With the November presidential elections here, the topic of education reform is an important one.
According to the New York Daily News, the achievements and the pro-accountability and pro-testing agenda the Obama administration has implemented in regards to education reform is one that rivals that of many self-professed “education presidents,” who made education a core topic during their terms.
“If we want America to lead in the 21st century, nothing is more important than giving everyone the best education possible—from the day they start preschool to the day they start their career,” President Obama has said.
Education reform under President Obama
Here are some of the programs proposed and put in place by President Barack Obama during the last four years for his education reform:
- Pointing students toward success: In an effort to help students reach their maximum potential, the Obama education reform programs have focused on improving public education. Higher standards and improved testing measures as well as more aggressive teacher retention programs are part of gearing students toward success. The Obama administration has also placed a focus on improved data collection methods to gauge success and student performance. Individual attention has been given to schools with the lowest rates of performance.
- Reforming the No Child Left Behind law: The Obama administration acknowledge there are some aspects of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law which actually inhibits schools from improving performance. The changes led by Obama to the law, have helped eliminate the punishment-focused aspects of the law and have focused on recognizing growth and improvement rather than overall performance scores.
- Involving parents in education: A large part of education reform under the Obama administration has to do with parental involvement. Approximately $270 million in additional funding is allocated to the Department of Education for use directly related to involving parents in student education programs and activities.
- Improving technology in schools: As part of the American Jobs Act, President Obama has purposed $30 billion to modernizing schools in the United States. Not only do the improvements help prepare students for future jobs, the repairs and upgrades employ thousands of workers across the country.
- Making college more affordable: Due to the rising costs of college education, President Obama has expanded federal support for students by doubling investments in Pell grants (which benefits mainly low income students), offering debt management programs for students, expanding education tax credits, and keeping interest rates low on student loans.
- Supporting community colleges: The Obama administration has also placed an emphasis on strengthening community colleges and has indicated states and school need to take an active role in reigning in costs associated with a higher education.
- Improving accountability: Another initiative designed to protect the student, the improved accountability standards for schools under the Obama education reform program emphasizes a transparent system with college scorecards, financial aid shopping sheets and expanded protection for veterans and military families.
- Addressing equality: Perhaps one of the most important areas of focus for the education reform programs is that of equality. Under the Obama administration’s guidance, an education task force was created to examine current education gender and ethnicity disparities and find ways to address education gaps.
- Race to the Top: Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC): “The overarching goal of the Early Learning Challenge is to make sure that more children, especially those with high needs, enter kindergarten ready to succeed,” stated the White House. Among the priorities of the program is a plan to build high-quality accountability programs detailing what young children should know and be able to do while in school.
In addition to the above initiatives, the Obama administration education reform has been determined in fortifying science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs. The administration has implemented several STEM-oriented programs including Race to the Top, the Investing in Innovation Fund, and Change the Equation.
STEM improvements focus on providing excellent teachers knowledgeable in their fields of study who can motivate students toward career goals, and also focuses on improving undergraduate STEM teaching, as well as scholarships and grants for STEM students.
President Obama has also proposed the creation of a new, national Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Master Teacher Corps, which will eventually expand into a program consisting of 10,000 Master Teachers. These teachers will earn extra compensation annually for providing their expertise.