Investing in the Next Generation of Innovators and Entrepreneurs
To strengthen our nation's global economic competitiveness, we must invest in its future. For the greatest generation and the baby boomers, access to education -- especially higher education -- was the ticket to achieving their dreams. Today, we should make the necessary preparations to enable those of the next generation to reach for their own. This includes turning around failing schools, supporting teachers and encouraging family engagement, helping low-income families save for college, and funding student opportunities for research in science and technology fields.
Recent international test scores once again showed American students falling behind their competitors from Asia and Europe in reading, science, and math. Skills in these subjects are crucial to preparing for the kinds of high-tech and advanced clean energy jobs that will be central to our twenty-first century economy. If we commit to making important education investments now, our students will be well prepared for years to come.
Chris' education priorities include:
Reauthorizing and reinvigorating ESEA. We must address our education system and its challenges comprehensively. In the coming months, Congress should move to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in a way that reinvigorates federal programs supporting student achievement and college preparedness. We need to hold our students to high standards while at the same time ensuring teachers have access to critical resources. Reauthorizing ESEA will give Congress a chance to focus on making key education policy decisions that lawmakers have put off for years. Chris has joined a group of Moderate Democratic Senators in releasing a package of education reform principles designed to improve ESEA and better educate our children.
Helping first-generation college attendees save for college. A college education can unleash a student's potential for entrepreneurship, innovation, and achievement. It can be a powerful ladder into the middle class for students from low-income families. For those who are the first in their families with the opportunity to attend college, the rising costs of higher education should not be an impediment to matriculation. We need to do more to ensure that they and all of our students are able to save for college and obtain the financial aid or loans they need to attend and graduate.
Rewarding success. If we are to achieve President Obama's goal of making the United States the country with the highest percentage of graduating high school seniors by 2020, we need to ensure that all of our schools are performing at the highest level. We need to reward schools that increase their graduation rates and raise their students' test scores, especially schools with a history of underachievement
Promoting family engagement in education. Research demonstrates that students perform better in school when parents are actively involved in their education. We need to engage parents to participate in the education process by helping their children focus on homework, by fostering expectations of college attendance, and by communicating with teachers about results. This is why Chris supports the growth of community schools, where teachers and parents work together to track student progress.
Investing in STEM teaching and learning. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are critical subjects when preparing students for jobs in a high-tech, clean-energy economy. For America to continue leading the world in research, innovation, and the commercialization of new technologies, we need to invest in STEM education. One of the first bills Chris cosponsored as a U.S. Senator was the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, which extended investments in cutting-edge research and STEM education. This critical piece of legislation was signed into law in January 2011.
Doing more to support our classroom teachers. All of us can remember teachers who made a difference in our lives. Great teachers can encourage students to reach for their dreams, and we need to encourage more of our talented young people to pursue teaching careers. It is imperative that we give classroom teachers all the resources they need to prepare their students to achieve.
Promoting investments in early learning. Learning begins at birth. Access to quality early learning opportunities, particularly for the most disadvantaged students, is crucial to closing the achievement gap. That is why Chris joined Senator Casey in introducing the Supporting State Systems of Early Learning Act to establish an Early Learning Challenge Fund to help states build and strengthen systems of early learning