Obama Budget Highlights Education, Job Training

The White House hosted a conference call this afternoon on the education aspects of President Obama’s budget.  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and White House Director of Domestic Policy Cecelia Munoz spoke with reporters about the need to train American workers for the jobs of the 21st century.  While there are 4 unemployed workers for each job opening there is actually a shortage of workers properly trained for many of these jobs.

The U.S. Department of Education is requesting $69.8 billion in discretionary funding for 2013, an increase of $1.7 billion or 2.5 percent from 2012. The President is proposing a $14 billion one-time strategic investment in key reform areas, including aligning education programs with workforce demands, raising the teaching profession, and increasing college affordability and quality. These investments will ensure that continuing investments in foundational programs like Title I, IDEA and Pell Grants are able to serve students and schools well. The Department’s fiscal year 2013 budget also continues commitments to existing reform efforts like Race to the Top.

Also from the White House:

Because we need more high-quality training programs that give students crucial skills and prepare them for the high-skill jobs that employers are looking to fill, the Administration is proposing $8 billion in mandatory funding for a Community College to Career Fund. Jointly administered with the U.S. Department of Labor, this competitive program would provide funding to develop new partnerships between community colleges and businesses in order to train and place 2 million workers in high-growth industries.

These funds would give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers where people learn skills that local businesses are looking for right now. In addition, employers would offer paid internships for low-income students so they could simultaneously earn credit for work-based learning and gain relevant employment experience. The fund will also support new pay-for-performance strategies to provide incentives to ensure trainees find permanent jobs and encourage companies to locate in the U.S.

In addition, the Department is proposing to invest $1.1 billion to support the reauthorization and reform of the Career and Technical Education program so what students learn is more closely aligned with the demands of the workforce, and partnerships with postsecondary education are strengthened.

Unfortunately here in Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett has been cutting funding for employee retraining programs.  Combined with his austere cuts to pre-school, K12 and higher education these mean Pennsylvania’s future is severely limited.  As the 21st century proceeds we will be left behind.

A fact sheet is below the fold…

Here is a fact sheet sent by the White House on the topic:

FACT SHEET: A Blueprint to Train Two Million Workers for High-Demand Industries through a Community College to Career Fund

In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for a national commitment to help create an economy built to last by training two million workers with skills that will lead directly to a job.  Many industries have difficulty filling jobs requiring specific technical skills, even with many Americans still looking for work.  In the coming years, America will need to fill millions of good-paying mid- and high-level skilled positions in high-growth industries from healthcare to advanced manufacturing, clean energy to information technology.

On Monday, February 13, President Obama will host an event at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Virginia to announce a new $8 billion Community College to Career Fund.   Co-administered by the Department of Labor and the Department of Education, this Fund will help forge new partnerships between community colleges and businesses to train two million workers for good-paying jobs in high-growth and high-demand industries.  It provides funding for community colleges and states to partner with businesses to train workers in a range of high-growth and in-demand areas, such as health care, transportation, and advanced manufacturing. These investments will give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers where people learn crucial skills that local businesses are looking for right now, ensuring that employers have the skilled workforce they need and workers are gaining industry-recognized credentials to build strong careers.

Later this month, Dr. Jill Biden – a community college instructor for the last 18 years and teacher for nearly three decades – and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis will embark on a tour of community college campuses to highlight some of these effective industry partnerships.  They will visit several community colleges and businesses that are working together to get students the skills they need to succeed in the workforce.  Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other administration officials will also visit many community colleges throughout our country.

The President’s Commitment to Build a High-Skilled Workforce Through a Community College to Career Fund

The Community College to Career Fund in the President’s Budget will advance skill building through funding a number of priority areas:

·         Developing community college partnerships to train skilled workers for unfilled jobs: The Fund will support community college-based training programs that will: expand targeted training that will meet the needs of employers in growth and demand sectors; provide workers with the latest certified training and skills that will lead to good-paying jobs; and invest in registered apprenticeships and other on-the-job training opportunities. The Fund will also support paid internships for low-income community college students that will allow them to simultaneously earn credit for work-based learning and gain relevant employment experience in a high-wage, high-skill field.  States will also be able to seek funding to support employer efforts to upgrade the skills of their workforce.  Additionally, the Fund will provide support for regional or national industry sectors to develop skills consortia that will identify pressing workforce needs and develop solutions such as standardizing industry certifications, development of new training technologies, and collaborations with industry employers to define and describe how skills can translate to career pathways.

