New Graduation Data Spurs Obama to Push ESEA Agenda

On Monday, March 16 the National Center for Education Statistics released detailed data on high school graduation rates. According to the NCES, graduation rates for black and Hispanic students increased by nearly 4% from 2011-2013, outpacing the growth for all students in the nation. Previously, the NCES reported that the U.S. graduation rate had hit a high of 81% in 2012-13. While meeting with representatives from the Council of Great City Schools, President Obama took the opportunity to use the data as a platform for his Administration’s plan for education funding and ESEA reauthorization.

On the impact of previous education reform efforts from the Obama Administration

“The good news is that we are seeing, as a consequence of some of the reforms that we’ve initiated and partnered with at the state and local levels, we’re seeing improved reading scores, improved math scores, improved graduation rates. We’re seeing improvement in some of the previously lowest-performing schools.”

On the need to continue funding education reform efforts

“Now, the Republican House and Senate are about to put forward their budget. My hope is that their budget reflects the priorities of educating every child. But I can tell you that if the budget maintains sequester-level funding, then we would actually be spending less on pre-K to 12th grade in America’s schools in terms of federal support than we were back in 2000. And that’s adjusting for inflation. The notion that we would be going backwards instead of forwards in how we’re devoting resources to educating our kids makes absolutely no sense.”

On ESEA reauthorization

“Making sure that we’ve got high standards and high expectations for all our kids, and making sure that we are providing the resources to teachers and principals to meet those high standards. That’s going to be important. Making sure that we are investing in special education and English learning for large portions of our student population that may need extra help. That’s going to be critically important.”

On taking a stand with Republican leaders

“So the set of principles that are reflected in my budget and I hope will be reflected in the Republican budget — but if it is not, then we’re going to have to have a major debate. We are making too much progress now in terms of graduation rates, improved reading scores, improved math scores, increasing standards, increasing access to the resources the kids need for us to be going backwards now. And this is something worth fighting for.”

Read the press releases about high school graduation rates from the Department of Education.

Read the Remarks by the President After Meeting with the Council of the Great City Schools (March 16, 2015)

Education Policy