Reading, Writing and Reform

This week CBS Evening News kicks off a series of stories about how to improve our schools to prepare the next generation for the jobs of the future. Anchor and Managing Editor, Katie Couric offers her first-hand take on why the series matters in this blog post.

I've watched "Waiting for Superman" a new documentary by David Guggenheim twice. It is incredibly compelling and depressing.Education in this country is failing too many students.  The documentary film traces the decline of public education in an understandable, relatable way. Who knew educators still tracked kids and put them on a path to jobs that existed in a post World War II economy? And while our country ranks 5th in spending per student, we also rank 21st in science literacy in a comparison of 30 developed countries. Yet we rank number one in self-confidence.

I was so inspired by how this documentary shines a light on so many issues -- the heartbreak of kids who don't get into charter schools, the controversy over teachers' unions and the failure factories that churn out kids who are unprepared or drop out in terrifying numbers. I admire the revolutionaries who are out there shaking up a broken system. So I became obsessed with covering with this story from multiple angles and we've decided to spend a great deal of time this fall and throughout the school year looking at education.

Among the stories we'll cover:

  • Why are teachers more revered in countries like Japan than in the U.S.?  We'll look at how much more Japanese teachers are paid and supported than their U.S. counterparts.
  • We'll spotlight one man's innovative approach to targeting 'drop-out factories' -- the 2,000 high schools accounting for half the nation's high school drop-outs.
  • I'll report on the Obama administration's efforts to turn around failing schools - including two I'll get to visit in Camden, NJ.
  • I've been shocked to learn fewer than one in four kids who enroll in college actually graduate, so we'll investigate why and look for solutions.
  • We'll explore the controversy in Los Angeles over grading teachers and making their ranking available to the public to hold them accountable. Studies have found when under performing kids are given a good teacher 3 years in a row, 90 percent of them passed their standardized tests.
  • We take a hard look at the role of unions and how tenure allows bad teachers stay in the system. An expert in "Waiting for Superman" used the term 'lemon dance' to describe how bad teachers are shuffled from school to school with no accountability.

The point is - good teachers matter. I believe education is the key to improving our country and remaining globally competitive. We kick off the series tonight and I think most math teachers will tell you when all is said and done, the stories will add up to a compelling body of work.

I went to public school all my life and think I got a fairly good education, though, admittedly, at times, I was a bit of a slacker. How do you think education could be improved in this country? Or what do you see as the biggest problems? I am on fire on this topic and would love to learn from you and hear from you!