Education has not been a headline of the current presidential campaigns, but it has been both a source of pride and controversy for the Obama Administration. Beginning with initiatives like Race to the Top and through the passage of ESSA and calls for computer science for all, President Obama has placed an emphasis on K-12 learning. To commemorate the education legacy of the Administration, the White House has released the new report Giving Every Child a Fair Shot: Progress under the Obama Administration’s Education Agenda. The report highlights the original agenda, accomplishments, and what issues still need attention.
“Over the past seven years, we’ve looked at every element of our education system with an eye towards boosting the teaching profession. And thanks to our educators and the opinions you’ve voiced and the leadership that you’ve shown, we’ve come a long way since we came into office,” said President Obama at the 2016 National Teacher of the Year Celebration. “Although I am very proud of the work that we've done, I know we're not there yet. And we may have replaced No Child Left Behind, which was a relief for a lot of folks, but the absence of something that wasn’t working as well as it should is not the presence of the kind of work that remains to be done.”
In addition to signature programs like RTT and i3, the passage of ESSA, and the increased focus on standards and assessments, the report highlights include:
- Higher graduation rates: Since President Obama took office, the graduation rate has increased steadily and, according to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), students in the United States are graduating from high school at a higher rate than ever before, at 82 percent.
- Increased access to early learning: Thirty-eight states and D.C. have invested more than an additional $1.5 billion in support of preschool and, today, all but four states offer preschool to young children.
- Support for states through the economic crisis: Through the Recovery Act, the Department of Education provided states with a needed boost of funding to stabilize state funding with more than $60 billion, some of which was dedicated specifically to supporting disadvantaged students and students with disabilities, and improving education technology.
- Greater emphasis on STEM: Over the past seven-and-a-half years, the Obama administration’s efforts have resulted in unprecedented levels of public-private collaboration in support of STEM education, including policies and budgets focused on maximizing federal investment in active, rigorous STEM-learning experiences; and innovative and wide-ranging efforts to inspire and recognize young inventors, discoverers, and makers.
- Programs supporting equity in education: In February 2014, the President established the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Task Force, a coordinated federal effort to improve the expected educational and life outcomes for all young people, including young boys and men of color, and to address the persistent opportunity gaps they face.
- Promoting the status of the teaching profession: The Department of Education created TEACH: the nation’s campaign to inspire the next generation of diverse, talented teachers and to raise the status of teaching.
According to the report, areas that still need attention are expanding access to high-quality early learning; supporting the next wave of innovation in America’s schools; continuing the focus on providing equitable opportunities for all students, particularly as states and districts implement ESSA; and preparing, developing, and retaining great teachers.
Read Giving Every Child a Fair Shot: Progress under the Obama Administration’s Education Agenda, The White House (May 2016)