·         Instituting “Pay for Performance” in job training:  The Community College to Career Fund will support pay for performance strategies to provide incentives for training providers, community colleges, and local workforce organizations to ensure trainees find permanent jobs.  For instance, states would be eligible for funding to support bonus programs for training programs whose graduates earn a credential and find quality jobs shortly after finishing the program. Pay for performance structures would provide stronger incentives for programs that effectively place individuals who face greater barriers to employment.

·         Bringing jobs back to America:   The Community College to Career Fund will allow federal agencies to partner with state and local governments to encourage businesses to invest in America.   State and local governments will be able to apply for grants to encourage companies to locate in the U.S. because of the availability of training to quickly skill up the local workforce.

·         Training the next generation of entrepreneurs:  The Community College to Career Fund will support pathways to entrepreneurship for 5 million small business owners over three years through the nation’s workforce system and its partners, including: a six-week online training course on entrepreneurship that could reach up to 500,000 new entrepreneurs and an intensive six-month entrepreneurship training program resulting in entrepreneurship certification for 100,000 small business owners.

Building on Progress:

·         Historic investments in community college-led job training: The Obama Administration has made historic investments in community colleges, which provide a linchpin for 21st century workforce training. The Obama Administration has already invested $500 million through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative to support partnerships among community colleges, employers, and Workforce Investment Boards to develop programs that provide pathways for individuals negatively impacted by trade to secure quality jobs in high wage, high skill fields including advanced manufacturing, transportation, health care, and STEM. The Administration will invest an additional $1.5 billion in this initiative over the next three years.  

·         Developed significant business and community college partnerships to build Americans’ skills:   Last year, the Obama Administration helped launch Skills for America’s Future, an industry-led initiative to improve industry partnerships with community colleges and build a nationwide network to maximize workforce development strategies, job training programs, and job placements. Through this initiative the President announced a new partnership of private sector employers, community colleges, and the National Association of Manufacturers to provide 500,000 community college students with industry-recognized credentials that will help them secure jobs in the manufacturing sector.

Administration Reverses Student Loan Privatization

Included in health insurance reform was a bill affecting student loans.  The Department of Education has been working on this since last summer when I recall being on conference calls with Sec. Arne Duncan discussing the proposals.  Basically this Act reverses the privatization of the student loan business which has cost young people huge amounts of interest.  I recall college loans running in the low single digits but today some of these usurious rates pass 20 and 30% interest.

During the Pennsylvania presidential primary two years ago Hillary Clinton asked the students in her audiences (almost every event was on a college campus) what rates they were paying.  Hands remained up as she got to 30%.  Most seemed to be around 15-20%.  Those are obscene rates.  Private banks have been ripping off our young people with these usurious interest rates so the President has done something to protect these folks and their financial futures.  The government is back in the student loan business again and they are also expanding Pell grants by $36 billion over the next decade.  Closing the private bankers gravy train saves $68 billion and ends the taxpayer subsidies for private profit.  As Sec. Duncan said on yesterday’s conference call “should we subsidize banks or invest in higher education?”

Other significant facets of the law simplify forms students and parents use to apply, allow erasure of debt for any student who puts in ten years of public service following graduation and eases the burden of loan repayment by capping those at 10% of income.

Saddling our young people with mountains of debt is bad policy.  The cost of a college education has soared as state governments continually cut subsidies to balance broken budgets and private lenders soaked them with high interest rates.  We faced the prospect of a new generation unable to purchase homes or have disposable income because too large a percentage of their incomes were going to repay these loans.  The economic cost of that was prohibitive and simply went to fattening the profits of private banks.

Random Thoughts March 30, 2010

Delaware and Tennessee won the first round of federal funds for education in the Race to the Top program designed to rethink education under Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  Most Pennsylvania school districts opted out of the program yet the state finished in the next tier of five.  Will they get serious about the tens of millions of dollars available?

I asked Gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato about it yesterday and he clearly was caught off guard.  Had he not heard the news or didn’t he know what the program is?  I’m not sure but it was one or the other.

Speaking of Arne Duncan he has done more media conference calls than any other Cabinet official.  Kathleen Sebelius is probably number two between the swine flu program and health insurance reform.  Sec. Duncan does another call this afternoon to discuss the expansion of Pell grants which was part of the health insurance bill just passed by Congress.

I was trying to think of one issue in which Mr. Onorato is progressive and could not come up with a single example.  Anti-choice, anti-equality for marriage, pro death penalty, willing to violate constitutional rights at the G20…  The way I watched him dance around direct questions yesterday was worthy of a seasoned politician however.  The thought of either him or Jack Wagner sitting as Governor is worrisome.

