“In today’s global economy, a high-quality education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity,” Obama says—”it is a prerequisite to success.”

(Editor’s note: This article is adapted from speeches and text on the White House website.)

To prepare Americans for the jobs of the future and help restore middle-class security, we have to out-educate the world—and that starts with a strong school system.

In today’s global economy, a high-quality education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity—it is a prerequisite to success. Because economic progress and educational achievement are inextricably linked, educating every American student to graduate from high school prepared for college and for a career is a national imperative.

To create an economy built to last, we need to provide every child with a complete and competitive education that will enable him or her to succeed in a global economy based on knowledge and innovation. Toward this end, I’ve advanced reforms around four key objectives: 

• Higher standards and better assessments that will prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace.

• Ambitious efforts to recruit, prepare, develop, and advance effective teachers and principals, especially in the classrooms where they are most needed.

• Smarter data systems to measure student growth and success, and help educators improve instruction.

• New attention and a national effort to turn around our lowest-achieving schools.

Since taking office, my administration has designed and implemented several initiatives to strengthen public education for students in every community nationwide. Here’s what we’ve already achieved, and what I hope to achieve in the next four years.

Strengthening the teaching profession

We’ve taken several steps to support teachers, by recruiting top talent to the profession, increasing accountability of teacher preparation programs, supporting the rethinking of traditional compensation and advancement models, promoting educator collaboration, and re-engaging communities in their schools.

For instance, we launched the RESPECT Project, which stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching, with the goal of working with teachers, school and district leaders, teachers’ associations and unions, and state and national education organizations to spark a dialogue that results in strong policy and a sustainable transformation of the teaching profession. To implement the principles of the RESPECT Project, I’ve proposed a new $5 billion grant program to support states and districts that commit to pursuing bold reforms at every stage of the teaching profession.