  However, he IS our president and he WAS in west Michigan, so I watched the event in the comfort of my living room.  The President did a great job overall, and he delivered a very good speech.  And, in defense of the dozing choir member, those kids were in that gym forever before the president arrived.

What you may not know is that Kalamazoo Public Schools is the recipient of the “Kalamazoo Promise”, a fund created by anonymous donors that virtually guarantees every high school graduate will have access to a fully funded college education.  (The Upjohn Institute is doing an ongoing study of this experiment.  You can read more at http://www.upjohninst.org/promise/index.htm .)

As impressive and as heart warming as the ceremony was my thoughts since that night have centered on rethinking my preconceptions about what motivates our youth to push to succeed versus settling for less.  Here at a not-so-well-to-do public high school where a college education is now a very attainable thing, it appears that the students (and parents) are pushing more than ever before to get to college.  It made me think back on what it was like for me to grow up, and what motivated me to go to college.

In my family, it was clearly expected that you WOULD go to college.  Both my parents had graduated from college, my mother getting an advanced degree, and all of my siblings getting at least a college degree, with three of the five of us achieving either a masters or a doctorate.  There were no “if you go to college” discussions.  It was, “you better get your grades up or you won’t get into college!”  The way that was said you somehow knew that there could be no worse fate!  For me going to college would not have been automatic if not for my family expectations, and if we had not had the means (my parents were relatively well off… but they still made us pay for half of our college costs.)  I was not a model of maturity, and sports and girls were much higher on my list of life’s most important pursuits.  My grades reflected what it took to stay eligible for sports.  Period.

What happens if you DON’T live with that expectation, either at home or at school?  What if you knew your parents couldn’t afford it?  What if it was a joke to even THINK about going to college?  When you know you do not have access to what your other classmates do, where do you focus your energy?  Possibly NOT in the classroom, but in the kinds of things that work to negatively affect your life.

Since 2006 the students at Kalamazoo Public Schools have had the cost barrier to a college education removed.  The community seems to have rallied to the call and is further reinforcing the expectations for a higher education.  The students are now MOTIVATED without barriers.  It appears that a larger number of the students there are now applying themselves to prepare to get into college.

What will happen in that community over the next decade or two with a larger proportion of the population that has had the benefit of a college education, and the prospect that their children will ALSO have that benefit without breaking the bank?  Do you suppose the community will flourish?  Do you suppose that the greater good of that micro-society will improve?  Will that community attract people and businesses?  Yes, I tend to think so.

If that is the case, should we as a larger national society consider removing the financial barriers to a higher education for our young people?  Would we be better off as a nation?  Again, I tend to think so.

By the way… no, I am not a liberal.  I like to think I am an independent thinker, but I know that I am actually pretty conservative.  The government definitely has a legitimate role, but my thinking is that it should be limited to the “vital few” things that we need to support a solid, safe, good society.  Government should not overreach, overtax, or over regulate its citizens.  We should work to recreate a society where its citizens can freely flourish with minimal “help” from the government.  Most of what the federal government has approved for spending over the past 18 months I would have voted “no” on.

However, if assuring access to four years of a college education would lift the hopes and dreams of a significant segment of our young people, maybe we should go there.  If encouraging the achievement necessary to succeed academically at the “next level” from high school brought the prospect of a more highly educated electorate, maybe we should reprioritize where we spend our tax dollars.  If we eliminated the costs associated with the parental burden of saving for a college education for their kids, maybe that would be a better way to “level the playing field” among families of different means.  Maybe that would create more equal opportunity.  Maybe it is time to raise the bar of societal expectation to a higher level than a high school education.  We do have within our borders a commodity that most of the rest of the world covets, but we do not make it realistically accessible to a significant portion of our population.

Maybe funding higher education should be one of those “vital few” things our government SHOULD provide.  Maybe our country would be stronger and more competitive if we did more to educate our young people while taking away a major source of wealth-induced disparity of opportunity.

The unprecedented experiment of the Kalamazoo Promise is going there, and early indicators are that it may be doing all of the above.  This experiment is one “test tube” we should be watching closely.

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President Barack Obama will be giving his first State of the Union Address tonight at 9 pm EST. During the address, President Obama plans to propose a major increase in funding for elementary and secondary education for the coming year.

Obama is recommending an increase of federal education aid to $4 billion for the next fiscal year. The Race to the Top competitive grants program would receive $1.3 million under Obama’s proposal. He will also discuss revamping the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) also known as Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), by increasing its funding to $1 million.

Read the article “Obama Announcing Billions for More Schools,” and let NSSEA know your thoughts!

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On November 12, 2009, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released the final application for the Race to the Top Fund. The $4 million program will reward states that have raised student performance in the past and that have exemplified the capacity to accelerate achievement gains with innovative reforms.

The U.S. Department of Education wants states to build comprehensive and coherent plans, which are built around the four areas of reform outlined in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). These areas include:

1) Using college- and career-ready standards and assessments

2) Building a workforce of highly effective educators

3) Creating educational data systems to support student achievement and

4) Turning around their lowest-performing schools

U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan is set to reserve up to $350 million out of the $4,350,000 set aside for the program in efforts to help states create assessments that are in compliance with common sets of standards. The other $4 billion will be given the Race to the Top national competition.

The final application released today, is a result of significant changes made to an earlier application released in July 2009. ED made the changes after receiving responses to the draft proposals from 1,161 people, who submitted unique comments.

For more information about the Race to the Top Fund, visit: http://www.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/funding.html and let NSSEA know your thoughts.

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On October 24, 2009, President Barack Obama gave his weekly address that had a much needed focus on small business. In his address entitled “Working with Small Business to Drive Recovery,” Obama discussed the important role small business plays on the safe recovery of the economy. He mentioned that “small businesses have always been the engine of our economy, creating 65 percent of all new jobs over the last decade and a half and they must be at the forefront of our recovery.”

In that same week, Obama also met with small business owners to get their reactions to his proposals that involve: increasing caps for Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, giving community banks better access to tarp funding and giving small businesses affordable healthcare options. In a recent video clip, MSNBC.com mentions Obama’s recent meeting with small business owners and talks with SBA Administrator Karen Mills about her efforts to spearhead Obama’s lending proposals forward.

Let NSSEA know your thoughts!

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