No sooner did I finish writing yesterday’s article on accountability for violence than I saw on television where this radical militia group was busted.  Very scary people and there are too many of these factions rising up as the result of all this hate speech.  Now a lunatic from Philadelphia has been arrested for threatening Congressman Eric Cantor.  It appears this guy is totally off his rocker.  I suppose you could say that about most of these militia/tea bagger folks.

The GOP talking points for opposing regulation of Wall Street leaked and, once again, their strategy will be to lie to voters.  Black is white and white is black to these people and they’ll stoop to nothing to brainwash stupid people.  How long will it be before the morons begin reciting the smear that this is yet another bailout when it’s exactly the opposite?  The morons are already gathering their talking points without reading the actual legislation and understanding what it says.  Reading without comprehension is like using a defective condom:  you’re screwed.

I have a serious problem about prosecuting children as adults especially when they are but 12 years old.  Let’s get civilized.

Joe Hoeffel went after AG Tom Corbett yesterday over his frivolous lawsuit to end health insurance reform.  He called him the “Motions Eleven.”  Great play on words but where was George Clooney Joe?

Baseball season is about to begin so spring has to be close.  That 70 degree weather was nice but came a bit too soon.  The rain has been better than snow but won’t a bit of sunshine feel good?  Is anyone betting on the date the Pirates get mathematically eliminated?  I take July 22nd.  It’s good to be a Phillies fan these days!  Every fifth day is a Halladay.

Ricky Martin came out of the closet, finally.  Did anyone not doubt his sexual orientation?  He called himself “a fortunate gay man.”  Now I suppose he can live “la vida loca.”

Michael Steele is under attack again for spending almost $2000 of RNC cash at a sex club in LA.  Who was stupid enough to report this on their FEC disclosure?  Having a party at a lesbian/bondage club is entirely legal but not very smart.  Of course when I think of Republicans and bondage Club Voyeur isn’t what comes to mind.  I think of slavery of African Americans and how too many Republicans continue to support that image.  There’s a reason the GOP is the Party of the South.

Obama Revamps NCLB

President Obama unveiled a complete revamping of the failed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program today and Education Secretary Arne Duncan held a conference call for the press.  NCLB failed first because George W. Bush didn’t fund it and secondly because it was narrowly focused on math and science.  The result was a constriction of curriculums and concentration around those two subjects to the exclusion of others, teaching students to the test rather than teaching them how to think, solve problems and become well rounded people.

The new program will have accountability to provide students a full education and “a wide breadth of knowledge” while measuring teacher excellence and reward the best ones.  Duncan said the NEA is on board with ESEA but I do take issue with one point of all this:  the teacher isn’t the most important factor in education.  Parents are.  Without parents committed to their children’s success, without parents at home ready to motivate, oversee and help their children nothing teachers and other educators do will resonate with our youth.  Parental involvement is the most important factor.

The other glaring omission from today’s discussion was funding.  Many schools fail because they don’t have equal funding.  It costs money for books, supplies, libraries, good teachers and good administrators.  Too many of our actual school buildings are old and falling apart.  Until we commit to insuring every school in every district has equal funding per student we are doomed to continue failing our children.  I see nothing in this bill to address that critical issue.

It’s nice to say we are going to help our schools, reward great teachers and punish schools which underperform but until we do what must be done to provide the resources necessary everything else is window dressing.  Until all parents value education and instill a love of learning in their offspring and teachers are respected as professionals we won’t achieve the success we seek.

Education Department Announces “Race to the Top”

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the new program called “race to the Top.”  This be a competition among states to reform education so as to improve achievement and reduce the dropout rate.  A total of $4 billion is available to fund initiatives based on state’s past achievements and their ability to continue educational improvement.  Pennsylvania could access between $200 and $400 million through the program.  

Charter schools seem to be a special emphasis though evaluation of teachers based on merit and a focus on reducing the national 30% dropout rate seem to be priorities based on the conversation this afternoon with reporters and media.  There will be two rounds of competition among the states with the first round of proposals due January 19th and funds awarded in early spring.  States which don’t win in the first round can still participate in the second round.

Update:  I sent emails to both PSEA and the PA Dept. of Education about this program.  I’ll keep you updated.

The press release for the program:

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today released the final application for more than $4 billion from the Race to the Top Fund, which will reward states that have raised student performance in the past and have the capacity to accelerate achievement gains with innovative reforms.

