Raising Our ‘Standards for Teaching and Learning’

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama declared, “To prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, our commitment to skills and education has to start earlier. We’ve convinced nearly every State in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning – the first time that’s happened in a generation.” He then presented three aims for raising our standards in education: effective teachers, high school completion, and affordable college tuition.

Effective Teachers. President Obama emphasized the role of teachers in the lives of their students. He called on states to extend resources to schools for rewarding the most effective teachers. The Future of Children volume Excellence in the Classroom explains that high quality education is crucial for the wellbeing of children and our nation. Thus, advocates recommend that teacher-improvement policies ultimately be examined in terms of their influence on student performance.

High School Completion. To increase high school completion rates, President Obama called on states to require all students to stay in school until they graduate or turn 18. The Future of Children volume America’s High Schools explains that dropping out of high school places burdens on students themselves and on society. Students experience lower earnings as well as higher risk of unemployment and health issues. Society faces higher crime rates and greater spending on public assistance. Successful dropout prevention programs focus on family outreach and resolving the issues students face outside of school.

Affordable College Tuition. To get more young people through college, President Obama urged Congress to extend the tuition tax credit, he called on states to make higher education more of a priority, and he asked colleges and universities to keep tuition costs down. The Future of Children volume Transition to Adulthood highlights successful programs for increasing college enrollment and completion. As indicated in a previous Future of Children blog, programs designed to simplify the financial aid application process have been found to increase college enrollment for families with low to moderate incomes.

As indicated in The Future of Children, several policies and programs have been shown to effectively address the challenges discussed by President Obama, while continued evaluation should examine the effects of other programs. Through a research-based emphasis on effective teachers, high school completion, and affordable college tuition, we can raise our nation’s standards for teaching and learning and provide a brighter future for our children.