At the turn of every calendar year, it seems that lists abound that remind us of everything that happened in the prior year and give a sneak peek of what to expect in the next. Seeing these often celebrity-heavy lists crowd my social media feeds got me thinking - what would a list of the President’s accomplishments when it comes to education look like for 2013?
After some thought, I came up with the three most impactful things (in no particular order) that President Obama did last year when it comes to K-12 education:
1. Prioritized STEM education. The President was not only vocal about the need for stronger programs in science, technology, engineering and math but he actually put some money behind his words. His 2014 budget includes $3.1 billion in investments in federal STEM programs - an increase of nearly 7 percent over the budget of just two years ago. Of that total, $80 million is intended to recruit 100,000 well-qualified educators and another $35 million is earmarked for the launch of a pilot STEM Master Teacher Corps. The rest of the money will go to supporting undergraduate STEM education programs and investment in breakthrough research on the way STEM subjects are best taught to modern learners. The President recognizes that for America to remain a global player, its K-12 students must know much more about STEM subjects than they do today. The demand for STEM-related jobs is there and the money allocated to STEM learning initiatives will better prepare today’s students for the worldwide workforce.
2. Continued support of Race to the Top. The President’s incentive-based Race to the Top program was launched in 2012 and it rewards states that are willing to reform their education models to best adapt to modern student learning needs. The Race to the Top initiative has raised standards for learning to reflect a push toward college and career readiness. Each year, the program gives even more in federal funding to states that prepare plans for reforming their student offerings and 2013 was a big year for it. To date, the program has allocated more than $4 billion among 19 states that have shared well-developed plans to improve learning standards, teacher effectiveness and struggling schools. The states that have been granted the funds represent 42 percent of all low-income students in the nation - making the initiative an effective way to close the achievement gap and equalize funding in areas where schools may struggle based on their geographical location. The President has always been vocal about his intention to give every American student the opportunity to succeed and Race to the Top is that principle put into practice.
3. Made plans to make college more affordable. While not a direct K-12 initiative, the President’s desire to make earning a college education more affordable for all Americans will impact future K-12 classrooms. In August, the President announced plans to assign a ratings systems to colleges by the 2015 school year that takes items like tuition, graduation rate, debt and earnings ratios of graduates and percentage of low-income students who attend into consideration. The grand plan? To base the amount of federal financial aid colleges receive on the rankings system by 2018. The overall principle is not to call out colleges but rather to make them more accountable to students, and to ensure that every American with college degree aspirations has the actual means to make it happen. Long term, this will impact the quality of teachers in the classrooms, particularly in urban settings where research has shown that the most effective teachers are generally those who come from the same background. More lower-income college students earning degrees will have a positive impact on the entire education system and the college scorecard initiative is a step in that direction.
What would you add to my list?
Dr. Matthew Lynch is the author of the recently released book, The Call to Teach: An Introduction to Teaching. To order it via Amazon, please click on the following link.
The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.