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Ask Dr. Lynch: Obama’s Education Agenda

EducationWorld Q&A columnist Dr. Matthew Lynch is an associate professor of education at Langston University. Dr. Lynch provides expert advice on everything from classroom management to differentiated instruction. Read all of his columns here, and be sure to submit your own question.

Dr. Matthew Lynch

This week, reader Ryan S. asks:

During the election, I didn’t hear either candidate speak much about what he would do to fix the U.S. education system. Now that Obama has been re-elected to a second term, has he articulated a “true” education agenda?

ANSWER:

Ryan, thank you for your question. Following his re-election, President Obama has been vocal about focusing more on the area of education. As the foundation of a prosperous economy and a bright future, the education sector deserves the utmost attention. Although many of the items on Obama’s education agenda are a carryover from his first term, these issues are still important. Below are descriptions of some of his main policies.

Early Childhood Education

The early years of a child’s life are the most critical. President Obama believes it is smarter to invest in early childhood education, as things learned in the early years help children reach their full potential and create a strong base for success in academic life and later, in adult life. Because young people are a valuable national resource, investing in their education will enable those from disadvantaged family backgrounds to achieve success throughout their lives.

The President emphasizes the improvement of early learning supports in many American states. He also strongly backs a comprehensive series of services for children between birth and age 5.

K-12 Education

As there is a very strong connection between educational achievement and economic progress, President Obama has set a goal for the U.S. to become a world leader in education by 2020. He believes that every child, irrespective of race, color or religion, should receive a competitive and comprehensive education that will allow him or her to succeed in today’s global economy, which is driven by information and innovation. The President’s policies therefore center around four main objectives:

  • Establishing higher educational standards and an improved system of assessment that will help students succeed in college and careers.
  • Recruiting, training and developing teachers and principals, specifically in classrooms where they are needed the most.
  • Improving data systems that gauge the growth rate and academic potential of students, thereby enabling educators to enhance instruction.
  • Paying attention to low-achieving institutions and making an effort to turn them around.

In addition, the President has increased the amount of aid available to help children from low- and middle-income families. Through the Pell Grant program, he has provided around $40 billion this year to sponsor 10 million students.

College Education

The education field has changed completely in the past couple of decades. While in the past only a few students went on to get a college education, today’s jobs make advanced degrees a necessity. Although statistics show that the U.S. ranks ninth in terms of percentage of young adults enrolling in college, our nation has unfortunately sunk to a rank of 16 in terms of the proportion of degrees and certificates awarded to adults ages 25 to 34.

The country is sadly lagging behind Canada, Japan, Korea and many other nations when it comes to the number of students completing college. One reason for this is the wealth gap, which makes it difficult for students from poor families to attend college. Statistics show that only 25 percent of low-income students are able to complete their college education.

The President has therefore challenged every student to attain post-secondary training or to attend higher education for at least one year. These steps reflect the President’s goal of America having the most college graduates of any nation by 2020.

Future Reforms

The changing needs of the economy now require a young population that is skilled, creative, adaptable and equipped with the tools that ensure success. According to President Obama, this can only be achieved if the main focus of our education policies is on younger children.

Obama’s policies are meant to ensure that every student receives an education. Moreover, his policies target the way in which we currently assess students and evaluate teachers. Lastly, President Obama believes that without innovation, we can never build a strong economy.

The President’s policies are on track to help our education system progress by leaps and bounds, ultimately creating a benchmark for other educational systems around the world.

 

About Dr. Lynch

Dr. Matthew Lynch is a Chair and Associate Professor of Education at Langston University and a blogger for the Huffington Post. Dr. Lynch also is the author of the newly released book It’s Time for a Change: School Reform for the Next Decade and A Guide to Effective School Leadership Theories. Please visit his Web site for more information.

If you have a question for “Ask Dr. Lynch,” submit it here. Topics can be anything education-related, from classroom management to differentiated instruction.


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