Carol’s Summary: Experts Wonder How Education Goals Will Be Met
Obama has a strong and formidable vision that the US will lead the world by 2020 with the most number of college graduates. However, with 25% of high school graduates currently not going to college and the drop-out rate once students get to college hovering at around 40%, we have a lot of work to do.
One of the most encouraging parts of Obama’s current plan is to give a $4,000 tax credit to students who can prove that they spent 100 hours or more doing community service. There are numerous advantages to students with this plan:
1) In this economy, many older twenty and thirty-somethings are taking minimum wage jobs typically held by college and high school students. There will be fewer of those jobs this summer, but the wise student can volunteer with a cause of his choice to put this tax credit in his pocket.
2) One of the biggest limits currently with American students is that they often lack experience. They can wander in college or drop out because they don’t know themselves, their interests or their abilities. Volunteering fosters self discovery, leadership and purpose. The more students who have volunteered for 100 hours before or during the freshmen year, the more focused and committed those students will be.
3) Volunteering teaches real world skills like how to manage a project, keep deadlines and work as part of a team. These skills are necessary for college, career and life. A volunteer job done well can turn into a much earned letter of recommendation or better, continued participation or a paid position.
Students need experience to compete in the global world—volunteer experience, travel experience and experience outside of the “comfort zone”. This proposition will get students in a mode to begin early in their lives to make a contribution and, with luck, continue that for the rest of their lives.
Wall Street Journal
FEBRUARY 26, 2009
Experts Wonder How Education Goals Will Be Met
By ROBERT TOMSHO, JOHN HECHINGER and LAURA MECKLER
President Barack Obama laid out new national goals Tuesday aimed at boosting high school and college graduation rates, but left education experts wondering on how he intends to reach his targets, and how much he is prepared to spend on them.
In his address to Congress, the president signaled a shift in federal education policy toward improving the skills of adults and work-force entrants, following an intense focus on boosting younger students’ reading and mathematics attainment under the No Child Left Behind law, the centerpiece of the Bush administration’s schools agenda.
Some observers had believed that education would stay on the back burner early in the Obama administration while the president grappled with the economic crisis. But the subject made it to the top tier of the address to Congress partly because Mr. Obama believes he must send Americans a message about the importance of education.
Freshman Laurah Pollonais, left, and Dalicia Barker listen during a class at Spelman College in Atlanta Feb. 12.
“Of the many issues, this is one where he feels the bully pulpit needs to be used,” a White House official said Wednesday.
In his speech Tuesday night, Mr. Obama said “dropping out of high school is no longer an option” and set a goal of the U.S. having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.
According to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which tracks college-going among its 30 member countries, the U.S., at 30%, is tied for sixth place in college graduation among those 25 to 34 years of age, 2006 data show, behind such countries as Norway, South Korea and the Netherlands. OECD data suggest that the U.S. was No. 1 until around 2000, but has lost its edge as other countries have stepped up their efforts to promote higher education.
Kevin Carey, policy director of the Education Sector, a nonprofit Washington, D.C., think tank, said the U.S. hasn’t been slipping but other countries have been improving. Regaining our former top position represents “a pretty reasonable goal,” he says. “It’s not moon-shot level.”
In a broader OECD measure of adults 25 to 64, the U.S. stands second, also at 30%, just behind Norway — but with time, the higher attainments among younger adults in other countries could erode the U.S. ranking.
While the No-Child law focused on bringing the poorest-performing students up to a basic level of proficiency, Mr. Obama signaled that he aims for all students to have the high-level skills they need to make it through high school and succeed in college. “That is raising the bar,” said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a Washington-based research group that tracks NCLB issues. “I just hope this is backed by real action and real resources.”
During his presidential campaign, Mr. Obama said he would try to boost college readiness by increasing the number of students taking advanced-placement and college-level courses in high school and provide grants for high-school students seeking college-level credit at community colleges.
He also pledged to increase college-going rates by providing a $4,000 tax credit to students who completed 100 hours of community service. The administration also plans to use funds from the stimulus bill to encourage states to acquire improved data-gathering systems that provide teachers with better information about the learning problems of individual students.
The Bush administration in its second term had begun increasing its focus on the high-school-dropout issue, and last year enacted a new regulation that requires all states to use the same formula to come up with their tally. As it stands, only three-quarters of high-school freshman will graduate after four years, according to the Education Department.
Jay P. Greene, head of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, says the graduation rate has hovered at that level for decades, making it difficult for Mr. Obama to achieve his goal of producing a work force with 21st century skills.
Also, many of those who enter college are woefully unprepared and spend much of their time in remedial math and English courses. Mr. Greene, whose research was eminent in spotlighting the dropout problem earlier this decade, praised Mr. Obama’s goals of moving beyond mere proficiency, but said, “Unfortunately, it’s not clear how you compete in the decathlon without learning how to walk first.”
The Obama administration is likely to handle education differently from health care and energy, the other two domestic policy issues he singled out for attention in his speech. Health care and energy reforms both depend on major congressional action, and the president called on the Congress to push forward on both fronts. His budget, to be released Thursday, will detail the need to act in both.
The administration may be reasoning that education doesn’t require a major legislative push. The Obama budget will include money for preschool and higher education, which the president noted on Tuesday. But it doesn’t call for a major new set of reforms.
The NCLB law is overdue for reauthorization but Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said that he wants to review data and meet with experts before proposing any changes.
The administration also underscored its plans by making education a major part of the recently passed stimulus bill, which includes $98 billion in education-related funding.
Write to Robert Tomsho at firstname.lastname@example.org, John Hechinger at email@example.com and Laura Meckler at firstname.lastname@example.org