Education Highlights from the State of the Union Address

Did you watch the State of the Union address last night? If so, you heard President Barack Obama expand on several existing education proposals, including two topics close to our hearts: early childhood education and education technology.

President Obama reiterated his call (first announced in last year’s State-of the Union speech) for a major, early-childhood education initiative that would expand preschool to more 4-year-olds. The president said:

Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education. Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every 4-year-old. And as a parent as well as a president, I repeat that request tonight.

But in the meantime, 30 states have raised pre-k funding on their own. They know we can’t wait. So just as we worked with states to reform our schools, this year we’ll invest in new partnerships with states and communities across the country in a race to the top for our youngest children. And as Congress decides what it’s going to do, I’m going to pull together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K that they need. It is right for America. We need to get this done.

In Utah, we’ve been part of one of those state-led initiatives with UPSTART, a free, in-home preschool program funded by the state legislature. What we’ve found over the past five years is that students who use Waterford’s early learning curriculum through UPSTART show two to three times the learning gains over their peers who don’t — evidence of just how important and effective good early childhood programs can be. In fact, UPSTART’s results recently got the attention of the U.S. Department of Education and earned us important grant money to expand and research the program further.

The president also reiterated his call to improve technology infrastructure in schools during last night’s speech:

Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years. Tonight I can announce that with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, we’ve got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit.

As an education technology nonprofit, we of course support technology improvements in schools and libraries, particularly those in disadvantaged communities.

If you missed last night’s speech, you can watch the video above or check out a full transcript online. Tell us: Which education initiatives discussed caught your attention?

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