PTA: The Educator-in-Chief

Posted by on Mar 11, 2016 in Blog | No Comments

This post was originally published on the National PTA blog Wednesday, March 11, 2009


More than one politician in my lifetime has promised that they would be “the education president.” Back in 2000, both major party candidates declared their intent to revolutionize the federal government’s role in education, and they were by no means the first to make such a pledge. But no American president in recent decades has truly lived up to that title, as evidenced by the statistics that President Barack Obama cited yesterday in a speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce:

“In 8th grade math, we’ve fallen to 9th place [in the world]. Singapore’s middle-schoolers outperform ours three to one. Just a third of our 13- and 14-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.”

President Obama later spoke of too many schools with dropout rates of over 50% and how, in a single generation, America has fallen from 2nd to 11th place in the portion of students graduating from college. Reports like the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and the Programme for International Student Assessment still show the United States as one of the leading nations in education, but they also show how we have clearly started to cede our advantage to the rest of the world—especially when you look at student achievement in 8th grade and beyond. So, will President Obama actually be the “education president”? It’s far too early to tell, but it’s clear he’s made no small plans for our public school system, and PTA is excited about what we can accomplish by working with his administration.

After identifying the key items of his education agenda yesterday, news outlets and blogs were quick to seize upon the five pillars of education reform cited by the President—many reports of which you can find through U.S. News & World Report. However, too many commentators, it seemed, missed his final “ingredient”:

“Yes, we need more money; yes, we need more reform; yes, we need to hold ourselves more accountable for every dollar we spend. But… no government policy 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 child leaves for school on time and does their homework when they get back at night. These are things only a parent can do.”

Already in Washington DC for the PTA national legislative conference, PTA’s leadership didn’t waste a moment in emphasizing this vital role of the family. National President Jan Harp Domene spoke of the importance of giving “parents the tools they need to be effective in supporting their students’ education, including increasing funding for Parental Information and Resource Centers and strengthening parent involvement provisions in No Child Left Behind.” National CEO Byron V. Garrett added, “It is vital that parents remain involved in decisions that have a significant impact on students’ lives, which in turn can positively affect the future of America’s economy and status as a global leader.”

What we here at PTA want to know is: what do you think about the President’s ambitious education agenda? There seems to be something for everyone in his plan (regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum): from $5 billion for early education, to reforming our testing standards and assessments, to the possibilities of teacher merit pay and longer school days/years—and much, much more. The President gave us a lot to talk about, so if you haven’t heard his speech yet, watch the video online or take a look at the transcript, and let’s hear what you have to say…


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