“The president said last week that Race to the Top will require states to take an all-hands-on-deck approach,” Duncan said. “We will award grants to the states that have led the way in reform and will show the way for the rest of the country to follow.”

The U.S. Department of Education is asking states to build comprehensive and coherent plans built around the four areas of reform outlined in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The application requires states to document their past success and outline their plans to extend their reforms by using college- and career-ready standards and assessments, building a workforce of highly effective educators, creating educational data systems to support student achievement, and turning around their lowest-performing schools.

The $4.35 billion for the Race to the Top Fund is an unprecedented federal investment in reform. Duncan will reserve up to $350 million to help states create assessments aligned to common sets of standards. The remaining $4 billion will be awarded in a national competition.

To qualify, states must have no legal barriers to linking student growth and achievement data to teachers and principals for the purposes of evaluation. They also must have the department’s approval for their plans for both phases of the Recovery Act’s State Fiscal Stabilization Fund prior to being awarded a grant.

The final application released today includes significant changes to the proposal released by the U.S. Department of Education in July. After reviewing responses to the draft proposals from 1,161 people, who submitted thousands of unique comments, ranging from one paragraph to 67 pages, the U.S. Department of Education restructured the application and changed it to reflect the ideas of the public.

“The public’s input on this application was invaluable to us,” Duncan said. “The comments helped us clarify that we want states to think through how they will create a comprehensive agenda to drive reform forward.”

The final application also clarifies that states should use multiple measures to evaluate teachers and principals, including a strong emphasis on the growth in achievement of their students. But it also reinforces that successful applicants will need to have rigorous teacher and principal evaluation programs and use the results of teacher evaluations to inform what happens in the schools.

In Race to the Top, the department will hold two rounds of competition for the grants. For the first round, it will accept states’ applications until the middle of January, 2010. Peer reviewers will evaluate the applications and the department will announce the winners of the first round of funding next spring.

Applications for the second round will be due June 1, 2010, with the announcement of all the winners by Sept. 30, 2010.

Teachers have been hesitant, justifiably, to connecting pay with performance since so many factors outside their control affect outcomes.  Parental involvement in children’s education is pathetic.  Others are so suffocating they are called “helicopter parents.”  Funding for schools varies drastically based on district’s overall wealth.  Until we equalize funding for all schools evaluating all teachers the same way seems a bad idea.  It will be interesting to watch how creative states can be in addressing these factors in Race to the Top.

The Obama Education Plan

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held his second conference call yesterday speaking with and to the press about the President’s new education initiative.  The goal seems to be to expand whatever is working and eliminate what is not.  In that light Duncan said NCLB will be reauthorized.  That seems to be counterintuitive to their goals.

No Child Left Behind has been a disaster.  Many educational programs have been eliminated or scaled back to focus on teaching students how to pass a single test.  Instead of inspiring them to grasp a love of learning, to inspire them to embrace art, music, humanities, literature, writing and physical education the entire focus is on one test.  No wonder, if schools fail to attain impossible standards they can be closed.

Republicans are against public education.  Their goal is to eliminate it and force everyone into privatized schools where religious indoctrination takes place regardless of one’s personal beliefs.  Our public schools are already at a terrible disadvantage to private schools because they must educate everyone, even those with severe mental and physical disabilities.  This burden is not imposed on private schools and the government is failing to fund these mandates.  The financial burden on school districts for NCLB and special ed is huge and saddles local taxpayers with huge bills.

The most controversial aspect of the President’s plan seems to be merit pay for teachers.  As with any profession, any company, there is dead weight in education.  Some teachers float along secure in their tenure and thinking they don’t need to inspire and educate their charges.  Wrong.  Good teachers despise the bad ones and really won’t object to receiving more wages and benefits for their outstanding work.

Merit pay might actually attract better, more qualified people to the profession.  Teachers are historically underpaid for their levels of education, skills and talents.  The best of our college age folks are seeking other, more lucrative careers than teaching.  We get what we pay for so we have many substandard teachers.  If the Obama policy rewards excellence perhaps this is a step in the right direction.  Where will these funds come from though?  State and federal governments are very experienced at levying unfunded mandates on schools.  Is this one more?

For the President’s statement continue reading…

Every so often, throughout our history, a generation of Americans bears the responsibility of seeing this country through difficult times and protecting the dream of its founding for posterity. This is a responsibility that has fallen to our generation. Meeting it will require steering our nation’s economy through a crisis unlike any we have seen in our time. In the short-term, that means jumpstarting job creation, re-starting lending, and restoring confidence in our markets and our financial system.  But it also means taking steps that not only advance our recovery, but lay the foundation for lasting, shared prosperity.

