3 Things That Barack Obama Did For P-20 Education in 2015
When Barack Obama assumed the presidency, he was confronted by a nasty set of problems in P-20 education. High student loan debt, lack of affordable early-childhood education options, and everything in between were put in the President’s lap and have been issues he’s addressed in both terms.
Given the nature and sheer number of challenges, his administration has done a great deal to foster positive change and progress. In a bid to build upon his already stellar record on education, Obama implemented a number of education reform initiatives in 2015.
Obama gave $1 billion to Native American Education. President Obama’s budget request included $1 billion for American Indian schools next year, with millions of those dollars dedicated to restoring crumbling buildings and connecting classrooms via broadband Internet.
Administrative officials said the President was inspired to increase funds to better serve this population partially after last year’s visit to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. He and the First Lady traveled to North Dakota and met with young people who shared how drugs, violence, and poverty impact their lives.
The federal government reported that around one-third of Bureau of Indian Education schools were in poor condition last year. This has forced students to learn in classrooms that fail to meet health and safety standards.
The BIE oversees 23 states and serves over 40,000 children in nearly 200 schools.
In addition to renovations, Obama’s budget included funds to expand broadband access at BIE schools, expand scholarships for post-secondary education, and help tribes deliver their own education programs.
Young people in Indian Country are some of the most at-risk in the United States. Many grow up in communities suffering from poverty, unemployment, and substance abuse. More than one-fifth of Native Americans over 25 never earn a high school diploma. Of those who attend college, only 39 percent earn a bachelor’s degree within six years.
I can only imagine the impact $1 billion will make on the Native American community, which is in such dire need of resources. Students do not deserve to have roofs caving in on them—they deserve to attend school and get an education in dramatically better conditions. I think Obama’s proposed funds could support some big changes in Native American education, changes that will lead to improved high school graduation rates and hopefully end the Native youth crisis.
Obama announced $240 Million in STEM funding. President Barack Obama used the spotlight of the 5th annual White House Science Fair to announce $240 million in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) funding, which will come from private businesses, foundations, and schools.
Calling the National Science Fair “the most fun event of the year,” the President praised the sophistication of the projects presented from scientists as young as kindergarteners. He emphasized the need for society to keep pushing STEM initiatives, through vocal and financial support, and said that this generation of students will “define the contours of the 21st century” through their advancements.
It’s no secret that President Obama is a big proponent of STEM learning and initiatives. Since the start of his first term, he has pushed for higher accountability in schools where these subjects are concerned and has looked for ways to funnel funding towards them—schools with strong STEM programs, for example, see more
Race to the Top funding. Keeping up with other countries when it comes to STEM initiatives is a priority for the President, and he sees long-term economic value in encouraging students today.
I’m interested to hear more about the specifics of this funding, though. What programs will it specifically fund? Will some of it go to scholarships? We know that young women tend to lose interest in STEM learning around middle-school age. Will some of the funding address this growing concern? Computer coding is also an area that is rapidly advancing in demand. How will these funds help bridge that gap?
Where would you like to see some of this $240 million in STEM funding applied?
Obama administration released a testing action plan for K-12. President Obama is determined not to allow the moniker of “lame duck” to stick to him. In 2015, Obama and the Department of Education released their Testing Action Plan, which aims to reduce the burden of tests that many students are tasked with taking.
While Obama has little recourse in scaling back how often states tests its students, his administration can at least provide an outline. Part of that outline includes having schools “send parents written notice” if students exceed a two-percent cap of classroom time that they may spend taking tests.
The whole point of this initiative is to utilize additional ways to measure student success as opposed to just testing. Included in the action plan are ways that schools may determine “how well students are learning and schools are functioning” by using “portfolios, projects, technology-supported assessments, students surveys,” etc. It’s still assessment, though, instead of just teaching and letting students learn—something that critics argue is sorely lacking in P-12 classrooms today.
In addition to the cap on testing and student measuring tools, the administration stated that it will be more flexible with federal standards when it comes to teacher evaluations. How that flexibility will look remains to be seen, but if they are willing to go easy on testing, then teacher evals may see similar variety.
On his way out of the White House, Obama is attempting to untangle the legacy of No Child Left Behind and create a new path and perhaps leave a presidential legacy on education.
Did I miss anything? What would you add to the list?