Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Obama to push for merit pay for teachers in education speech.


WASHINGTON--In a major speech on education, President Obama On Tuesday will push merit pay for teachers and upgraded "data systems" to track student and teacher performance. Money for that will be provided through the Obama stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Key proposal, according to the White House: "The President will teacher quality by dramatically expanding successful performance pay models and rewards for effective teachers, scaling up federal support for such programs in up to an additional 150 school districts nationwide."

Office of the Press Secretary
March 10, 2009

Fact Sheet: Expanding the Promise of Education in America

"In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity, it is a pre-requisite. That is why it will be the goal of this Administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education - from the day they are born to the day they begin a career."
- President Barack Obama
Address to Joint Session of Congress, February 24, 2009

Providing a high-quality education for all children is critical to America's economic future. Education has always been the foundation for achieving the American dream, providing opportunity to millions of American families, newcomers, and immigrants. Our nation's economic competitiveness depends on providing every child with an education that will enable them to compete in a global economy that is predicated on knowledge and innovation.

Progress toward this goal requires a race to the top to reform our nation's schools. It requires holding schools accountable for helping all students meet world-class standards aligned to the demands of the 21st century workforce. It requires solutions for schools to close the achievement gap, and strategies to accelerate the learning of those that are the furthest behind. It requires new reforms to promote effective teaching and attract the best and brightest into the profession. It requires a national strategy to confront America's persistent dropout crisis, and strengthen transitions to college and career.

President Obama's agenda will improve outcomes for students at every point along the educational pipeline.

Early Education: A Strong Foundation for Success

Research demonstrates that the years before kindergarten comprise the most critical time in a child's life to influence educational outcomes. It's time that our nation make the early investments that will transform lives, create opportunity and save money in the long term

· President Obama is committed to helping states develop seamless, comprehensive, and coordinated "Zero to Five" systems to improve developmental outcomes and early learning for all children.
· In the 2010 budget, Early Learning Challenge Grants will encourage states to raise the bar on the quality of early education, upgrade workforce quality, and drive improvements across multiple federal, state, and local funding streams.
· Incentive grants to states will support data collection across programs (Head Start, child care, Pre-kindergarten, and other early learning settings), push for uniform quality standards, and step-up efforts for the most disadvantaged children.

K-12: Fostering a Race to the Top

To excel in the global economy, we must adopt world-class standards, assessments, and accountability systems to upgrade the quality of teaching and learning in America's classrooms.

· The President encourages an end to the practice of low-balling state reading and math standards, and will promote efforts to enhance the rigor of state-level curriculum to better foster critical thinking, problem solving, and the innovative use of knowledge needed to meet 21st century demands.
· He will push to end the use of ineffective "off-the-shelf" tests, and promote the development of new, state-of-the-art data and assessment systems that provide timely and useful information about the learning and progress of individual students.
· With funding provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the U.S. Department of Education will work with states to upgrade data systems to track students progress and measure the effectiveness of teachers.

Teachers are the single most important resource to a child's learning. America must re-invest in the teaching profession by recruiting mid-career professional and ensuring that teachers have the world's best training and preparation. We must take action to improve teaching in classrooms that need it most, while demanding accountability and performance.

· The President will teacher quality by dramatically expanding successful performance pay models and rewards for effective teachers, scaling up federal support for such programs in up to an additional 150 school districts nationwide.
· He supports improved professional development and mentoring for new and less effective teachers, and will insist on shaping new processes to remove ineffective teachers.
· The President supports a new, national investment in recruiting the best and brightest to the field of teaching, and will invest in scaling-up innovative teacher preparation and induction models.

Driving Innovation and Expecting Excellence

America's schools must be incubators of innovation and success. Where charter schools are successful, states should be challenged to lift arbitrary caps and make use of successful lessons to drive reform throughout other schools.

· President Obama will encourage the growth of successful, high-quality charter schools, and challenge states to reform their charter rules and lift limits that stifle growth and success among excellent schools.
· The President supports rigorous accountability for all charter schools, and will encourage higher-quality processes for the approval and review of charter schools, as well as plans to shut-down charters if schools are failing to serve students well.

