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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

WHITE HOUSE REPORT: The Every Student Succeeds Act

Last week, the White House released a fact sheet praising House passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) with strong bipartisan support and calling on the Senate to do the same. Today, as President Obama signs that bill into law, the White House is releasing an analysis of progress made in elementary and secondary education since the President took office and how ESSA will cement that progress. The full report is available HERE.

Every Student Succeeds Act: A Progress Report on Elementary and Secondary Education

A core element of strengthening the middle class is building stronger schools. Over the past seven years, President Obama has invested more in our schools, provided flexibility from one-size-fits-all mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act, and supported school reforms across the country. Today, as President Obama signs the Every Student Succeeds Act, he is releasing a report that summarizes the progress the country’s schools have made since 2008, including:

  •          Adopting higher academic standards in nearly every state, putting our schools on par with their international competitors and our children on track to graduate from high school ready for college and career.
  •          Reaching the highest high school graduation rate on record at 81 percent, with the highest gains among students of color.
  •          Investing billions of dollars in high-quality early education to help our youngest learners succeed.
  •          Reaching more than halfway to the President’s goal of training 100,000 excellent STEM teachers, ahead of schedule.
  •          Expanding access to high speed Internet to 20 million more students.

The legislation that President Obama will sign today, which Congress passed with strong bipartisan support, will help our schools build on this progress. Specifically, it will:

  •          Ensure states set high standards so that children graduate high school ready for college and career.
  •          Maintain accountability by guaranteeing that when students fall behind, states target resources towards what works to help them and their schools improve, with a particular focus on the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools, high schools with high dropout rates, and schools where subgroups of students are struggling.
  •          Empower state and local decision-makers to develop their own strong systems for school improvement based upon evidence, rather than imposing cookie-cutter federal solutions like No Child Left Behind (NCLB) did.
  •          Preserve annual assessments and reduce the often onerous burden of unnecessary and ineffective testing on students and teachers, making sure that standardized tests don’t crowd out teaching and learning, without sacrificing clear, annual information parents and educators need to make sure our children are learning.
  •          Provide more children access to high-quality preschool, giving them the chance to get a strong start to their education.
  •          Establish new resources to test promising practices and replicate proven strategies that will drive opportunity and better outcomes for America’s students.

The Challenge

President Obama believes that every student deserves a world-class education. We have some of the best schools and best universities in the world – but too often our students are not prepared to compete in the global economy. Since the beginning of this Administration, the President has emphasized that we need a great teacher in every classroom and a great principal in every school. Further, this Administration has stressed that we must ensure that we are doing a better job helping all our students master critical thinking, adaptability, collaboration, problem solving and creativity – skills that go beyond the basics for which schools were designed in the past.

America’s educators, students, and families have made historic progress in raising student outcomes across the nation in recent years, including reaching the highest high school graduation rate and lowest dropout rates in our history, and narrowing achievement and graduation rate gaps. States and school districts that have led the way with deep commitment to positive change – including Tennessee, Kentucky, the District of Columbia, and Denver – are seeing meaningful gains in student achievement.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that President Obama signs today builds upon the significant success of the President’s education policies and represents an important step forward to improve our education system. It replaces the No Child Left Behind Act, which was too often a burden rather than a help to achieving these goals. As President Obama has said, “The goals of No Child Left Behind were the right goals: Making a promise to educate every child with an excellent teacher -- that’s the right thing to do, that’s the right goal. Higher standards are right. Accountability is right… But what hasn’t worked is denying teachers, schools, and states what they need to meet these goals. That’s why we need to fix No Child Left Behind.”

Progress Made Since 2009

Over the last seven years, we have seen some of the most rapid, significant improvement of America’s education system in decades. And, more importantly, it’s put the building blocks in place for generational change. We’ve seen tremendous progress:

  •          Our high school graduation rate is the highest ever, at 81 percent, and is on-track to rise again this year. Moreover, graduation rate gaps for minority, low-income, and disabled students are closing.
  •          For the last two years, our high school dropout rate has been at a historic low, following steady decreases. The greatest progress has been among minorities. The dropout rate among Hispanics is half of what it was in 2000. Rates for black and low-income youth have been cut by more than a third. According to outside experts, the number of “dropout factories” has been cut nearly in half since 2008.
  •          The number of students who do not complete high school on-time has dropped by a quarter in just four years – from about 1 million students in 2008 to 740,000 students in 2012.
  •          College enrollment for black and Hispanic students is up by more than a million students since 2008.

Administration Action to Improve Education

Under the Obama Administration, we’ve seen tremendous efforts to improve education from cradle to career, with substantial progress made.

