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Looking Back at Barack Obama’s Education Legacy

Looking Back at Barack Obama’s Education Legacy

87 percent of Education Dive readers who responded to a blind poll selected Hillary Clinton as the best choice for education. 

With just one week until the general election, the poll reminds us that very shortly, someone new will be the commander-in-chief of K-12 education.

President Barack Obama, with the assistance of wife Michelle Obama, passes on an impressive education legacy for the future president to take on.

Here are some of Obama’s most notable achievements in K-12 education.

Overseeing the Passing of the Every Student Succeeds Act

On December 10, 2015, Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, the education legislation that would finally replace the long-expired and highly controversial No Child Left Behind Act.

Though the legislation was passed due to unprecedented bipartisan efforts from Congress, Obama put the pressure on for this to happen and urged implementation plans to begin immediately.

"This is an early Christmas present. After more than 10 years, members of Congress from both parties have come together to revise our national education law. A Christmas miracle,” he said after signing the legislation.

Immediately after the signing, his administration began working to “make the promise of this law reality” by beginning to outline the implementation process.

In the months following, the Obama administration’s Department of Education has released a series of guidances intended to help states best educate homeless students and foster youth while at the same time elevating the teacher profession to increase education quality in general. More guidances are expected to come soon.

The guidances act as an important starting place for the next president to begin his or her work to ensure ESSA is effectively implemented in the 2017-2018 school year.

My Brother’s Keeper

In 2014, Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum to establish the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, "a coordinated Federal effort to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential.”

Communities in all 50 states have been engaged through the task force and have made a sizable difference in helping young people succeed regardless of the circumstances they were born into.

Much of their efforts focus on helping youth gain new skills and earn money for college, making My Brother’s Keeper one of the most successful federal education programs in decades. 

Prioritizing STEM Education

Throughout his time in office, Obama has made providing America’s students with quality STEM education a priority.

In May 2016, for example, Obama announced with 100Kin10 that they had secured the commitments needed to train 100,000 STEM teachers by 2021 with the ultimate goal of ensuring that all of America’s students have access to effective STEM teachers. Obama had announced the ambitious goal five years prior, proving with the announcement he remained committed to the efforts throughout his presidency. 

Obama made other commitments to prioritizing STEM education through things like his establishment of the Annual White House Science Fair. Obama made history with his announcement of the first White House Science Fair and managed to oversee six science fairs during his time in office. He also established this year the White House Kid Science Advisors, a group of positions designed for students interested in STEM to let the White House staff know how kids are perceiving STEM.

Record High Graduation Rates

Since Obama took office, high school graduation rates have consistently risen. This year, graduation rates peaked at an all-time high of 83 percent.

While skeptics are unsure if all students are graduating college and career ready, the increase in rates is without a doubt a promising sign of progress.

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