Obama in State of the Union: “America is Back”

President Obama

President Obama delivers his State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol, White House Photo, Pete Souza

“Teachers matter,” said President Barack Obama last night during his State of the Union address. “Instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo” he said,

let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones.  In return, grant schools flexibility:  To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.

The President talked about the great strides that states have made in enacting comprehensive education reform:

For less than one percent of what our Nation spends on education each year, we’ve convinced nearly every State in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning – the first time that’s happened in a generation.

But challenges remain.  And we know how to solve them.

At a time when other countries are doubling down on education, tight budgets have forced States to lay off thousands of teachers.  We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000.  A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond his circumstance. Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives.  Most teachers work tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging into their own pocket for school supplies – just to make a difference.

The President called for more training to help fill the millions of in-demand jobs:

Jackie Bray is a single mom from North Carolina who was laid off from her job as a mechanic.  Then Siemens opened a gas turbine factory in Charlotte, and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College.  The company helped the college design courses in laser and robotics training.  It paid Jackie’s tuition, then hired her to help operate their plant.

I want every American looking for work to have the same opportunity as Jackie did.  Join me in a national commitment to train two million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job.  My Administration has already lined up more companies that want to help.  Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte, Orlando, and Louisville are up and running.   Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers – places that teach people skills that local businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing.

President Obama also touched on the importance of graduation and the need to keep the cost of college down, while ensuring that America’s graduates aren’t burdened by student loan debt.

We also know that when students aren’t allowed to walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma.  So tonight, I call on every State to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn eighteen.

When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college.  At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July.  Extend the tuition tax credit we started that saves middle-class families thousands of dollars.  And give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years.

Of course, it’s not enough for us to increase student aid.  We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money.  States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets.  And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down.  Recently, I spoke with a group of college presidents who’ve done just that.  Some schools re-design courses to help students finish more quickly.  Some use better technology.  The point is, it’s possible.  So let me put colleges and universities on notice:  If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.  Higher education can’t be a luxury – it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.

Click here to read the entire speech, click here to read the President’s Blueprint for An America Built to Last, and for additional information about the State of the Union, visit whitehouse.gov/state-of-the-union-2012.


  1. I hope some of above commentators don’t run into any psy m.d.’s in the near future as they may get prescribed anti-depressants for m.d. perceived symptoms. They have the choice to take or not. I agree with Anne in the perspective that every younger person has a unique talent. The attempt and feeling of a need to teach every kid to the same education “level” simply enforces the notion that there is and has to be a hostile and competitive work force society after high school. When Barack Obama, who is only the President tenaciously lobbies for the middle class, you might get the idea he changed his presidential theme from change for the better to slow change for the better. I am still wondering when parents are going to get offered the choice of school vochures to get used how they see fit on our precious resource, children, for example with private schools, home schooling, charter schools, and / or public schools.

    Jackie Bray is a single mom from North Carolina who was laid off from her job as a mechanic. Then Siemens opened a gas turbine factory in Charlotte, and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College. The company helped the college design courses in laser and robotics training. It paid Jackie’s tuition, then hired her to help operate their plant.

    This has to be the shortest explanation of government showing a SINGLE (how did she get pregnant?(where is the male counterpart at and how is North Carolina’s divorce law compared to California’s 50% split law which discourages mother from having to be forced to drive with their feet) mother getting a economic quick fix job into a success story. So like when does she have time for her kid. Why isn’t the male counterpart paying for all this with a job at a Gas turbine Robotics manufacturer or at a farm. I thought Clinton undid we the people getting stuck with the bill making the college educational institution wealthy. So how much family morals does Siemens have?

    I agree with Bill’s mentioned platform and this is able to be implemented before the years end. Internet distance learning/teleconferencing from home is very simple for those this type of learning style applies to and doesn’t require expensive computers to get the essential teaching job done. With this platform parents stay the children main role models without having to concern themselves over their children committing suicide because of an environment that shoves children together expecting 100% social exceptance of each other expecting faculty to protect children from other children bullying each whether with fists or assault rifles or pistols or sexually molesting coaches complaining about house arrest when others may not want them around their kids.

