Wednesday, June 20th, 2012
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan introduced the first White House Online Summit on Education yesterday morning, to talk about the current state of America’s education and the improvements the Obama Administration is making.
The summit took place on White House grounds, and I had the opportunity to be part of a diverse group of online media outlets that focused parenting, education, financial, and current news.
Secretary Duncan kicked off his speech with some sobering statistics: The U.S. currently ranks #16 in college education rates around the world (down from #1), and our country has a 25% college drop-out rate, with more than 1 million kids leaving school with no employable skills to find a job. And these lack of skills is increasingly a bigger crisis than our job crisis, impeding young adults from finding and keeping good jobs.
To help with the skills crisis, there is increased investment in long-term early childhood education, especially on K-12 reform for the next 15-20 years. Launching and investing $600 million behind the Race to the Top initiative has been one solution to help a future generation learn basic skills, such as reading, before reaching kindergarten. Also, 46 states have chosen to raise their educational standards, and more support been given to the bottom 5% of schools in the U.S., which has increased reading and math skills and decreased violence and discipline problems.
The Secretary also acknowledged that the No Child Left Behind Act is essentially “broken” and has caused states to “dumb down” academic standards during the past few years. The the White House is now partnering with 20 states to provide waivers and “empower” them to be more innovative with educational plans. Another goal is to train and retain talented teachers, to “elevate and strengthen” 1 million new professionals in the next 4-6 years. All this will work toward a challenge President Obama has set: to have the U.S. be the world leader in higher education by 2020.
After Secretary Duncan’s brief, we had a few more policy briefings by other staff members from the U.S. Dept. of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council. Some interesting facts:
- The starting age of the education gap is 3 years old.
- It’ll take at least two years to overhaul No Child Left Behind and redirect focus on Race to the Top.
- At this year’s second annual White House Science Fair, a marshmallow projector by 14-year-old Joey Hudy stole the show.
For parents concerned about the education of their school-age kids, look out for more progress to be made on the Race to the Top initiative and the Educate to Innovate campaign that focuses on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Watch a video with Secretary Duncan from yesterday’s summit: