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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Learning from Our Mistakes

    Teachers have long been regarded as some of the most influential people in the lives and on the minds of young people. Surely most people can think of a handful of teachers by the end of their education career that have changed their life in some way.

    It made sense, then, that President Obama put education at the top of his priorities, investing in long-term economic recovery when he allotted billions of dollars in his stimulus package for improving the quality of American education. His methods in doing so seem wildly unprogressive at first. When carefully considered, however, removing the cap on charter schools and rewarding good teachers through merit-based pay might be exactly what our education system needs.

    Charter schools and performance-based bonuses are seemingly the nightmare of every teachers union. There is tact in the manner in which the programs will be executed, however, and they may be quite beneficial to our lagging education system.

    According to article in The Chicago Sun Times, “Obama Wisely Makes Education a Priority,” performance pay for teachers would be modeled after a system in Chicago which doesn’t reward teachers based on mere improvements in students’ scores, but implements training and mentoring programs for teachers and considers the change in test scores from year to year, rather than looking for a general increase.

    The nuances of Obama’s merit reward program are not entirely clear. If executed so that their success affecting students positively is somehow made to be quantifiable, however, raising the reward for good teaching may be a solid investment in better education.

    The more controversial of his major propositions in education reform is the bold decision to remove caps in charter schools. Typically, teacher’s unions have opposed charter schools citing that they deduct from the funding public schools get. With the exorbitant amount of money Obama is pouring into public education, however, perhaps that will be less of a concern.

    According The New York Times article, “Obama Outlines Plan For Education Overhaul,” he suggests closing down the charter schools that don’t work, and allowing those that do in various states to expand. Since there is controversy over whether or not charter schools provide a better education than public education, it seems the general idea in regulating charter schools is to close them in states where they aren’t working and allow them to flourish in those in which they are successful. This ambiguous plan is a little alarming since it is unclear as to whether or not the new charter schools will be a formula for success, thus risking good investment of funding.

    Although some of Obama’s plans about education reform are a little ambiguous, his other methods are a guaranteed success. He plans on increasing investment in early childhood education, which are widely agreed to be critical years in the development of a child’s abilities and probability of success.

    According to a White House press release, “Fact Sheet: Expanding the Promise of Education in America,” Obama plans to give incentive grants to states that “push for uniform quality standards, and step up efforts for the most disadvantaged children.” Obama also seeks to expand either the school years or school day hours, since they are compared to other academically thriving nations as South Korea, significantly shorter.

    Various provisions of the education reform plan may be unclear, while others are more definitive. It is most noteworthy, however, that Obama is farsighted enough to understand that our education system is integral to the economic recovery of our nation.

    Not only will a better education give our youth better prospects at competing in the world economy, but it will also enable future generations of Americans to lead fuller lives. Many are opposed to the unprecedented amount of money being invested in education reform, especially during a bad economy, but as demonstrated by the failure of the No Child Left Behind Act, poorly funded programs only have negative effects on an institution.

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