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Obama: ‘There Is Work to Be Done’

By Stephen Sawchuk — January 20, 2009 1 min read

From guest blogger Stephen Sawchuk

In his inaugural address, the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, made few explicit references to education. But his speech expounded upon themes of both public and personal accountability that are likely to influence his policy positions on education reform.

Obama described a nation “in the midst of crisis” due to an economy weakened by greed, irresponsibility, and “our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the national for a new age.”

“Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many,” Mr. Obama said, in one of just two references to education in the 17-minute speech.

“Everywhere we look, there is work to be done,” he continued. "...We will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.”

Both the government and individual citizens will play a vital role in rebuilding the country, Obama said. The government must support those programs that help Americans and cull ineffective programs. But its success also depends on citizens participating in “a new era of responsibility.”

This personal responsibility reflects Obama’s campaign rhetoric, particularly his emphasis on the role parents play in their children’s education and development.

While it’s unknown yet how these themes will influence Mr. Obama’s visions for education policy, the new president has supported the accountability provisions in Title I of the No Child Left Behind law, the federal government’s main program for helping disadvantaged students. But he has argued that the law should be tweaked to improve annual assessments and foster improved teaching.