America's competitiveness demands a focus on the needs of our lowest-performing students and schools. Our middle- and high- schools must identify students at-risk of dropping out, and we must scale-up models that keep students on a path toward graduation. Reform in America's lowest-performing schools must be systemic and transformational. For some, partnerships and additional support can bring about change and drive improvement. Others may need to move beyond the late 19th century and expand the school day.

· The President supports a national strategy to address the dropout crisis in America's communities, and efforts to transform the nation's lowest-performing schools. 2,000 of the nation's struggling high schools produce over half of America's dropouts. The President will invest in re-engaging and recovering at-risk students, including those enrolled in the middle school grades.
· The FY 2010 budget will support the development and scaling of effective dropout prevention and recovery models - such as transfer schools that combine education and job training for high school students that are far behind.
· President Obama supports the acceleration of America's lowest-performing schools, and will make a robust investment toward recovery for schools failing standards under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Restoring America's Leadership in Higher Education

Our competitiveness abroad depends on opening the doors of higher education for more of America's students. The U.S. ranks seventh in terms of the percentage of 18-24 year olds enrolled in college, but only 15th in terms of the number of certificates and degrees awarded. A lack of financial resources should never obstruct the promise of college opportunity. And it's America's shared responsibility to ensure that more of our students not only reach the doors of college, but also persist, succeed, and obtain their degree.

· President Obama's FY 2010 budget makes a historic commitment to increasing college access and success by restructuring and dramatically expanding financial aid, while making federal programs simpler, more reliable, and more efficient.
· The President will restore the buying power of the Pell Grant for America's neediest students and guarantee an annual increase tied to inflation. His plan will end wasteful subsidies to banks under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program, and re-direct billions in savings toward student aid.
· And it will dramatically simplify the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), making it easier to complete and more effective for students.
· The President supports strengthening the higher education pipeline to ensure that more students succeed and complete their college education. His plan will invest in community colleges to conduct an analysis of high-demand skills and technical education, and shape new degree programs for emerging industries.




I am sure these lofty sounding proposals mean well but I wish politicians would just stay out of education. As an educator and administrator with over 20 years experience I have observed that the things state and federal bureacrats dream up to "improve" education are usually ineffective and often hamper teachers rather than help. My wife is a case in point - a special education teacher for the last 25 years who works with the very at-risk students mentioned in this article. This is probably her last year and she is being driven out of the profession by unending paperwork and regulations that are so pervasive that she can no longer teach students. To politicians, raising standards means increasing high school graduation requirements forcing students who already don't get math and science to take more math and science so they wind up dropping out or going to alternative schools. "Accountability", "raise standards" "charter schools" all political mantras (and they sound very much like the last administration).

Pres. Obama's proposal to turn over virtually the entire student loan market to the U.S. Department of Education -- by eliminating the 44-year-old guaranteed student loan program -- will eliminate tens of thousands of jobs.

These are good paying jobs that offer health and retirement benefits.

If you support these core initiatives:

-Effective, empowered teachers and school leaders;
-Student assessments that stress 21st century skills;
-Universal access to high-quality early education;
-A safe, healthy learning environment; and
-Affordable college for all students.

Let Obama know! visit EDVOTERS.ORG and sign the petition.

How ironic that Obama is talking about improving education before an Hispanic organization. If he wants to improve education he will have to end illegal immigration which is an anchor on the whole system.

As economist and ethicist Adam Smith said, "Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent."

Everything you need to know about immigration and what to do about it humorously told.

(Roy Beck and NumbersUSA are the "gumaball" heroes)

I sure had hopes for President Obama....those hopes are now fading with this news. I am a public classroom teacher and have been for the past SEVERAL years. We need someone in Washington on OUR side. Teachers have had enough in the "accountability" department in the past 8 years. We need PARENT and STUDENT "accountability". We, as teachers, can only do so much to help a student pass these state and federal tests. We put our lives and careers in the hands of our students each year with these tests. As we have said all is a team effort and it takes a village to raise a child. Enough responsibility on the teachers....put some in the HOME!

