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President Obama and Secretary Duncan Meet 6th Graders

Posted by: Audiegrl

Speeding Up the Race to the Top

President Barack Obama and Sec. of Education Arne Duncan, right, take questions during a group discussion with 6th grade students at Graham Road Elementary School in Falls Church, VA. January 19, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama announces a proposed $1.3 billion investment in Race to the Top, a program to encourage innovation and excellence in education through competitive grants, at an event at Graham Road Elementary School in Falls Church, VA. January 19, 2010.

This morning the President and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan paid a visit to Graham Road Elementary School in Falls Church, Virginia where they had a chat with about 30 6th grade students. The conversation put a face to the people they were trying to help with the President’s latest investment of more than a billion dollars in next year’s budget to amp up the President’s “Race to the Top” program – a competition to incentivize success that has already generated an overwhelming response from states, with over 30 states expected to compete for first-round funding.

You can learn more about Graham Road in the White House background release, but the school made a mark on its community by implementing a comprehensive strategy to turn around student achievement, adopting rigorous and high-quality student assessments, teacher evaluation and professional development, along with innovative and effective use of data systems to track student performance. As a result, in 2008 all of the school’s sixth-graders met Virginia’s reading standards, and 96 percent met math standards, despite being one of the lowest income schools in the county. The expansion of Race to the Top comes with a plan to encourage precisely this kind of visionary change in schools that apply for the challenge.

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In his remarks after the meeting with students, the President explained how it all works, and the logic behind “Race to the Top“:

Last year, we set aside more than $4 billion to improve our schools — one of the largest investments in reform in our nation’s history. But we didn’t just hand this money out to states that wanted it; we challenged them to compete for it. And it’s the competitive nature of this initiative that we believe helps make it so effective. We laid out a few key criteria and said if you meet these tests, we’ll reward you by helping you reform your schools.

First, we encouraged states to adopt more challenging standards that will actually prepare our kids for college and their careers. We also encouraged schools to adopt better assessments — not just one-size-fits-all approaches — to measure what our kids know and what they’re able to do.

Second, we urged schools and school districts to make sure we have excellent principals leading our schools and great teachers leading our classes by promoting rigorous plans to develop and evaluate teachers and principals and by rewarding their success.

Third, we urged states to use cutting-edge data systems to track a child’s progress throughout their academic career, and to link that child’s progress to their teachers so we know what’s working and what’s not working in the classroom. Fourth, we encouraged states to show a stronger commitment to turning around some of their lowest-performing schools.

And even before states have received a single dime of taxpayer money, many of them have committed to instituting important reforms to better position themselves for a Race to the Top grant. Forty-eight states have now joined a nationwide partnership to develop a common set of rigorous, career-ready standards in reading and math. Wisconsin has enacted legislation permitting schools to link student achievement to the performance of teachers and principals. In Illinois, Louisiana, Tennessee, California, we’ve seen changes in laws or policies to let public charter schools expand and succeed. These are public schools with more independence that are formed by teachers, parents, and community members.

So by rewarding some of these states submitting applications today, by extending the Race to the Top for states, by launching a Race to the Top among school districts, and by applying the principles of Race to the Top to other federal programs, we’ll build on this success. We’re going to raise the bar for all our students and take bigger steps towards closing the achievement gap that denies so many students, especially black and Latino students, a fair shot at their dreams.

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President Obama’s Saturday Address + Ben Nelson “Yes Man”

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WhiteHouse.govThe Patient’s Bill of Rights and Health Reform

December 19, 2009

The President looks back to the bipartisan Patient’s Bill of Rights, a bill that was defeated in Congress at the hands of special interests and their supporters, and notes that health insurance reform covers the same ground and much more in terms of giving the consumers the upper hand over their insurance companies. He calls on the Senate to allow an up-or-down vote, and for those opposing reform to stop using parliamentary maneuvers to drag it out.
Read the Transcript

December 19, 2009.

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Related Story: AP sources: Sen. Nelson to support health bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic officials say Sen. Ben Nelson intends to support health care legislation backed by President Barack Obama, giving the measure a 60th and decisive vote.

These officials say the Nebraska Democrat will make an announcement later Saturday. Marathon negotiations with the White House and Senate Democratic leaders produced fresh concessions that will mean additional abortion restrictions in the legislation.

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Budget office: Democrats’ bill covers 94 percent of population

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional budget scorekeepers say the latest Democratic health care bill would cover 94 percent of eligible Americans while reducing the federal deficit.

The Congressional Budget Office said Saturday the changes announced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would cut the deficit by an additional $2 billion, bringing the 10-year total reduction to $132 billion.

The nearly $900 billion bill would be paid for by $483 billion in cuts to Medicare and other federal health programs, as well as tax increases.

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Web Surf to Save Your Aging Brain

Posted by Audiegrl

Seniors_computersHealthDay/Amanda Gardner—Surfing the Internet just might be a way to preserve your mental skills as you age.

Researchers found that older adults who started browsing the Web experienced improved brain function after only a few days.

You can teach an old brain new technology tricks,” said Dr. Gary Small, a psychiatry professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of iBrain. With people who had little Internet experience, “we found that after just a week of practice, there was a much greater extent of activity particularly in the areas of the brain that make decisions, the thinking brain — which makes sense because, when you’re searching online, you’re making a lot of decisions,” he said. “It’s interactive.”

Seniors_computersbSmall is co-author of the research, which was scheduled to be presented Monday in Chicago at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting.

This makes intuitive sense, that getting on the Internet and exploring and getting new information and learning would help,” said Paul Sanberg, director of the University of South Florida Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair in Tampa. “It supports the value of exploring the Internet for the elderly.”

Most experts now advocate a “use-it-or-lose-it” approach to mental functioning.

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