The Obama Administration's Imprint on K-12 Policy: A Roundup
By Alyson Klein
Policy Push: A $4 billion grant competition created through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 may be President Obama’s highest-profile K-12 policy initiative. The Race to the Top program awarded 11 states and the District of Columbia five-year grants, ranging from $75 million to $700 million, in exchange for embracing a basket of education policies promoted by the administration. Those measures included teacher evaluations tied to student test scores, dramatic steps to produce school turnarounds, enhanced data systems, and college-and-career-readiness standards common to a significant number of states. (In practice, only the Common Core State Standards counted in the actual awarding of the grants.)
Impact: Some experts argue that the program’s biggest successes came before the money was even allocated, as dozens of states considered or made changes to teacher-evaluation systems, standards, turnaround practices, and other policies in order to be competitive for the grants. Still, an October 2016 report from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences found no hard and fast evidence that the program had had an impact on state policy or student outcomes.
Going Forward: Though the Obama administration pushed to have Race to the Top enshrined in law, the program fell out of favor with Congress—the Every Student Succeeds Act actually bars any future administration from enticing states to pick certain standards, tests, or educator-evaluation systems. Still, some Race to the Top-inspired policies continue. For instance, 36 states plus the District of Columbia continue to use the common-core standards.
By Alyson Klein
Policy Push: The Obama administration inherited a broken No Child Left Behind Act and spent considerable energy pressing for a revision of the main federal K-12 law. In its second term, the administration worked to ensure its education priorities were reflected in NCLB’s successor, the Every Student Succeeds Act.
• NCLB Waivers: In 2011, with Congress still unable to reauthorize No Child Left Behind, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan offered states waivers of key mandates of the law, such as the requirement to set aside money for school choice and tutoring. In exchange, states had to embrace certain education redesign priorities, such as dramatic The Obama Administration's Imprint on K-12 Policy: A Roundup - Education Week: