School days

September 27, 2010 1:57:18 PM PDT
The conventional wisdom is that the older you get, the less sleep you need. Whoever came up with that supposed axiom never fathered a baby at the age of 59!

With that said, and hoisting my umpteenth cup of coffee to my lips, we talk about our 11 p.m. newscast.

Education is getting front-burner status these days. Pres. Obama today called for a longer school year to help make the U.S. education system more competitive globally. (What do you think? Click here to vote.)

Mr. Obama says that American students attend nearly a month's worth fewer classes than kids in most other advanced countries, and so he wants summer breaks to be shorter. I'm sure that will go over big with most kids - not. But the President talking about improving education has helped propel public discourse. Money's a big problem, especially these days. But throwing more good money at bettering schools isn't always the answer. The President acknowledged as much today, saying money alone won't fix things, and that students and teachers have to reach higher standards.

The President also called on teachers unions not to resist calls for change, and then he uttered the words that teachers union officials hate most: He says poor-performing teachers who don't improve should be fired.

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg today says he's introducing a rating system that will link teacher tenure to performance in the classroom. And to get tenure - that most sought after lifetime job protection - teachers who are rated "effective" or "highly effective" will be granted tenure. All others will not.

There was a time when linking teacher performance to job security was solely the domain of political conservatives. Nowadays, more people of all political stripes are jumping on the bandwagon. The anemic economy might be the reason. But the consequences are huge - for the students and for the community.

And for teachers themselves. Today we're reminded of that. A teacher in the Los Angeles neighborhood of South Gate killed himself; he had been despondent over a ranking as a "least effective" teacher by a ranking published last month in the L.A. Times.

We'll have the latest on the education debate, tonight at 11.

We're also following the shooting this weekend at a party near Seton Hall University in New Jersey. A gunman started firing - killing one girl, wounding several others. Tonight one of the wounded students' father talks to us about his daughter, and what happened.

And just when you thought you've heard everything comes our special report tonight on blood banks for pets. That's right, blood banks. For pets.

At first blush it might spark an eye roll or two, but when you see our report by Carolina Leid tonight at 11, it makes total sense. Turns out, getting blood for pets that need it can be much more than an inconvenience. It can mean the difference between life and death. And so one local vet has decided to do something, in the form of starting a pet blood bank. It's a cool story.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER

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