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What I Heard From Parents, Teachers and Students about Education Reform

As a part of the Advise the Advisor program, Melody Barnes asked for input from parents, teachers, and students on education. Several thousand people responded to her video and shared their thoughts, concerns and idea. In this post, Melody addresses these comments.

Last week, through our Advise the Advisor program, I asked parents, teachers, and students about how they’re sharing the responsibility in preparing our students for the 21st Century.

Thousands of you—from teachers, students, and parents to grandparents, concerned citizens, and others—sent us ideas about our education system.  A team here reviewed every submission.  We want to share some of those submissions, and some thoughts.


We asked parents to describe ways in which they were taking responsibility for their child’s education.  And we received some great feedback.  

Many parents told us that being involved with their child’s education makes a world of difference, especially when it comes to academic success.   We heard stories about parents who, when they saw their child’s poor grades, took action by helping with homework, talking with teachers, or working with their son or daughter to study.  

Other parents told us that they were reinforcing at home what their child learned in school—by listening and discussing the day’s lessons, re-reading a school book, or another activity.

Some parents told us that they encourage their child learn more about the world around them—by discussing current events, or helping to plan field trips.  Julie from Alabama had a great suggestion:

I round out my children's education by finding out what the lessons were today and talking about how the information fits in a broader context, in a broader world view. I also take the kids to museums, send them links to news articles, talk to them about politics and everything that is going on around us, and try to get them to understand that there are many points of view and to always look deeper.

Parents like Julie are critical to our students and to their academic success.  We need parents who are able to take responsibility for their child’s education—by getting involved, talking with teachers, and providing the support and resources their child needs.


We asked students to tell us how their education is preparing them for college and 21st century careers. Many students told us how important education was for their future, as well as the future of our country.

Many said that we need to continue providing and supporting great teachers in every classroom, as well as great principals in every school.  Yet many students are concerned that school budget cuts will hurt their ability to learn.  Sarah from Florida had this to say:

If the budget for education keeps shrinking, the next generation of students will be unable to compete for these new jobs. Please help us and keep on funding the big universities as well, but high schools need all they can get to fund this pertinent education.

We agree with Sarah.  Investing in education is one of the smartest steps we can take for our future.  It’s no secret that our country is facing some tough economic times, or that the federal government, like many American families, has had to tighten its belt and live within its means.  But even as we work to get our fiscal house in order, we must make sure that we don’t sacrifice our future.

That’s why President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal includes important investments in education like supporting Pell Grants, preparing 100,000 new science, technology, engineering and math teachers, and expanding the successful Race to the Top program to drive reform in schools across the country.


We asked teachers to describe ways in which they prepare their students for college and career, as well as some of the challenges they face.

We heard from a lot of teachers, many of whom expressed frustration about a lack of flexibility to be creative in teaching students the skills they’ll need to succeed beyond the classroom.  Many of teachers expressed concern about the pressure to “teach for the test,” rather than help students learn the information.

Teachers across the nation emphasized the importance of reforming the “No Child Left Behind” law. Sam from North Carolina wrote:

We need greater resources to teach students without the restrictions of teaching to a standardized test... There is a place for testing, but NCLB has changed education drastically, and not for the better.

The President and I agree that it is time to replace No Child Left Behind with a law that doesn’t simply identify shortcomings in the system.  We need a law that focuses on solutions. 

Last Monday, the President spoke about a series of reforms we need to win the future for our students, including:

  • A flexible and focused accountability system that promotes shared responsibility, college and career readiness, and rewards achievement.
  • Support for reform and innovation at the state and local level that will empower both principals and teachers.
  • New efforts to drive resources and reform to the Nation's persistently low-performing schools and those with the greatest achievement gaps, and to ensure there is a great teacher in every classroom and a great principal in every school.

The President and I believe that we need to take responsibility for our students’ education and fix this law.