I appreciate the concern for our youth to get the best education possible, but what can this criteria be that will prove whether a teacher is "qualified" enough? Students change from year to year and thus will the data. Myself, being a teacher commited to teaching in an area where most students don't come speaking english, much less parents, and most do not attend preschool or do any real preparation before coming to Kindergarten, I want to know how this situation will be addressed and measured differently than a school where students come from wealthy families or at least middle class and have a computer lab in every classroom and extra teachers for art, music, pe etc. It seems to me that the smart teachers will go to schools with kids that come in "readier". But the national problem will remain. Let's get some better administrators who use the little money we do have better so that we don't have to buy our own paper and pencils if the budget gets a little bit tight.

A teacher (assuming they are properly trained) can only do so much. Many areas of low quality results are also in areas where a sound home environment is lacking. There used to be more support from home as to the goals and desires of a teacher. Mothers, before such large numbers began working, were involved with the classroom and the teacher and certainly had a pulse of the need of a teacher. Today, in many poorly supported schools, parents aren't involved and often the school is "bad-mouthed at home, and thus the schools credibility is void, if not terrible weakened. There are many factors in the total process, and certainly the teacher is a critical link as well as parental support and involvement from home.

Merit pay leads to cheating, unhealthy competition and a shaky staff moral. Poor neighbourhoods with poor results will continue to attract the worst teachers while affluent neighbourhoods will atract the best. Principal's best friends become the highest paid and the others, who may be amazing teachers, loose confidence and don't work as hard. This is an extremely short cited idea that may be popular in the short term but extremely destructive in the long term.

My wife is a 2nd grade teacher in a less than privileged school district. A district where kids don’t have proper clothing to wear during the winter months. She spends the better part of the first hour getting the kids warm. Surrounded by Charter schools that have teachers, which are not even certified. She receives anywhere from 2-5 kids a year that started in Charter schools and when they get to her class cannot ready or right or do arithmetic. She chose to be in the district to make a difference. But why I ask? Parents no longer have any accountability for their children. She has the same 6 parents attending parent teacher conferences and it is always the ones that don’t even need to come. Why should she not be rewarded for working her butt of with these kids? The problem I see with this is that students from solid family and financial backgrounds, you know upper class and upper middle class students are always going to score better than those students in my wife’s district. WHY? PARENT INVOLVEMENT! It is time to stop blaming the teachers and start holding parents accountable! What about teachers that take kids from reading 12 words a minute to 45. Only so much can be done in a school day and a schools year. Gov’t has gotten far too involved with the educational system as it is……No child left behind…great…there are Seniors in High school reading on a 2nd, 3rd 4th grade level Oh well, NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND. What I do funny is that when one of my wife’s students is at risk of repeating a grade, all of a sudden the parent wants to get involved. When the whole school year the teacher tried to contact them and set up a conference to no avail. Another issue I see in this particular district is 2nd graders with moms that are 21-23-24 years old…..That were part of the no child let behind. A lot of good it is doing passing these children on, they start having children at young ages, can’t help them with their schooling and the CYCLE goes one! This will not end until the PARENTS STEP UP and take responsibility for their children!

I wish the president would stop using the phrase "bad teacher". What is a "bad" teacher and how does one determine what constitutes a bad teacher? Is a doctor a "bad doctor" because he/she does not cure an ailment or a syndrome? I,too, am concerned with government involvement in education policies and I cannot conceive of a method one could put in place to measure teacher effectiveness. You cannot assign scientific methods to human behavior. If you want to fix education, ask the teachers for advice!

I am a high school regular ed science teacher in a city school- 95% free lunch... Merit pay troubles me because I don't trust administrators or the dept of Ed to make that determination.
How does anyone know if I am successful with my students? One would need to track them for several years to know if I and all the teachers, parents and staff together have done what we need to do.
There are so many variables in whether or not they learn and succeed that come before I ever enter their lives.
This is not a business and you can not treat it with a business plan. These are people with a myriad of issues.
Are the teachers in the districts bordering mine held being credited with the success of their students? They have so many more resources than I- technology, parental support, stability in the population, no language issues.........
This is just a really complex situation and I fear that our president is not fully understanding the position that is being put forth.
I have supported him with time and money but he is losing me on this one.