  2. Thank. It makes me feel great when I read all these stories. It helps me from hopelessness and make me more stronger to fly… thank… for everything.

  3. Every child can learn. However, all students cannot achieve to the same level, for many reasons. Intelligence quotients are a proven scientific fact but not all lack of achievement is due to lack of intelligence. Not all students will be good in math, reading, or science. It kills me as a teacher everyday, that I see a student with amazing artistic ability, but who is an ELL student and must struggle with being “a participant in grade level curriculum” which is too hard for him/her. I modify the curriculum, and do what I can, however, I would sincerely love to teach this student at his/her level, provide them in an art course that would be available at our elementary school to make the most of his/her talents and foster the student’s self esteem. Alas, I cannot because I have to teach them at the grade level curriculum, (apparently a federal requirement I am told) and all our school’s money is going for “metastasized testing” and a restructuring provider that is taking $130,000 a year from our students. I am also not an ELL teacher, I am a Special Education teacher that must make my students that struggle to learn things a year or more below their grade level due to their disabilities– ready for a difficult grade level test. I will be evaluated on my performance based on their success or failure of the the test. I am not evaluated formally yet, but that is coming, as it has in many states. So many variables we cannot control in children’s lives — but our welfare hinges on a test score. So I would ask that the Dept. of Education in its Race to the Top program, adopt a fair way to evaluate students and teachers. The Bell Curve is mathematically proven science. Evaluate a school based on a range of scores. Each student could fall within a +/- 10 point range like a Standard Error of Measurement score. If the student fell within the scores set for passing, Yay! Then follow the Bell Curve down where a certain percentage of students would be allowed in each section of the Curve. This would be much more realistic instead of trying to hit one “magic number” score for each student. If I had to hit one certain number on a test during my lifetime to determine success or failure, I may not have achieved a Master’s Degree or Post-graduate certifications. In each section of the curve the numbers would grow smaller, and increasing the number of students in the “acceptable” ranges of performance would be rewarded. Those acceptable ranges could even be different within each section of the curve. We would then give the students that struggle a chance to improve without failure as well as taking the emotional and financial strains off of campuses. Cheating, suicides and teacher flight would be much less common in a system that acknowledges student differences as strengths, and differing talents that could be cultivated for the good of our nation. Our nation has always derived its strength from diversity, and providing opportunities for everyone. Don’t take away those opportunities by saying one test score fits all. I have been teaching Special Education for over 30 years, all levels, in two states. I am currently in Hawaii. I love teaching but unfortunately teaching as I have known it is no longer a reality. Teaching to pass a test is the new reality and it is a sad one. I feel sorry for the new teachers coming in that they will never know the joy of teaching a student to bring out the best in him as a person, without also knowing that they have to bring out the student’s best test score, hopefully for the teacher a passing one.

    Another fairer way is to look at a student’s current achievement level. Are they above, at, or below grade level. Then within those distinctions set scores that slowly move a student up. Have a grade level representatives set the test score bar for the different ability levels. Representatives must have their bar values reviewed by the district. If you want to reward performance, reward those schools that met their bar values.

    • Very well stated! I struggle every day in trying to meet kids where they are and then where the state tells us they want them to be. There needs to be a place in every classroom for the diversity of learning prevailent in our society. Once size doesn’t fit all but the government wants us to make it fit. Growth should be the focus for every child; not where they perform at level 3 and 4.

