Obama’s “failing” take on Education By Elton L. Lewis, PhD

It’s no secret to even a novice in the political arena the teachers and teachers’ unions are the backbone and life-line of the Democratic Party. Over the years these political “powerhouses” have poured billions of dollars into the party and been the foundation upon which many political giants have built their careers, including our 44th President Barack Obama. But just as has happened time and time again, those of whom we lean to for are strongest support gets taken for granted and even neglected. Obama proclaimed during the campaign of the importance of educating our children; and yes, while we continue to make certain that there is “No Child Left Behind,” the same cannot be said about the teachers who educate these children.

As recently as July 2nd, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was out blazing trails to promote Obama’s education agenda, trying to convince the National Education Association, and other teachers’ unions that performance-based incentives and pay for teachers is the “right answer.”

But who are we kidding here? It all sounds great and looks good on paper, but let’s just be honest here; this is Obama’s way to try to save a dollar here and there in the Education budget. Teachers at low performing schools would stand to lose a chunk of their salary which they honestly cannot afford in this fragile economy that we live in today. States are scrambling, as we speak, to come up with plans for incentive-based pay for teachers which will unlock billions of dollars in much needed funds for education, promised by the Obama administration.

But as you can imagine, these hastily-put-together plans will undoubtedly have flaws and the uncomfortable adjustment period to go along with the added funds. Most plans call for pay based on scores on statewide standardized tests. Now let’s contemplate on that thought for a moment…..you mean to say that someone’s salary could be directly correlated to how someone else performs on one given day. Hmmm….I can’t imagine that this would cause anyone to perform any ethically-questionable acts at all. But seriously though, many schools were already “teaching to the test” before incentive-based pay was even on the bargaining table, what will happen now? Could you honestly blame teachers if there were a mass exodus of highly-qualified teacher out of “predominately-black” schools in “urban” areas?

Since money appears to be the focal point in education, as opposed to educating and positively influencing the lives of the next generation of American, the Obama administration has to take ownership in the fact that this could possibly be the demise of what we have come to know as the educational system in America. I know that may sound like exaggeration and hyperbole, but to a certain degree it does hold true. As awful as educators believe that the Bush administration was to education, this could potentially be far worse.

This notion of “teaching to the test” is one that could possibly cripple our students and find them ill-prepared to enter the collegiate arena. No one would argue that one test should determine the ability and intellect of anyone. Similarly, no test should then be the premise that drives all instruction in any curriculum, lest we stifle the educational and academic freedom that we have grown to love here in America. Even more importantly, no single test on a single day of the academic year should determine the pay of an individual that works tirelessly for close to 200 other days.

I wonder what would be come of this policy if after it is set into motion President Obama’s daughters were dropped in a public school in Washington, DC? I wonder how he would handle himself if his pay and legacy in American history were based solely on the success of one thing, like the economy? President Obama must understand that if you tamper with the foundation or base of any structure it will eventually crumble. There are about to be several million angry teachers and a formidable base in the Democratic Party very angry with this policy, I wonder how long before what Howard Dean and those at the DNC built begins to crumble.

When will Washington understand that you will never achieve “No Child Left Behind” until there is “No Teacher Left Behind.”


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