This year parent-teacher conferences were nothing like I have ever experienced before. Parents are worried about survival. Children are worried about survival. We are so worried about competing with others that we are losing our focus. I believe setting high standards is very important but we need to be very careful how that is measured. I may have a child that started school without ever being read to and have to expect them to do the same as one that could already read before they started school. How is that fair to solely base our quality of teaching with these situations happening everywhere? I am dissapointed in Obama and would've thought differently about my vote had I known he wasn't going to listen to the people who are with our children daily, teachers! It all comes down to money!!

Teachers /Parents there are good ones and bad ones. The president addressed the african american community and the poor parenting skills in that community on several occasions.
We got it there are people who have children and who should not. In quite a few states children born out of wedlock are not legally the biologicals. They can be taken away. Hey! But right this minute we have a major problem that has been rolling down hill and picking up momentum for years.
Education has been devalued and most have been conditioned not to care. Their minds are still enslaved even if their bodies are not. Some of the most brilliant minds have not been fully developed. We are going to need psychiatrists; psychologists; therapists; tutors;teachers; babysitters; neighbors; everyone to come together and work.
Personally, let me be real(God's Grace) I have been able to provide her with a map and a vision of what her life can be like with an education. I have 1 bachelors and am working on a 2nd. I also need to obtain my masters so that she knows she must obtain her doctorate degree. I do this for myself and so that she can see what it's like. Most of the kids you are talking about have given up on life and have been conditioned not to demand much from themselves.
Key to resolving this is love.


Barack Obama at the 2007 NEA Representative Assembly

NEA chief says he has "high hopes" for Obama, Duncan

I am a mom on a mission to change education who has uncovered an alarming trend in my preschool and head start workshops nationwide: the vast majority of preschool and head start teachers that come to my workshops do not know what children are tested on for their first Kindergarten assessment tests!!! In fact I started testing the preschool and head start teachers in my workshops. I wanted them to feel what it feels like to be a 5 year-old; these little kids come to school expecting to be taught but instead we expect them to take a test, cold without studying.

I challenged these teachers to list the 7 things that kids are tested on for that first Kindergarten assessment test. Guess what; only 12 of 630 teachers from across the country got it correct! They FAILED! The failed at the National Head Start Conference in Atlanta, failed at the Wisconsin Head Start Conference and failed last week at the Illinois PreK and Kindergarten conference much to the horror of the Kindergarten teachers present.

If our preschool and head start teachers do not know this information how can we expect parents and kids to know it? AND where are the public service announcements telling parents the 7 things they need to know for Kindergarten testing: the alphabet all mixed up, numbers to 10 all mixed up, basic shapes, colors, coins, counting objects to 10 and how far they can count to 100? In Illinois, according to my Kindergarten teachers, the actual Kindergarten assessment test is even harder that the 7 things I just listed!!

Yes, parents need to be accountable but so do preschool teachers!!! We need to have everyone working together - preschool teachers, kindergarten teachers, parents and kids! If you teach a child to wear their seat belt they will remind you when you forget and tell Grandpa that he needs to wear his seat belt too! If you teach a child what they need to know, they will remind mom and dad that they have to practice counting to 100, shapes and colors to get ready for Kindergarten!

Last week I had a preschool teacher in my Illinois workshop who actually said she would never share these 7 things kids are tested on in Kindergarten because she wants them to come to her as a blank slate so she can teach them everything they need to know. If fact, she went on to say, she would never share that information with her brother, because he would push his kids before they are developmental ready and take the fun out of education for their future education!

Honestly, I was so shocked by the comment, I am unsure how I actually responded. I wish I would have said, "Ask your niece or nephew when they are 20 who they would have rather practiced counting with, you or Daddy?

Parents and kids are part of the solution to education and teachers need to work with us to change our current educational crisis!

I have taught special education for 17 years. I have watched as those outside education, decide what is best for us. Here is a thought, give us respect. Trust that we have the best interest of the children at heart. Believe that we are doing the best we can with the little we are given. Instead of bashing, "that profession that makes all others possible" build us up. There are bad apples in education, but obviously they are in politics, finance, and manufacturing also. The family unit is the break down, not education.

As an educator, I do know what it is to work with "bad teachers". There are many people in the field that are in it for the summer vacation and the steady paycheck. They know how to run a little "show" when administrators observe them, but its all a big farce. By raising accountability we are weeding out people who are harming the education of our future. Serious teachers who are already doing all that they can shouldn't be afraid of the word "accountable".