  4. Well all I can say is that Obama is living on another planet! No college is going to lower their tuition and that is final! I am in my 4th year of college now (yes finally a senior) =) and the only thing I have seen happen is the continuation of tuition increase. Every year the lovely president sends a letter home letting students and parents know that tuition will be increasing due the the increase of expenses and the economy!!! That is complete nonsense!!! And the worst part is that every school knows how to get you. This school for example, gives you an awesome financial aid package when you ever and the money begins to decrease as the years go by and before you know it, you are down to loans and no more grants!! Somehow the financial aid office has been found a way to completely do away with my pell and tag grants. Now I am in my senior year and am hardly receiving any financial aid. And the most boggling part of this is that I am the second oldest of 15 children! I mean come one! There is definitely something wrong in the picture if they are telling me that my father makes too much money for me to receive any aid. Mind you there were four of us in college this past year. hmmmm I am just putting this all out there so that Obama has a reality check of what is really going on!!!! College is a money business. Schools could care less if you do well or not all they want is your money!!!!!!

    • This school for example, gives you an awesome financial aid package when you ever (enter)..Oops I made a mistake

  5. If you lived in Georgia you would feel differently. The teachers are mostly crooks or watch the crooks and say nothing. They are famous for grade inflation or just plain lying about achievement. The schools are big into graft and bribery here. It is right out in the open. Billions go to construction but learning programs are cut/good teachers are the first to go. I wish Obama would get out of dreamland and tell the truth; schools need competition just like grocery stores and gas stations. Those last two products are just as important as education. If schools had to compete for School Choice tax vouchers then there would be a different result; smarter kids and a better nation. Period. And if you don’t agree, try getting rotten eggs from your grocer for a while and being told to just shut up and like it!

    • I completely feel your pain. I reside in NJ and believe it is not any different over here. All schools are are money making businesses!

    • I agree also. Children are a special resource and competition for who can demonstrate educating them with the most success should and can be up to the choice of the parent.

  6. You know, how do you determine if a teacher is helping kids learn? I get so sick of that. Apparently a teacher (especially in math) gets blamed for everything and they focus on the failing students, not the progress. A student has been failing for years, but the current teacher takes the slack. “You are too hard on the students, that assignment is too rigorous for the students, or I don’t think you are a good fit for our students” are comments teachers hear when they have high standards for students. Everyone is saying all students can learn, but they want to dummy down intruction so much that by the time they get to high school, it is almost impossible to do any other thing but GIVE them a passing grade. Colleges will just make more money off of the issues of pushing students along to look and keep money coming in. Those standardized tests should be easy if a teacher is doing her job in the classroom and the administration and parents support them. Stop letting students cry and lie because they don’t want to complete assignments or take any responsibility for their learning. Visit the classrooms and help the teachers help not only your child, but the other students who don’t have a support system. I have gifts that I have shared with many students that was willing to accept them. Unfortunately, students who refuse to accept my gifts outweigh the good. Another 60, 000 dollars wasted on educating a teacher who leaves the field before year five!

