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STATE OF THE UNION: Obama Announces Competition for High Schools in Address to Congress, Nation

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“Four years ago, we started Race to the Top—a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, all for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year,” Obama said. “Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.”
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In his February 12 State of the Union address centered on a “growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs,” President Obama outlined several education proposals, including high-quality preschool available to every child, greater access for high school students to take college courses, and a new competition to redesign America’s high schools.

“Four years ago, we started Race to the Top—a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, all for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year,” Obama said. “Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.”

Obama said the competition would reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

In a statement, Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, praised the president’s high school proposal. “President Obama offered few details on the high school challenge in last night’s State of the Union address, but I see great potential,” Wise said. “If the nation is serious about the high school dropout crisis, more must be done to engage students and make learning relevant. The president’s proposal appears to do both.”

Wise added that the initiative could also help improve school turnaround policy by encouraging successful schools and programs while also inspiring additional approaches based on their successes. Additional information on the president’s proposal could be included in his Fiscal Year 2014 budget, which is expected to be released in March or April.

In discussing his preschool proposal, Obama noted that fewer than three in ten four-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program—a lack of access that can “shadow” students for the rest of their lives. He said that every dollar invested in early education can save more than seven dollars down the road by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, and reducing violent crime. “We know this works. So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance,” Obama said.

Turning to higher education, Obama called on the U.S. Congress to change the Higher Education Act so that “affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid.” He also released a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on “where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.”

A video and transcript of the State of the Union are available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/state-of-the-union-2013.

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