What Obama Said (And Didn’t Say) About Pre-K—12 Education
In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Obama proposed improving high school education, promoting science and technology in schools, and ensuring access to preschool for all children. He also cited the achievement gap between upper and lower class students as a disadvantage that follows poor students through their education and into adulthood.
“Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on—by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime,” he said. The president also noted that college and career readiness, as well as a high-quality education, are keys to a stable middle class.
Education officials anticipated the strong stance on preschool accessibility, since K-12 education was more of a first-term issue for Obama—and a contentious one with teachers unions. One reason the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike last fall was to protest initiatives, modeled after the Obama administration's Race to the Top program, which led to increased school closings and privatization.
Obama also didn’t mention first-term policies such as his controversial alternative to the No Child Left Behind Act left over from the Bush administration. Education reform advocates have criticized components of the waiver program for failing to support low-achieving students. Teachers unions, strong Obama supporters, have also objected to the administration's use of standardized test scores in evaluating teachers.
Tuesday’s speech included a promise to challenge and reward high schools that partner with colleges and businesses to grow a strong science, math, engineering, and technology workforce.
“Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job,” he said. “We need to give every American student opportunities like this.”
In a response to the address, the president and CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, or iNACOL, said the president's promises don't meet the requirements for preparing a tech-savvy workforce.
"The demands of a 21st century world cannot be addressed merely by tweaking a 19th century education delivery system," said Susan Patrick. "One-size-fits-all schooling utilizing an outdated factory model continues to be the greatest barrier to our—and our students’—ultimate success."
Molly Savard is a reporter for Campus Progress. You can follow her on Twitter @mollicules.