    • After reading all of these posts, I wanted to point out a few things. 1st of all, if you go to http://www.fafsa.ed.gov (the website that controls federal and state financial aid) and click on what has changed, you will read about the changes that Obama signed into legislation on December 11, 2011. Beginning July 1, 2012, many things will change and none of the changes benefit those who are currently in college or those who wish to go to college in the future. Before now, if you made under $32,000.00 per year, you automatically qualified for financial aid, the new legislation dropped that to $23,000.00. Also, pell grants will now no longer cover summer college courses ( and he talks about colleges designing new ways to speed up a student’s graduation, but if you want to take summer courses, you will either have to pay for them yourself or take out a student loan. Also, you will now only receive 12 semesters of pell grant money instead of 18. So, if you are like me and work full time and go to school as many credit hours per semester as you can and still take care of your family, you only have 6 years, with no summers, to complete your degree, if you accept the maximum amount offered by the pell grant. That may seem like enough time to some people, but it may take some of us longer than that to graduate. There will no longer be any repayment incentives. Graduate student will no longer be eligible for subsidized loans. The subsidized loan interest rate will go up for the 2012-2013 year and in the future from what it is now, 3.4% to a wopping 6.8%. Also, if you take out a subsidized loan between 7/1/12 and 7/1/14 and you are not going to school at least half time, you are now responsible for the interest that accures while you are in your grace period. So, while Obama talks a lot about the importance of higher education, he is making it harder for people to afford it. Tuition will increase almost every year because inflation increases every year. When the price of everything you buy increases, you have to be able to increase the pay to your school employees and any employee for that matter, for most of us, just so we can keep up with the increased cost of living. That money doesn’t come out of thin air, part of that money, in the college education system, comes from an increase in tuition. And for the person who used the example that parents blame teachers when their child doesn’t learn math, I would like to tell you something about my daughter. She is a junior in high school and started learning algebra in the 8th grade. Not one of her math teachers taught her how to do it. She is like me in that we are strong in english and writing studies and we are terrible in math. I have talked to every teacher she has had every year. Last year, her entire class was so confused, but she didn’t believe me, so I told her teacher to give her class several pop quizzes and see how they did. She only gave them one and almost her entire class failed it. I can’t help her because, I don’t understand it well enough to help her at the level they now have her at. I can’t afford a tutor for her and her teacher can only give her “extra” help if she comes in at 7:00am. I have every respect for teachers. Most of them are unbelievably giving people who do a hard job for little money and put up with a lot. I don’t understand teachers who write down an assignment on a chalkboard and then tells the students to do it without any instruction except what the book offers and then passes them when they haven’t learned anything. My daughter is a good person, has a 3.5 GPA, is hard working, plays softball for the high school, and is given so much homework that is all she does when she gets home from practice. What has happened to her is tragic. There, I have said my piece. Now, I have to get back to my own homework.

  7. I very much appreciate that President Obama realizes the importance of needing a high quality educational system. I do not agree that it should be “required” that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn eighteen. It is an admirable goal but not totally realistic to think that high school is for everyone. There are some situations whereby it is in the best interest of a student to leave before turning 18. It is unfortunate that this needs to happen but sometimes it’s a better overall solution for the individual.

    This entire issue of some students needing to leave before turning 18 can be related to the fact that not all students learn the same way. There are many different learning styles but public K-12 education systems are only able to teach all students the same way. A teacher with 30 students in a class can not possibly address each of the different learning styles. As a result, some students end up not able to learn, getting frustrated and acting out their frustration with behaviors not acceptable in a classroom environment. This issue is at the heart of why public education isn’t working.

    Our educational system platform hasn’t changed for 180 years. Children get up, go to school, sit in classes for several hours each day, have classes in math, science, history, english, etc. come home, do homework, and then start over the next day. Some curriculum remains the same for very long periods of time, all designed to teach to a particular learning style. There are many issues to address in order to improve the process, there is not just one solution. I believe that the most serious of all problems is that we continue to be blind to the needs of an increasingly diverse universe of students who have different learning styles. Our teachers are not prepared nor physically able to address this issue properly. We need to be able to teach to the different ways of learning.

    Just throwing more resources in trying to fix the problem is not only very costly but is the wrong approach. The way to be able to teach to individual learning styles is by utilizing state-of-the-art resources; an on-line, real-time, collaborative Distance Learning model. The technology which supports this model has been in existence for many years. Much of the infrastructure (the INTRA/INTERNET) is now in place to support full scale deployment of this model. It’s the only real practicle way to address this issue. This different learning styles issue is not unique to any particular intelligence level. Learners at levels may learn differently. Benefits can be gained at all intelligence levels by addressing this need.

    By making the highest quality of teaching resources, the teacher who is trained to deliver lesson plans to specific classes of learners, available to a geographical dispersed group of similar learners in a way in which two-way, real-time interaction occurs, every individual will be able to obtained information in a manner which enables them to learn at their maximum potential. this is the objective which we need to meet.