I know there are some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time. They forget that Lincoln helped lay down the transcontinental railroad, passed the Homestead Act, and created the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of Civil War. Likewise, President Roosevelt didn’t have the luxury of choosing between ending a depression and fighting a war. President Kennedy didn’t have the luxury of choosing between civil rights and sending us to the moon. And we don’t have the luxury of choosing between getting our economy moving now and rebuilding it over the long term.

America will not remain true to its highest ideals – and America’s place as a global economic leader will be put at risk – unless we not only bring down the crushing cost of health care and transform the way we use energy, but also do a far better job than we have been doing of educating our sons and daughters; unless we give them the knowledge and skills they need in this new and changing world.

For we know that economic progress and educational achievement have always gone hand in hand in America. Land-grant colleges and public high schools transformed the economy of an industrializing nation. The GI Bill generated a middle class that made America’s economy unrivaled in the 20th century. And investments in math and science under President Eisenhower made it possible for Sergei Brin to attend graduate school and found an upstart company called Google that would forever change our world.

The source of America’s prosperity, then, has never been merely how ably we accumulate wealth, but how well we educate our people. This has never been more true than it is today. In a 21st century world where jobs can be shipped wherever there’s an internet connection; where a child born in Dallas is competing with children in Delhi; where your best job qualification is not what you do, but what you know – education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity and success, it is a prerequisite.

That is why workers without a four-year degree have borne the brunt of recent layoffs, Latinos most of all. And that is why, of the thirty fastest growing occupations in America, half require a Bachelor’s degree or more. By 2016, four out of every ten new jobs will require at least some advanced education or training.

So let there be no doubt: the future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens – and my fellow Americans, we have everything we need to be that nation. We have the best universities and the most renowned scholars. We have innovative principals, passionate teachers, gifted students, and parents whose only priority is their child’s education. We have a legacy of excellence, and an unwavering belief that our children should climb higher than we did.

And yet, despite resources that are unmatched anywhere in the world, we have let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short, and other nations outpace us. In 8th grade math, we’ve fallen to 9th place. Singapore’s middle-schoolers outperform ours three to one. Just a third of our thirteen and fourteen-year olds can read as well as they should. And year after year, a stubborn gap persists between how well white students are doing compared to their African American and Latino classmates. The relative decline of American education is untenable for our economy, unsustainable for our democracy, and unacceptable for our children – and we cannot afford to let it continue.

What is at stake is nothing less than the American dream. It is what drew my father and so many of your fathers and mothers to our shores in pursuit of an education. It’s what led Linda Brown and Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez to bear the standard of all who were attending separate and unequal schools. It is what has led generations of Americans to take on that extra job, to sacrifice the small pleasures, to scrimp and save wherever they can, in the hopes of putting away enough, just enough, to give their child the education that they never had. It’s that most American of ideas, that with the right education, a child of any race, faith, or station, can overcome whatever barriers stand in their way and fulfill their God-given potential.

Of course, we have heard all this year after year after year – and far too little has changed. Not because we are lacking sound ideas or sensible plans – in pockets of excellence across this country, we are seeing what children from all walks of life can and will achieve when we do a good job of preparing them. Rather, it is because politics and ideology have too often trumped our progress.

For decades, Washington has been trapped in the same stale debates that have paralyzed progress and perpetuated our educational decline. Too many supporters of my party have resisted the idea of rewarding excellence in teaching with extra pay, even though we know it can make a difference in the classroom. Too many in the Republican Party have opposed new investments in early education, despite compelling evidence of its importance. It’s more money versus more reform, vouchers versus the status quo. There has been partisanship and petty bickering, but little recognition that we need to move beyond the worn fights of the 20th century if we are going to succeed in the 21st Century.

Well, the time for finger-pointing is over. The time for holding ourselves accountable is here.  What’s required is not simply new investments, but new reforms. It is time to expect more from our students. It is time to start rewarding good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. It is time to demand results from government at every level. It is time to prepare every child, everywhere in America, to out-compete any worker, anywhere in the world. It is time to give all Americans a complete and competitive education from the cradle up through a career. We have accepted failure for too long. Enough. America’s entire education system must once more be the envy of the world.

