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How Much Have Obama’s Education Reforms Achieved?

How Much Have Obama’s Education Reforms Achieved?
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While President Barack Obama’s stance on K-12 education was unclear when he entered the White House in January of 2009, initiatives such as No Child Left Behind Act waivers and grant competitions epitomized by the Race to the Top have shown his pursuit of an activist agenda of reform. Using federal stimulus funding, legislative influence and his own executive authority, the President has “made it really clear that the status quo in education is unacceptable,” says Roberto Rodriguez, a special assistant to the president for education policy.

Education Week presents a detailed assessment of Obama’s education record, noting that he has put the pressure on districts and states to:

• Hold individual teachers more accountable for their students’ performance of their students on standardized tests;

• Remove restrictions on the growth of charter schools;

• Take aggressive action to turn around state’s and school district’s lowest-performing schools; and

• Adopt common academic standards to prepare students for college and the workforce, bolstered by federal aid to help states develop common assessments.

Criticism From Both Democrats and Republicans

Progressive Democrats have criticized Obama’s support for charter schools and his emphasis on linking teacher evaluation to student outcomes. Republicans have taken issue with the push for states to adopt common standards, seen as a harbinger of of the adaptation of a national curriculum and testing, and censured the $100 billion in education spending in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. They have also objected to the waivers granted to states regarding aspects of the NCLB as curtailing constitutional law and contended that too much power has been given to the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.

The Obama Administration’s use of competitions such as Race to the Top, in which states competed to win $4.35 billion for agreeing to education reforms in such areas as teacher evaluation, was both a bone of contention but also praise. Only two states, Delaware and Tennessee, were winners, and critics note that states have been stumbling to implement promised reforms — but without the competition, it is questionable if they would even considered reforms at all.

Congress has become “weary” of the administration’s focus on grants, says Education Week. Besides Race to the Top, Obama has sought funds for these programs:

the i3 program, which aims to scale up promising practices at the state and district levels; Promise Neighborhoods, which helps communities pair education with health and other services; and the Teacher Incentive Fund, which gives grants to districts to create pay-for-performance programs.

In contrast, Obama has only requested small increases for funding for programs for disadvantaged students and special education students.

An Activist Agenda For US Education

Competitions like Race to the Top encouraged states to get serious about reform: In view of how poorly US education ranks in the world, and how long it takes for changes to be made in schools and education, the Race to the Top was notable for getting states and districts to take real measures to shake things up.

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7:13PM PST on Jan 25, 2013

Fortunately the human race is equipped with frontal lobes. If we have the intention, we are capable over time to improve our performance and get closer and closer to the desired outcome. Obama has the intention to improve education for all.

11:40AM PDT on Jun 22, 2012

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix.... But the battle is absolutely one worth fighting!

11:37AM PDT on Jun 22, 2012

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix.... But the battle is absolutely one worth fighting!

12:45PM PDT on Jun 18, 2012


5:05PM PDT on Jun 17, 2012


4:11PM PDT on Jun 17, 2012

I ditto Julia's comment, "However, I think both NCLB and RTT are misguided programs. Their emphasis on standardized tests, and the results of standardized testing impacting their teachers and school districts, instead of getting kids more help, is nuts. Putting for profit corporations in charge of schools-- as with charter schools-- also doesn't help kids become educated, in the long run. It makes the people running charter schools rich. " Except for the part about voting for Obama.... He's all smoke and mirrors, if you ask me.

2:52PM PDT on Jun 17, 2012


9:38PM PDT on Jun 16, 2012

US was already in a race to the bottom when Obama took office- expecting him to fix it is ridiculous.

12:19PM PDT on Jun 16, 2012

Well all I can say is Obama is obviously serious about children being educated and the Republicans stayed mirrored in making a profit for educators and bankers who want to make a buck with actually producing any results.

12:18PM PDT on Jun 16, 2012

The idiots in this country let too many far-right creeps into office - they believed all the propaganda put forth by the Koch Bros and their "friends". I also think this comes from not educating yourself about ALL the candidates and watching only Faux News! It's time we take back our country and vote Obama/Biden in 2012...and lets get the Democrats back into the majority so we can get something done for the people in this country! I'm sick to death of partisan politics, the Party of NO and people like Sandy E!

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