Education News Digest - 7/30/10Posted on: 7/30/2010
Obama Defends Education Program
Saying that reforming education is perhaps “the economic issue of our time,” President Obama went before a major civil rights organization on Thursday to defend his main education program against criticisms from some minority and teachers groups.
“It’s an economic issue when the unemployment rate for folks who’ve never gone to college is almost double what it is for those who have,” Mr. Obama said, according to prepared remarks. “It’s an economic issue when eight in 10 new jobs will require workforce training or a higher education by the end of this decade. It’s an economic issue when we know countries that outeducate us today will outcompete us tomorrow.”
Mr. Obama, in his speech before the 100th anniversary convention of the National Urban League, acknowledged “some controversy” about his education initiative, which he attributed partly to “a general resistance to change, a comfort with the status quo.” But he chose the civil rights organization as his audience to address specifically the complaints of minority groups that schools and teachers in impoverished communities and inner cities will be unfairly neglected in the competition to meet higher standards and the drive to impose accountability for students’ standardized test results.
“Our goal isn’t to fire or admonish teachers,” Mr. Obama said.
Rather, he said the “Race to the Top” program, which provides additional federal funds to local schools that meet administration standards — and a companion effort to overhaul the nation’s 5,000 worst schools — were ultimately aimed at giving good teachers higher salaries, more support, from supplies to smaller classes, and more training to provide them with career opportunities and financial rewards. About $4 billion is being invested in each initiative.
“All I’m asking in return, as a president and as a parent,” Mr. Obama continued, “is a measure of accountability. Surely we can agree that even as we applaud teachers for their hard work, we need to make sure they’re delivering results in the classroom. If they’re not, let’s work with them to help them be more effective. And if that fails, let’s find the right teacher for that classroom.”
Referring to the signature education program of his predecessor, George W. Bush, Mr. Obama said, “Unlike ‘No Child Left Behind,’ this isn’t about labeling a troubled school a failure one day, and throwing up our hands the next.” Instead, he said the federal government will work with “the whole community” to turn its local schools around.
“Sometimes a school’s problems run so deep that better assessments, higher standards, and a more challenging curriculum aren’t enough. If a school isn’t producing graduates with even the most basic skills — year after year after year — something needs to be done differently,” Mr. Obama said. “If we want success for our country, we can’t accept failure in our schools.”
Source: New York Times
18 states, D.C. named Race to the Top education grant finalists
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia were named finalists Tuesday in the second round of the federal "Race to the Top" school reform grant competition, giving them a chance to receive a share of $3 billion.
The states are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan officially announced the finalists at a speech at the National Press Club.
The competition rewards ambitious reforms aimed at improving struggling schools and closing the achievement gap. Applications were screened by a panel of peer reviewers, and finalists will travel to Washington in coming weeks to present their proposals.
In all, 35 states and the District of Columbia applied for the second round of the application. The 19 finalists have asked for $6.2 billion, though only $3.4 billion is available.
Dozens of states passed new education policies to make themselves more attractive to the judges.
New York, which was a finalist in the first round but did not win money, lifted its cap on the number of charter schools that can open annually from 200 to 460. Colorado passed laws that would pay teachers based on student performance and can strip tenure from low performing instructors.
Two states, Tennessee and Delaware, were awarded a total of $600 million in the first round.
Their applications were praised for merit pay policies that link teacher pay to student performance and for garnering the support of teachers' unions. Tennessee and Delaware also have laws that are welcoming to charter schools.
In the first round of the race, some stakeholders were reluctant to support applications tying teacher evaluations to student test scores.
Source: USA TODAY
A $35 Tablet? India Is On The Case
Can you imagine a tablet computer priced less than the cost of a textbook?
It may soon be a reality. The Indian government unveiled a $35 prototype of a touch-screen tablet for students that could be a game changer in the consumer electronics world. That's because it would be the world's cheapest if it goes into production.
"I am a little surprised that they hit a price point as low as they did," says Dmitriy Molchanov, an analyst for the Yankee Group. But he says it's part of a trend: "Within two years, extremely low-cost tablet devices are going to be the norm."
India's human resource development minister, Kapil Sibal, said on Friday that the government is already in discussions with manufacturers to produce the device by 2011. He called the device India's "answer to MIT's $100 computer."
MIT professor Nicholas Negoroponte spearheaded the One Laptop Per Child project (OLPC) in 2005 with a prototype for a $100 laptop. The project now has a durable laptop, the XO, that is sold to governments and non-profit organizations at a cost of about $200.
OLPC also plans to create an inexpensive tablet that would sell for $99.
Unlike laptops, Molchanov says touch-screen tablets have the ability to "scale across the entire world." That's because there's no need to produce a variety of keyboards to accommodate the range of languages.
India's tablet, which would use a Linux operating system, bears some similarity to Apple's iPad. It could be used for word processing, surfing the Internet and video conferencing.
There's also a solar-power option that would be available for an additional cost. Analysts say this is an important feature since some rural areas of India don't have easy access to electricity.
India said it plans to subsidize the cost of the laptop for its students, which would bring the final price tag even lower.
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