And that is exactly what the budget I am submitting to Congress has begun to achieve. At a time when we’ve inherited a trillion-dollar deficit, we will start by doing a little housekeeping, going through our books, and cutting wasteful education programs. My outstanding Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will use only one test when deciding what ideas to support with your precious tax dollars. It’s not whether an idea is liberal or conservative, but whether it works. This will help free up resources for the first pillar in reforming our schools – investing in early childhood initiatives. This isn’t just about keeping an eye on our children, it’s about educating them. Studies show that children in these programs are more likely to score higher in reading and math, more likely to graduate from high school and attend college, more likely to hold a job, and more likely to earn more in that job. For every dollar we invest in these programs, we get nearly ten dollars back in reduced welfare rolls, fewer health costs, and less crime. That is why the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act I signed into law invests $5 billion in growing Early Head Start and Head Start, expanding access to quality child care for 150,000 more children from working families, and doing more for children with special needs. And it is why we are going to offer 55,000 first-time parents regular visits from trained nurses to help make sure their children are healthy and prepare them for school and life.  

Even as we invest in early childhood education, let’s raise the bar for early learning programs that are falling short. Today, some children are enrolled in excellent programs. Some are enrolled in mediocre ones. And some are wasting away their most formative years. That includes the one fourth of all kindergartners who are Hispanic, and who will drive America’s workforce of tomorrow, but who are less likely to have been enrolled in early education programs than anyone else.

That is why I am issuing a challenge to our states. Develop a cutting-edge plan to raise the quality of your early learning programs. Show us how you’ll work to ensure that children are better prepared for success by the time they enter kindergarten. If you do, we will support you with an Early Learning Challenge Grant that I call on Congress to enact. That is how we will reward quality, incentivize excellence, and make a down payment on the success of the next generation.

Second, we will end what has become a race to the bottom in our schools and instead, spur a race to the top by encouraging better standards and assessments. This is an area where we are being outpaced by other nations. It’s not that their kids are any smarter than ours – it’s that they are being smarter about how to educate their kids. They are spending less time teaching things that don’t matter, and more time teaching things that do. They are preparing their students not only for high school or college, but for a career. We are not. Our curriculum for eighth graders is two full years behind top performing countries. That is a prescription for economic decline. I refuse to accept that America’s children cannot rise to this challenge. They can, they must, and they will meet higher standards in our time.

Let’s challenge our states to adopt world-class standards that will bring our curriculums into the 21st century. Today’s system of fifty different sets of benchmarks for academic success means 4th grade readers in Mississippi are scoring nearly 70 points lower than students in Wyoming – and getting the same grade. Eight of our states are setting their standards so low that their students may end up on par with roughly the bottom 40% of the world.

That is inexcusable, and that is why I am calling on states that are setting their standards far below where they ought to be to stop low-balling expectations for our kids. The solution to low test scores is not lower standards – it’s tougher, clearer standards. Standards like those in Massachusetts, where 8th graders are now tying for first – first – in the world in science. Other forward-thinking states are moving in the same direction by coming together as part of a consortium. More states need to do the same. And I am calling on our nation’s Governors and state education chiefs to develop standards and assessments that don’t simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking, entrepreneurship and creativity. That is what we will help them do later this year when we finally make No Child Left Behind live up to its name by ensuring not only that teachers and principals get the funding they need, but that the money is tied to results. And Secretary Duncan will also back up this commitment to higher standards with a fund to invest in innovation in our school districts.

Of course, raising standards alone will not make much of a difference unless we provide teachers and principals with the information they need to make sure students are prepared to meet those standards. Far too few states have data systems like the one in Florida that keep track of a student’s education from childhood through college. And far too few districts are emulating the example of Houston and Long Beach, and using data to track how much progress a student is making and where that student is struggling – a resource that can help us improve student achievement, and tell us which students had which teachers so we can assess what’s working and what’s not. That is why we are making a major investment in this area that we will cultivate a new culture of accountability in America’s schools.

To complete our race to the top requires the third pillar of reform — recruiting, preparing, and rewarding outstanding teachers. From the moment students enter a school, the most important factor in their success is not the color of their skin or the income of their parents, it’s the person standing at the front of the classroom. That is why our Recovery Act will ensure that hundreds of thousands of teachers and school personnel are not laid off – because those Americans are not only doing jobs they cannot afford to lose they are rendering a service our nation cannot be denied.

America’s future depends on its teachers. And so today, I am calling on a new generation of Americans to step forward and serve our country in our classrooms. If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make the most of your talents and dedication; if you want to make your mark with a legacy that will endure – join the teaching profession. America needs you. We need you in our suburbs. We need you in our small towns. We need you in our inner cities. We need you in classrooms all across our country.

