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Race To The Top Unveiled In Obama State of Union Speech: Why It Will Work

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Dedicated teachers need to be rewarded and respected.

In President Obama’s State of the Union speech, he outlined a new, innovative grant program called Race to the Top, “the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation.”

What I like about the initiative is that at its core it stems from solid values: hard work and dedication, and I can think of no better ideals to strive for as a nation, and as parents. It seems somewhere along the lines many schools, and subsequently parents and students, have stepped away from hard work as the reward itself and entered into a mindset of what’s in it for me?

This program will attempt to change that way of thinking and get kids and teachers back to the basics.

Here’s how President Obama described the grant program:

That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities. It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done. 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; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.

Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance. But too many schools don’t meet this test. That’s why instead of just pouring money into a system that’s not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all fifty states, we said, “If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money.”

Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as “nation builders.” Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. And over the next ten years, with so many Baby Boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

In fact, to every young person listening tonight who’s contemplating their career choice: 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. Your country needs you.

In a time when celebrity and sports (and their salaries) are lauded more than anything else, children need to hear that education is more important than fame. They need to hear it from their parents, their teachers, their idols, and their President, and they need to hear it often. I like that Obama puts the pressure on the parents to set limits and enforce education because it all starts at home —always. Ask any teacher.

But I also like that he holds high expectations for teachers. Isn’t it wrong that bad teachers can cling onto teacher tenure? You simply could not do that in the private sector. If you don’t perform in publishing, accounting, technology, etc., you will be fired. Shouldn’t we hold up teachers to not only as high a bar, but even higher? They are responsible for our children’s minds. Standards need to be set so high, they should be not easily attainable.

When those strengths are effectively addressed, these dedicated, skilled teachers need to be rewarded. Being a teacher needs to be praised as a society, not looked down upon because they get no recognition, respect or money.

Race to the Top has the potential to change our failing educational system. Some say it may be idealistic, and perhaps it is, but aren’t ideals what we hope to instill in our children? Ideals, hope, perseverance and commitment are what our country should strive for, and it can all start in the classroom.

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