President Obama said Monday that he focused on improving secondary education from his first day in office because “our public schools had been the envy of the world, but the world caught up.”
Obama set a goal of making the U.S. first in world education again by 2020, he told the teachers and students of Washington’s Benjamin Banneker Academic High School on Monday morning.
During his presidency, the national graduation rate has risen to an all-time high of 83 percent, he said. Washington, D.C.’s high school’s rate rose from 53 percent to 69 percent. Obama chose to make the announcement at Benjamin Banneker, in part, because of its 100 percent graduation rate.
Obama said he wants American students to lead particularly in math and science because of the pressures of global competition.
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“You’re competing with somebody on the other side of the world” for jobs now “because jobs can go wherever they want because of the Internet and technology,” Obama said. “And the jobs are going to go to the people who are best educated.”
Black students saw the biggest increase in their graduation rate, jumping from 67 percent in the 2010-2011 school year to 75 percent in the 2014-2015 school year. Latinos were second with a 7 percent increase.
Outside of racial breakdowns, students for whom English is a second language made significant progress toward finishing high school. Eight percent more graduated after the 2014-2015 school year than the 2010-2011 academic year.
“I’ll be honest with you, we’ve still got more work to do,” Obama said. For too many students, “ZIP codes still determine how far they’ll go.”
He also called on states to reinvest in higher education. Too many have significantly cut back on their contributions toward public colleges and universities, he said.