And if you do your part, we’ll do ours.  That is why we are taking steps to prepare teachers for their difficult responsibilities and encourage them to stay in the profession. That is why we are creating new pathways to teaching and new incentives to bring teachers to schools where they are needed most. It is why we support offering extra pay to Americans who teach math and science to end a teacher shortage in those subjects. And it is why we are building on the promising work being done in South Carolina’s Teacher Advancement Program, and making an unprecedented commitment to ensure that anyone entrusted with educating our children is doing the job as well as it can be done.

Here is what that commitment means: It means treating teachers like the professionals they are while also holding them more accountable – in up to 150 more school districts. New teachers will be mentored by experienced ones. Good teachers will be rewarded with more money for improved student achievement, and asked to accept more responsibilities for lifting up their schools. Teachers throughout a school will benefit from guidance and support to help them improve.

And just as we have to give our teachers all the support they need to be successful, we need to make sure our students have the teacher they need to be successful. That means states and school districts taking steps to move bad teachers out of the classroom. Let me be clear: if a teacher is given a chance but still does not improve, there is no excuse for that person to continue teaching. I reject a system that rewards failure and protects a person from its consequences. The stakes are too high. We can afford nothing but the best when it comes to our children’s teachers and to the schools where they teach.

That leads me to the fourth part of America’s education strategy – promoting innovation and excellence in America’s schools. One of the places where much of that innovation occurs is in our most effective charter schools. These are public schools founded by parents, teachers, and civic or community organizations with broad leeway to innovate – schools I supported as a state legislator and United States Senator.

Right now, there are caps on how many charter schools are allowed in some states, no matter how well they are preparing our students. That isn’t good for our children, our economy, or our country. Of course, any expansion of charter schools must not result in the spread of mediocrity, but in the advancement of excellence. That will require states adopting both a rigorous selection and review process to ensure that a charter school’s autonomy is coupled with greater accountability – as well as a strategy, like the one in Chicago, to close charter schools that are not working. Provided this greater accountability, I call on states to reform their charter rules, and lift caps on the number of allowable charter schools, wherever such caps are in place.

Even as we foster innovation in where our children are learning, let’s also foster innovation in when our children are learning. We can no longer afford an academic calendar designed when America was a nation of farmers who needed their children at home plowing the land at the end of each day. That calendar may have once made sense, but today, it puts us at a competitive disadvantage. Our children spend over a month less in school than children in South Korea. That is no way to prepare them for a 21st century economy. That is why I’m calling for us not only to expand effective after-school programs, but to rethink the school day to incorporate more time – whether during the summer or through expanded-day programs for children who need it. I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas. Not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom. If they can do that in South Korea, we can do it right here in the United States of America.

Of course, no matter how innovative our schools or how effective our teachers, America cannot succeed unless our students take responsibility for their own education. That means showing up for school on time, paying attention in class, seeking out extra tutoring if it’s needed, and staying out of trouble. And to any student who’s watching, I say this: don’t even think about dropping out of school. As I said a couple of weeks ago, dropping out is quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country, and it is not an option – not anymore. Not when our high school dropout rate has tripled in the past thirty years. Not when high school dropouts earn about half as much as college graduates. And not when Latino students are dropping out faster than just about anyone else. It is time for all of us, no matter what our backgrounds, to come together and solve this epidemic.

Stemming the tide of dropouts will require turning around our low-performing schools. Just 2,000 high schools in cities like Detroit, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia produce over 50% of America’s dropouts. And yet, there are too few proven strategies to transform these schools. And there are too few partners to get the job done. So today, I am issuing a challenge to educators and lawmakers, parents and teachers alike – let us all make turning around our schools our collective responsibility as Americans. That will require new investments in innovative ideas. That is why my budget invests in developing new strategies to make sure at-risk students don’t give up on their education; new efforts to give dropouts who want to return to school the help they need to graduate; and new ways to put those young men and women who have left school back on a pathway to graduation.

The fifth part of America’s education strategy is providing every American with a quality higher education – whether it’s college or technical training. Never has a college degree been more important. And never has it been more expensive. At a time when so many of our families are bearing enormous economic burdens, the rising cost of tuition threatens to shatter dreams. That is why will simplify federal college assistance forms so it doesn’t take a PhD to apply for financial aid. And that is why we are already taking steps to make college or technical training affordable.

