What is Obama’s K-12 education legacy?

Thought leaders argue that the Obama administration’s K-12 legacy found its success in partly scaling back its initial metrics-heavy approach.

Charter Schools

The growth of charter schools was a key priority in the Obama Administration’s overall school reform program. Promising to promote the expansion of charter schools was one of the ways that states could win some of the money in Obama’s signature $4.3 billion Race to the Top funding competition. Today, 6 percent of U.S. public school students attend charter schools, up from about 3 percent when President Obama took office in 2009 (It was 2 percent in 2004). [Source: The Washington Post]

Common Core

The Common Core State Standards initiative was another big priority for the administration during Duncan’s seven-year tenure running the Education Department. Adopting common standards was also on Race to the Top’s list of preferred reforms Duncan sought from applying states, and the administration spent some $360 million for two multi-state consortia to develop new Core-related standardized tests. However, “the tests were not as sophisticated as originally promoted and the rush to get them into schools led to computer troubles in some states, some of them severe. One of the tests, known as PARCC, was abandoned by most of the states that had agreed to use it, and the overall idea behind the standards and aligned testing—that test results would be comparable across states—has not been accomplished.” [Source: The Washington Post]

High School Completion

According to Department of Education data, the overall graduation rate rose 0.9 percentage points from the 2013-2014 school year to 2014-2015. Since 2011, when the department first started reporting graduation rates in a more reliable way, the increase is 4.2 points. State-by-state results also show graduation rates rising almost everywhere, with exceptions in Arizona and Wyoming, which were down a fraction of a point, and three states (Idaho, Kentucky and Oklahoma) that only recently began to release high school graduation rates in a way that could be compared to other states. [Source: USA Today]

Teacher Support

According to teachers, it felt as if they were being targeted by the Obama Administration. A 2012 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher found that teacher job satisfaction had plummeted from 62 percent of teachers feeling “very satisfied” in 2008 to 39 percent by 2012. This was the lowest in the 25-year history of the survey. And the percentage of students who apply for teacher preparation programs has significantly dropped in recent years. [Source: The Washington Post]

“Duncan will not be remembered as being a champion of teachers. While the Obama administration has taken steps to invest in teacher training and elevate the teaching profession, Duncan made enemies among the teaching ranks by demanding test-based accountability of teacher performance and urging an end to seniority as a key factor in employment decision-making. [Source: EducationDIVE]

Funding/Early Education

“Equitable school funding wasn’t a priority of the administration in a country where funding is largely based on property taxes, leaving school systems in wealthy areas with more to spend on education than districts in poor areas, where kids need more support.” Obama has recently tried to tout the Administration’s interest in early childhood education, though he doesn’t mention that it became a priority only in his second term, by which time there was little surplus money to spend on it. [Source: The Washington Post]

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