    This new platform will not be implemented over night. Rather, it will take 10+ years to fully implement. We need to begin moving in this direction by training teachers to be able to teach to these groups of diverse learners. Curriculum needs to be changed and infrastructure enhancements made. The impact of this model change to the teaching universe might be a reduction over time of the total number of teachers needed. There would probably eventually be a decline in numbers but more probably a leveling off of total numbers of teachers. For the most part, the change will develop a stronger, higher quality teaching professional. Most importantly, this model will allow more students with diverse learning style, the ability to learn to their maximum level. The benefits of this are profound.

    • Mr. Bellamy,
      You Nailed it!
      It doesn’t seem teachers are interview with that concept in mind. A principle no longer will higher 4 teachers per grade with different teaching styles. We no longer ask teachers what can you bring to the table. Instead we allow the districts to pick the learning material in hopes we can make each state have the same achievement rate. Money has been cut so much the teachers will pull stuff from about.com to teach.

      In our district for elementary there is not Math workbook. My child for first grade was working single and double digit addition from September to March then after spring break they start subtracting single digits. So the year started with her being ahead but ended with her being behind.

      • First off, I totally agree with Bill. I am a teacher and I love my job, but I left public school because I was tired of teaching the test. I now teach ESL to adults and am loving every minute of it. PS Jennifer- it should be interviewed and it’s spelled principal. Oh and we hire (not higher) people. Please make sure if you are to post about education you are educated. Thank you!

  8. I totally support our president initiative .I do believe that if politic and partisanship were put aside, we can success and make America more strong. Thank you my president.

    • elie,
      You may wish to return to school and brush up on your grammar. Or at least learn how to conjugate sentences, and eliminate sentence fragments. It’s clear your educators need some assistance.

      • Joe,
        Have you ever heard of an ad hominem “argument” in the debate sense? It is when, rather than attempting to deal with another person’s argument or point of view in a constructive way, you instead criticize or insult the person whose argument or point of view you are against. Your statement serves as a prime example of an ad hominem. For the sake of satisfaction, then, and not for that of debate, I feel inclined to ask if you should return to school and brush up on your civilized discourse.

        In any case, let’s leave the senseless bickering here. I strongly believe that if these two measures are put in place simultaneously and unilaterally, the American education system will be greatly benefited:

        (1) increase teachers’ salaries. This will provide the incentive for good students to orient themselves toward teaching rather than, say, working for hedge funds, and help ensure that the best teachers do not leave the job. It will also provide incentives for schools and states to search for the best teachers, since they will not want to be paying large sums of money for mediocre teaching.

        (2) establish a system of teacher evaluation with a multilateral approach. Standardized test scores are not indicative of a teacher’s performance; they are indicative of a student’s. Instead, examine how these scores have varied upon changing teachers, and adjust this variation for mean variations which result from the transition between grade levels in between tests. Even with this, the system of evaluation is incomplete: other measurements must be developed and fully tested in scientific studies to ensure effectiveness. A good system of evaluation ensures that, while more good teachers are brought in by the higher salaries, the bad teachers do not serve as leeches.

        As for the President’s statement regarding the need to recognize teachers for the job they do, I am in complete agreement: how are we to attract the best students into teaching if they see that all that’s in it for them is criticism?

        And, finally, as far as requiring attendance of high school until students are 18 or graduate, I am also in agreement: education is the single most important element of one’s youth. If it is squandered or abandoned in even a single case, all of society is worse off.

        P.S. I am a Senior in a French high school here in the US. I have had a great many excellent teachers, and a great many bad ones. I can attest to the fact that the bad ones need replacing, while the good ones deserve to have their salaries doubled.

        P.P.S. Cutting from education in a budget is, in 99.999% of cases a very bad idea, and a potential blow to future of the nation. Remember, the quality of a nation’s economy, political and social environment, military, and innovative spirit is directly proportional to the quality of the education it provides. Period.

    • Elie,
      I’m glad you came out and voiced out your feelings, but then, Joe was right. I wish, you don’t get offended at all…

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