What Obama Meant for Schools — and School Choice: 7 Essays on His Education Legacy
Before the inauguration of Donald Trump, released a unique collection of insights into the education priorities, policies, and impact of Barack Obama, our 44th president. From figures such as Arne Duncan to John King and from initiatives like No Child Left Behind to the Every Student Succeeds Act, Obama prioritized education throughout his administration. Despite the risk of isolating key allies, he pursued his education agenda, which included increasing high school graduation rates and promoting school choice. Below are seven essays that provide a retrospective look at Obama’s presidency, his achievements, his mistakes, and his influential first secretary of education. For regular updates and analysis, you can sign up for Newsletter.
How Obama’s Academic Journey Shaped His Education Policies
By Derrell Bradford
Obama’s K-12 education experience was unparalleled among previous presidents, as it played a significant role in shaping not only his ability to rise above racial and ideological divisions but also his policy priorities as president. Attending Punahou School, a diverse and select college preparatory institution in Honolulu, Hawaii, on a scholarship, exposed him to the power of school choice. It could be argued that his support for charter schools was his way of acknowledging the impact that school choice had on his life and recognizing its importance in empowering black political participation in the future. To delve deeper into this topic, I encourage you to read the full essay.
Establishing an Educational Legacy Through Challenging Political Allies
By Peter Cunningham
Cunningham, a former assistant secretary of education in the Obama administration, looks back on the administration’s achievements and finds much to admire. Obama made significant progress in areas such as pre-K education, higher education, equity, academic rigor, and accountability. Cunningham attributes a significant portion of the president’s success to his willingness to challenge the teacher unions, but he also criticizes the Republican Party for not countering the anti-government right as effectively. He believes that active and informed parents demanding quality education for their children are crucial for advancing public education. To gain more insight into Cunningham’s analysis, I recommend reading the full essay.
Arne Duncan’s Breakthroughs and Backlash as Obama’s Education Secretary
By Matt Barnum
There is no question that Arne Duncan’s influence on education was profound and that his legacy will endure. During his tenure, the federal government gained significant authority over American schools, while the Every Student Succeeds Act later scaled back some of this power. In many ways, the latter can be seen as a reaction to the former, a rejection of Duncan’s aggressive agenda. Nonetheless, it solidifies his place in history as it becomes more challenging for future presidents to fully reverse the ambitious goals pursued by Duncan’s Department of Education. To delve deeper into Duncan’s accomplishments and challenges, I encourage you to read the full essay.
How Obama Redefined Education Reform
By Gerard Robinson
In the history of the United States, only Obama and George W. Bush are two-term presidents who have mentioned "school" or "schools" in both their inaugural addresses. This reference underscores the importance that Obama placed on improving education in his vision for a better republic. Despite facing obstacles, Obama successfully advanced a reform agenda even in the face of resistance from the Democratic Party’s core labor constituents. This accomplishment changed the idea of reform within the party and set Obama apart from his predecessors. To explore this further, I recommend reading the full essay.
The Trade-off: How Obama Shaped Education but Deepened Divisions
By Matt Barnum
When President Obama assumed office, he made promises to bridge partisan divides, particularly in education. However, even he admits that he was not successful in achieving this goal, both generally and specifically in the realm of education. Despite this, the Obama administration accomplished significant milestones in school reform, such as implementing more rigorous teacher evaluations, supporting charter schools, and advocating for the Common Core. However, these achievements came at the cost of leaving a legacy steeped in controversy and division. To gain more insight into this topic, I encourage you to read the full essay.
Obama’s Role in Empowering Progressives to Support School Choice
By Cynthia Tucker Haynes
The lasting impact of President Obama’s education reform efforts lies in his progressive policies, which invigorated a movement for public education reform. Prior to Obama, Democrats and progressives were hesitant to challenge teacher unions, fearing potential political repercussions. By addressing low-performing schools, advocating for teacher accountability, and highlighting the value of charter schools, Obama recalibrated the reform coalition and provided an opportunity for liberals to challenge the existing educational system. To gain a deeper understanding of this transformation, I suggest reading the full essay.
Is Trump the End of the Obama-Duncan Partnership?
By Conor Williams
Receive stories like these directly to your email. Register for Newsletter to stay updated.