I am a teacher in an area that has made AYP three years in a row. What did we get for it nothing. They took the programes that we where using away, because they said that we could do it with out them. The cut staff down as well. Causeing classroom over load. Students are not doing home work. In class we have to deal with disaplin. Most of the school year is spent testing or getting ready for the tests. As an educator I spend not only the work day hours working, but many hours after school and in to the night to do school work. Parents are getting younger and the value of education is not pushed like it should be. Not all children learn the same way, so there for for them to be graded on one test every year is nuts. Education has been turned upside down by poeople who know nothing about how to educate children. You want to make the drop out rate go down. Then we need to give them meaningful learning not learn it as fast as you can. Show children what life is like and what they can get from learning. Kids today see more of what can be given to them. As a teacher you can only do what you can. But it is getting harder because of all the extra things that we have to deal with, TESTING, disaplin, no parent envolvement. Students who do not care because they can make it with out an edacation which is what they see in our world today. I have seen bam good teachers start and them leave the education feild due to burn out and that is what everyone is going to see now. I myself am ready to hang it up after 7 years. I want to teach my students not fill their brains with testing, fear, and hate for education.

There needs to be a radical shift in teaching and the American workplace... if America is to succeed in the future, however that's near impossible when workers only get 11-16 days vacation a year, if lucky, that barely covers the time I need to take my Autistic child to healthcare visits.

If Obama wants Americans to succeed, Americans need more vacation, so they can have time to study and grow. True good companies teach their employees, but these companies are disappearing and few and far between. Perhaps a tax credit for companies that give their employees "5 training days a year" for them to take at college. America needs more education, and continuing education. The American workforce needs a culture of continuing education.

A teacher has the responsibility of educating people for every other career in the whole world, yet everyone thinks so little of us we are usually one of the lowest paid professions. Educators don't want merit pay, simply grant each of us a raise or increase starting teacher salaries.

I agree, with many of these statements. "What is a bad teacher?" and What the H*!! his Merit Pay?
How dare he assume that when children are not successful it is the TEACHERS fault. Get a grip OBAMA, learn the words REINFORCEMENT and PARENTAL ENVOLVEMENT, and put those in your LOFTY speeches. Teachers need reinforcement at HOME from Parents with academics and DISCIPLINE. I'd like to see OBAMA (before he became "OBAMA") go into a classroom and teach.
Politicians! I knew we should have put HILLARY in the WHITE HOUSE.
And since we are speaking about PAY, when is he going to make good on the promise of raising teachers salaries. But then again, I suppose 'Merit Pay' is suppose to do that? WHATEVER!

It may be worth having a look at Debatepedia's extensive pro/con article on merit pay for teachers. Helps put this article in the context of the larger debate:

this is awful. how do you think obama is going to make children under 5 go to school? the government is getting far too much power!


While I personally think that merit pay for teachers would be a good thing, there are way too many issues preventing it from being just that.

The most annoying problem is the fact that some teachers just have easier classes to pass. As a student, I get the chance to see all of the different classes. Some, like my debate class, are simple. Others, like English, are far more difficult.

I also have the advantage of having gone to a few different schools. My last English teacher made the class extremely difficult, and many students got bad grades. My new one is easier and most of the students are passing.

So what can be done to remedy a situation like that? Change the possible payment available for each class and have the teachers scramble for the higher paying ones? Change the payment available depending on the school because it's known for having fewer graduates?

Merit pay is a tricky deal. There are so many variables involved that once you cover them all, it's just not worth it. No doubt, there would be a majority of teachers who would disagree with it.

All in all, it's not worth it.

As a doctoral student who is looking at merit pay for performance for a dissertation, all I can say is that Obama's plan has some major flaws!

I teach in an inner-city school. I have four illegal immigrants from Haiti who have NEVER been to school before. Not only do I have to teach them English and all the basics, I have approximately 9 months to do this and get them caught up to where they should be at the end of the year. While I work with these four students, I am required to teach the other students and keep them challenged. Differentiated instruction only works if parents work with you--and in an inner-city school, it is not a reality.

