Education in the State of the Union

Carol Knopes

AIR experts have conducted in-depth research and analysis on many of the issues President Obama discussed in his State of the Union address. Links to that research, blogs by subject experts, and other features will appear throughout our website this week.

Last night’s State of the Union stressed education from the very first words. Today in America,” began the President, “a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades.” The biggest news came in Pre-K policy, where President Obama again asked Congress to approve universal preschool for 4-year-olds and then proposed “a Race to the Top for our youngest children” that would involve new partnerships with states and communities.” AIR’s Kristin Flanagan and Jill Walston recently noted kindergarten teachers increasingly agree preschool is essential for success in kindergarten. And, Laura Hawkinson and Karen Manship have outlined ways parents can judge the quality of preschool programs. Throughout the address, there was a renewed emphasis on the link between career success and education — from Pre-K through college. Other education issues in the speech:

Partnering high schools with colleges and employers to give hands-on training that can lead directly to immediate employment. AIR’s CCRS Center helps states and other stakeholders ensure that students are ready for success in college and careers. Improving career technical education and incorporating social and emotional learning is equally vital.

Bringing businesses and community colleges together to design training to fill specific hiring needs. College Measures reports earnings for postsecondary graduates from two-year and four-year institutions.

Bringing high-speed broadband to 20 million students at more than 15,000 schools through a partnership with the FCC and tech companies. AIR’s Online Algebra study found that online courses led to higher achievement and broadened access to Algebra I for 8th-grade students in rural communities.

Continuing College Opportunity Summits to encourage universities, businesses, and nonprofits to help high-achieving, low-income high school students get into college and succeed when they get to campus. AIR’s Mark Schneider recently explored the issue of “undermatching” in higher education and its broader implications.

Ensuring better value in college. AIR’s Andrew Gillen made recommendations for how a “college value” rating system might be used.

Capping student loan payments at 10 percent of graduates’ incomes. Rita Kirshstein’s Not Your Mother’s College Affordability Crisis describes new realities in tuition costs that affect many more families than in previous decades.

Introducing a new initiative to keep young men of color stay on track to reach their full potential. AIR supports the development of the Nation’s Report Card, which looks at how achievement gaps have changed since the 1990s.

The bottom line,” said the President, “is, Michelle and I want every child to have the same chance this country gave us.” Peter Cookson’s commentaries on equity have stressed the importance of closing the opportunity gap for all students and finding the right policy levers to do so. Learn more about AIR’s work on Early Childhood Education, College and Career Readiness, and Higher Education and College Affordability.