For the first time ever, Pell Grants will not be subject to the politics of the moment or the whims of the market – they will be a commitment that Congress is required to uphold each and every year. Further, because rising costs mean Pell Grants cover less than half as much tuition as they did thirty years ago, we are raising the maximum Pell Grant to $5,550 a year and indexing it above inflation. We are also providing a $2,500 a year tuition tax credit for students from working families. And we are modernizing and expanding the Perkins Loan Program to make sure schools like UNLV don’t get a tenth as many Perkins Loans as schools like Harvard. To help pay for all of this, we are putting students ahead of lenders by eliminating wasteful student loan subsidies that cost taxpayers billions each year. All in all, we are making college affordable for seven million more students with a sweeping investment in our children’s futures and America’s success. And I call on Congress to join me – and the American people – by helping make these investments possible.

This is how we will help meet our responsibility as a nation to open the doors of college to every American. But it will also be the responsibility of colleges and universities to control spiraling costs. And it is the responsibility of our students to walk through those doors of opportunity. In just a single generation, America has fallen from second place to eleventh place in the portion of students completing college. That is unfortunate but it is by no means irreversible. With resolve and the right investments, we can retake the lead once more. That is why, in my address to the nation the other week, I called on Americans to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training, with the goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the year 2020. To meet that goal, we are investing $2.5 billion to identify and support innovative initiatives across the country that achieve results in helping students persist and graduate.

And let’s not stop our education with college. Let’s recognize a 21st century reality: learning does not end in our early 20s. Adults of all ages need opportunities to earn new degrees and skills. That means working with all our universities and schools, including community colleges, a great and undervalued asset, to prepare workers for good jobs in high-growth industries; and to improve access to job training not only for young people who are just starting their careers, but for older workers who need new skills to change careers.

It is through initiatives like these that we will see more Americans earn a college degree, or receive advanced training, and pursue a successful career. That is why I am calling on Congress to work with me to enact these essential reforms, and to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act. That is how we will round out a complete and competitive education in the United States of America.

So, yes, we need more money. Yes, we need more reform. Yes, we need to hold ourselves more accountable for every dollar we spend. But there is one more ingredient I want to talk about. The bottom line is that no government policies will make any difference unless we also hold ourselves more accountable as parents. Because government, no matter how wise or efficient, cannot turn off the TV or put away the video games. Teachers, no matter how dedicated or effective, cannot make sure your children leave for school on time and do their homework when they get back at night. These are things only a parent can do. These are things that our parents must do.

I say this not only as a father, but as a son. When I was a child, living in Indonesia with my mother, she didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school so she supplemented my schooling with lessons from a correspondence course. I can still picture her, waking me up at 4:30 in the morning five days a week to go over some lessons before I left for school. And whenever I’d complain or find some excuse for getting more sleep, she’d patiently repeat her most powerful defense – “This is no picnic for me either, buster.” And it is because she did this day after day, week after week, and because of all the other opportunities and breaks I had along the way, that I can stand here today as President of the United States. And I want every child in this country to have the same chance that my mother gave me, that my teachers gave me, that my college professors gave me, that America gave me.

I want children like Yvonne Bojorquez to have that chance. Yvonne is a student at Village Academy High School in California. Village Academy is a 21st century school, where cutting edge technologies are used in the classroom, where college prep and career training are offered to all who seek it, and where the motto is – “respect, responsibility, and results.” A couple of months ago, Yvonne and her class made a video talking about the impact that our struggling economy was having on their lives. Some of them spoke about their parents being laid off, or their homes facing foreclosure, or their inability to focus on school with everything that was happening at home. When it was her turn to speak, Yvonne said:

“We’ve all been affected by this economic crisis. [We] are all college bound students…We’re all businessmen, and doctors and lawyers and all this great stuff. And we have all this potential,” she said, “but the way things are going, we’re not going to be able to [fulfill it].”

It was heartbreaking that a girl so full of promise was so full of worry that she and her class titled their video, “Is anybody listening?” And so, today, there’s something I want to say to Yvonne and her class at Village Academy. I am listening. We are listening. America is listening. And we are not going to rest until your parents can keep their jobs, your families can keep their homes, and you can focus on what you should be focusing on – your own education. Until you can become the businessmen, doctors, and lawyers of tomorrow, until you can reach out and grasp your dreams for the future.

For in the end, your dream is a dream shared by all Americans. It is the founding promise of our nation. That we can make of our lives what we will; that all things are possible for all people; and that here in America, our best days lie ahead. And I truly believe that if I do my part and you, the American people, do yours – then we will emerge from this crisis a stronger nation and pass the dream of our founding on to posterity, ever safer than before. Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.