The merit pay plan is not feasible because I cannot be compared to a teacher who works with students like my child, highly intelligent/gifted. I taught my daughter at home and still work with her to this day. So her teachers have it easier. Why should I be penalized for having immigrants in my classroom who do not make the gains that others make?

Obama needs to enter a classroom and see how a teacher's day really happens: Paperwork, discipline, meetings at last minute, meeting basic needs (i.e. food, a sense of belonging, and warmth), as well as scripted curriculum that must be taught in specified time periods. The 4.5 hours of instructional time given is insufficient. Maybe Obama should look at raising the pay for all teachers and he will see motivated employees who are not worrying about their personal finances, and the morale of teachers will improve.

I am all for merit pay for teachers. Or teachers should be paid more than they are now. Why should actors/musicans/athletes get paid more than teachers, cops and fireman just because they entain us? But I don't aggree with the teachers on here blaming the parents. We as parents can not displine our children any more, nor can the teachers. If you do, child services are at your door. Child are now taught if the parents looks at them the wrong way it is abuse. We are in a recession, the cost of living is sky high, you want our children to have warm clothes in the winter and everything the child needs to survive, then we need to work!!! Both parents all day or night. Some families have to work two or three jobs to feed our children. We don't have vaction for three months out of the year, we are lucky if we have a week. Employers don't care about parent conferences, field trips or bake sales. Most parents care about their children's education but you only have so many hours in the day and now you have to work the majority of that time.

I like what Tracie Kroenert point of view .. it is a team effort and it takes a village to raise a child. Enough responsibility on the teachers....put some in the HOME! .. very true parents and student should be part of the test not only teachers.


I could write an essay about this students' performance will be basis of teachers evaluation.

Teacher should be given high wages because they deserve it.
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I have taught special education for 17 years. I have watched as those outside education, decide what is best for us. Here is a thought, give us respect. Trust that we have the best interest of the children at heart. Believe that we are doing the best we can with the little we are given. Instead of bashing, "that profession that makes all others possible" build us up. There are bad apples in education, but obviously they are in politics, finance, and manufacturing also. The family unit is the break down, not education.

Reward the "good teachers" and not the "bad ones". Well, everyone knows it is near impossible to fire a tenured, public school teacher who is just an average or mediocre teacher. The highly talented teachers move to a private school or get out of teaching entirely because of low pay and dangerous, unruly, inner city school environments. The ones who stay around in the same district are the slugs, who want more benefits, but at the children's expense. Taxpayers are an easy mark for them, always willing to give more money for the promise of better performance in the classroom or even in Accredited Online colleges.

This will bring justice to teachers' salaries. At least now, the government has seen our importance to the society. I truly believe that the salary that is given to you is how your employer values you. If you are given a small salary then you are just a dispensable one. It is just like looking for a virtual office assistant and replacing him/her if you do not like the service.

This is a good move for Pres. Obama since we the salary of teachers will be purely based on performance. However, on the other side of that, we would even like to ask to increase the basic rate salary of teachers. I do not know why being a teacher is such a vocation already because you cannot avail basic services. Even medical teachers like me has smaller income than my students who will soon become medical doctors. Think about it, we made them as such. I have one student for example who is a good liposuction Michigan expert and was very paid high. I came wondering why teachers who made them as such cannot bear the benefits of the hardwork we've put into our jobs.

It is nice to know that the president of America pays a very large attention on education as well as how he pays tribute to the educators. Keep up the good work!

A teacher has the responsibility of educating people for every other career in the whole world but it depends on personal opinion.
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"The President will teacher quality by dramatically expanding successful performance pay models and rewards for effective teachers, scaling up federal support for such programs in up to an additional 150 school districts nationwide."
This is a good step taken by The President. Hopefully teacher will get benefited from this specially I know a person that he doesrocket spanish review get benifited from this.

nice.. i hope the money allocated for education will be spent for proper one.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 10, 2009 8:14 AM.

President Obama official schedule and guidance, March 10, 2009. Delivers education speech was the previous entry in this blog.

First Lady Michelle Obama guidance for March 11,12, 2009. Two blockbusters: First solo trip; appears with Clinton is the next entry in this blog.

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