The Future of Education: Understanding Our President’s Education Policy
Recently elected to his second term in office, President Barack Obama had already laid the plans for some of his education initiatives during his first term. Here is a look at the president’s education policy that will shape schools over the next four years:
Race to the Top (RTTT)
Started in 2008, Obama’s Race to the Top program had states competing for funding by establishing plans to increase teacher effectiveness, adopt Common Core Standards, improve low-performing schools, start charter schools and use assessment data to improve instruction. A new set of national assessments has been created out of the RTTT program, which will take effect in 2014. Additionally, there was a round of RTTT funding for states to establish universal preschool programs, so that all families have access to quality early education.
RTTT proposed that states improve on teacher effectiveness, mainly by basing a portion of teacher evaluations on student test scores. Education.com explains that Obama has openly expressed his support of merit pay, where teachers are given financial rewards for higher student performance. Teacher unions have not supported this idea, but some states have already begun to adopt merit-pay systems.
Michigan Live reported that President Obama proclaimed a National Charter Schools Week last May and said that charter schools are “incubators of innovation.” Obama also requested that states included charter schools in their RTTT plans. His support of charter schools has also drawn criticism from teacher unions.
Common Core Standards
According to Education Week, 46 states and Washington, D.C. have now adopted the Common Core Standards. The Common Core Standards evolved from a state-led collaboration between teachers, administrators and other education professionals to establish consistent standards for all students so that they can be career and college ready. President Obama included adoption of the Common Core Standards as a requirement for states receiving RTTT funding.
No Child Left Behind
Over the last four years, many states have been granted waivers from the controversial No Child Left Behind Act, which was adopted during the Bush administration. Education Week predicts that even more waivers will be rewarded over the next term, in exchange for state-created accountability plans.
On the White House website, Obama expresses his desire to focus more on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education over the next four years. He has proposed a STEM Master Teacher Corps Initiative, employing the best STEM teachers in the nation to improve and increase STEM education throughout the country.
Obama has been active in making college more affordable. Education.com cites his American Opportunity Tax Credit and push for public loan providers, rather than private ones, as instrumental in giving low-income students access to higher education. Obama also increased the amount of Pell Grants, a program that he would like to expand even further.
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