  • Quality Preschool: The Obama Administration has invested billions of dollars to help provide high-quality early education opportunities so that more children are successful when they enter kindergarten, and more than 30 states have boosted their own investments in early learning.
  • Higher Standards: Today, nearly all students have access to higher standards than they did a few years ago. 48 states and the District of Columbia have taken action to hold all students to challenging academic standards that will prepare them to graduate from high school prepared for success in college and the workforce.
  • Fewer, Better Assessments: The Obama Administration has supported states in their hard work to move America past the traditional multiple choice test and toward assessments aligned to college- and career-ready standards and focused on critical thinking, problem solving, and writing. At the same time, the Administration is helping states and school districts to push back on unnecessary or low-quality tests and test preparation.
  • Strong Teachers in Every Classroom: Every student needs and deserves a strong teacher, but minority and low-income students are less likely to have effective teachers than their peers. The Department of Education has launched a number of efforts to support great teachers and teaching, including proposed regulations that will strengthen teacher preparation, and the Teach to Lead initiative, created jointly with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, to help teachers to take control of their profession and their career paths. In addition, the Teacher Incentive Fund, Supporting Effective Educator Development Grant program, and updated teacher equity plans Excellent Educators for All are initiatives that support states and districts to train, attract, and keep effective educators in high-need schools.
  • Competitive Programs to Improve Schools: President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative offered strong incentives to states willing to enact systemic reforms that would improve teaching and learning in America’s schools. Race to the Top was the most significant reform of public education in a generation. With an initial investment of $4 billion – less than 1 percent of annual K-12 education funding – Race to the Top catalyzed meaningful change for more than 10 million students and 700,000 teachers across over a dozen grantees, and for many more in states that did not receive funds. Race to the Top helped states increase their capacity to implement innovative solutions to improve educational outcomes by establishing high standards; supporting great teachers and leaders; using data and technology to improve instruction; and turning around the lowest performing schools – solutions that have since spread nationwide. Even in states that did not win awards, the work to develop an application and establish the conditions for positive change unleashed incredible initiative and creativity at the local level.
  • Investing in Innovation: The Administration’s Investing in Innovation (i3) program has helped develop a culture of evidence-based decision-making in public schools by expanding interventions that accelerate student achievement and that prepare every student to succeed in college and in their careers. The more rigorous the evidence an organization has supporting its intervention, the larger the grant award it can potentially receive. Originally, the $650 million i3 fund offered support to districts, nonprofit organizations, and institutions of higher education to research, replicate, and scale-up promising practices that improve educational outcomes. The Department awarded 49 grants in the competition, but nearly 1,700 applicants applied – by far the largest number of applicants in a single competition in the Department's history. Now, nearly 150 i3 grantees are working in every state in the country, impacting over 2 million students.
  • Creating Promise Neighborhoods: Since 2010, the Administration’s Promise Neighborhoods program has sought to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty by investing $270 million in more than 50 of our nation’s most distressed communities, representing over 700 schools. These efforts are helping to build a pipeline from early learning to high school and beyond for our highest-need students by creating comprehensive, wrap-around educational support services and strong, vibrant school environments. Moreover, 1,000 national, state, and community organizations have signed-on to support and partner with Promise Neighborhoods to ensure these initiatives are effective and long-lasting.
  • More than Halfway to Reaching the President’s Goal to Prepare 100,000 Excellent STEM Teachers: In his 2011 State of the Union address, the President called for a new effort to prepare 100,000 STEM teachers over the next decade with strong teaching skills and deep content knowledge. Answering the President’s call to action, more than 230 organizations formed a coalition called 100Kin10. These organizations have made more than 350 measurable commitments to increase the supply of excellent STEM teachers, including recruiting and preparing more than 43,000 teachers in the first five years of the initiative. In addition, in 2014 the Department of Education announced more than $175 million over five years in STEM-focused grants under the Teacher Quality Partnership Grant program, which will support more than 11,000 new STEM teachers in high-need schools. In total, the President’s Educate to Innovate campaign has resulted in over $1 billion in direct and in-kind support for STEM education.
  • Expanding Access to the Technology Students Need to Succeed and Cutting the Digital Divide in Half: Since President Obama launched his ConnectED initiative in 2013, we have cut the connectivity divide in schools in half. Now, 20 million more students have access to high-speed Internet, which they need in order to utilize modern digital learning tools. Today, 77 percent of school districts meet minimum standards for high-speed broadband, compared to 30 percent in 2013. More than 3 million students from all 50 states are also benefitting from the $2.25 billion in independent private sector commitments of hardware, digital content, software, wireless service, and teacher training commitments. And thousands of district leaders have received training to support their commitment to making their schools “Future Ready.”
  • Making College More Affordable: Our historic investments in student aid for college, a far simpler Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and the new College Scorecard are helping to give all students the opportunity to go to college by providing them with the right tools for success.

The full progress report on elementary and secondary education is available HERE.

The fact sheet on ESSA issued last week after House passage is available HERE.