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Education needs to be at forefront

Local students and teachers react to president’s State of the Union address
By: Daniel Wetter The Press Tribune
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According to local students and teachers, education was on the backburner in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address Jan. 25.
Obama opened the education discussion with saying that academics should be awarded.
“We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair,” the president said.
Roseville High School junior Jacob Priley, 17, thought that education was not a top priority.
“I felt it was definitely one of the side notes of the speech,” Priley said.
He believes education reform should be a top priority of the Obama administration, even creating an online petition for students, teachers, and parents to sign.
“You definitely don’t have to be 18 to sign the petition, because we have a voice in education,” he said. The petition, www.PetitionOnline.com/Rsvl1234/petition.html is being circulated around social media, including Facebook and Twitter.
On Tuesday, the White House commenced its 2011 Race to the Top initiative, once again challenging schools to compete for money.
President Obama outlined his goals for education in the address, including replacing the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act with the Race to the Top initiative.
“We’re in for some big changes,” Roseville High School principal Brad Basham said.
According to Basham, Roseville High School, which is currently under No Child Left Behind Program Improvement due to not reaching a specific goal, looks forward to reformed education policy. He cited many flaws with No Child Left Behind.
“Good schools are being punished,” Basham said.
Although he believes that the program should be repealed, he thought it gave the education society something to reach for.
“It’s had a positive impact on education in terms of providing us a direction,” Basham said.
Basham said one aspect of No Child Left Behind has changed the way students are taught.
“We’re the first generation of educators being asked to educate every student,” Basham said.
The president spoke highly of his Race to the Top initiative, which could soon replace No Child Left Behind.
“To all 50 states, we said, ‘If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money,’” Obama said.
Race to the Top encourages states to raise their standards by offering money in return for results.
“Rather than focusing on an arbitrary target, like No Child Left Behind, the Race to the Top initiative is a little more flexible and I think a little more motivating, a little more realistic,” Basham said.
Both Basham and Roseville High School English teacher Bobby Ritter would like having national standards, which are expected to go into effect 2014.
“I don’t think the state standards are any good,” Ritter said.
Ritter said that teaching recommendations from college boards, national recommendations, and state boards are just too much.
“That is what we need to figure out -- what students need to learn,” Ritter said.
Obama also called upon the nation’s youth to pursue a teaching career, stating the nation needs 100,000 new math and science teachers.
“If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child — become a teacher,” Obama said, “Your country needs you.”
Basham believes respect to teachers has to change before any new teachers are recruited.
“Enough with the teacher bashing,” Basham said.
The principal believes that if schools offer programs of study in the education field like those of culinary arts and fashion, students might be more apt to look at the field as a career path.
“Students need to view it as ‘This is something I’d like to do,’” Basham said.
President Obama also urged parent support, which Basham agreed with.
“Parents own some responsibility here,” Basham said.
Obama additionally set a goal for the U.S. to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
“The ultimate mission doesn’t change,” Basham said, which he says is preparing students for college as best they can.
Although the economy was the most prevalent topic in the address, Priley said that education should be on everyone’s minds.
“It can’t wait,” Priley said, demanding change before 2014.
Obama also called for making permanent a tax credit worth $10,000 for four-year college students.