I Just Sued the School System…. YOU NEED TO WATCH THIS VIDEO!!!

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Five eye-opening figures from the U.S. Education Department’s latest civil rights data dump

The U.S. Education Department on Tuesday released a trove of data drawn from surveys of nearly every single one of the nation’s 95,000 public schools. This latest installment of the Civil Rights Data Collection, from the 2013-2014 school year, offers a sobering look at the wide disparities in experience and opportunity that divide the nation’s 50 million students.

By the fall, anyone will be able to look up data on a specific school or school district online. GreatSchools, the website that provides information about school test scores and demographics, also is planning to incorporate the civil rights data into its school profiles.

1. In the 2013-2014 school year, 6.5 million children were chronically absent from school, missing 15 or more days of school.

A growing body of research has shown that children who are chronically absent from school are more likely to struggle academically and eventually drop out. It makes sense: Missed classes mean missed instruction and holes in understanding that make it more and more difficult to keep up with peers. Absenteeism rates are highest among teenagers, but it’s by no means an adolescent problem alone. More than 3.5 million of chronically absent students were in elementary school.

2. 850,000 high school students didn’t have access to a school counselor.

High school counselors often have tough jobs. They keep track of their students’ progress toward graduation. They help students apply to college and navigate the financial aid process. They also help kids navigate their lives outside of school, which can be made complex by poverty, violence and family trouble. And because counselors often are one of the first positions to be cut when budgets get tight, there are almost never enough to go around. The national average is close to 500 students per school counselor; many student have no counselor at all.

3. 1.6 million students went to a school that employed a sworn law-enforcement officer, but no counselor.

The 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection for the first time counted how many schools have a sworn law-enforcement officer: 24 percent of elementary schools and 42 percent of high schools. Among high schools with predominantly black and Hispanic populations (i.e., more than 75 percent of students were black and Latino), more than half — 51 percent — had an officer.

4. Nearly 800,000 students were enrolled in schools where more than 20 percent of teachers hadn’t met state licensure requirements.

Black, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native students were more likely than white students to attend schools like this. The same students of color are more likely than white students to attend schools where more than 20 percent of teachers are in their first year of teaching.

5. Racial disparities in suspensions reach all the way down into preschool: Black children represent 19 percent of all preschoolers, and 47 percent of all those who were suspended.

Activists and journalists have helped draw attention to disparities in school discipline in recent years. The Obama administration has also called attention to the gaps and pressed schools to address them. Even with all that attention, the difference in suspension rates among the youngest children are still surprising.

Stay tuned: In the next civil rights data dump, two years from now, the Education Department expects to include new data that promises to be just as interesting — including on corporal punishment in preschool, allegations of bullying based on sexual orientation and religion, teacher turnover and discipline-related transfers to alternative schools.

 

This story was originally posted int he Washington Post on June 7, 2016

How Edtech Tools Evolve…Ch. 3

With EdSurge’s third installment of State of Edtech: How Edtech Tools Evolve, they share:

  1. The history, research and ongoing debates around how best to teach and assess math and reading. We look at how these conversations have shaped the creation of edtech tools;

  2. A framework for understanding how technology can impact teaching and learning, along with the pros and cons behind using the framework;

  3. A dozen stories of educators across the country who have witnessed changes in technology, and have adopted tools to refine and redefine their instructional practices.

In the next chapter of our yearlong research on the state of education technology, EdSurge, with the support of AT&T Aspire, has explored how popular instructional tools have changed over time, and how this evolution has influenced teaching and learning. Underlying our story is a cautious optimism that education technology will finally deliver on its potential. Bold visions about how technology can transform classrooms are by no means a recent phenomenon. Both Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs asserted, a century apart, that physical books will be obsolete in schools—a prediction that has proven wishful. Part of the problem was that technology was difficult to use and often did not work as intended. Today, after decades of fits and starts, education technology has matured. Better bandwidth, cloud computing power, data collection and distribution channels such as app stores, among other infrastructural improvements, have helped developers make devices and software more accessible, affordable and, most importantly, easier for students and teachers to use. In order to get powerful results, the tools must be aligned with practice in purposeful ways. Often times, the most widely used tools are ones that are flexible, content­ agnostic and can be adapted for a wide range of teaching needs. In our analysis on the evolution and use of edtech tools, we dive into: ● the history, research and ongoing debates around how best to teach and assess math and reading, and how these conversations have shaped the creation of edtech tools. ● the pros and cons of a popular framework that helps us understand how technology can impact teaching and learning ● a dozen stories of educators across the country who have adopted tools to refine and redefine their instructional practices Used intentionally, technology can help teachers realize ideas put forth decades ago by education researchers. For example, data can give teachers better insights into what each learner needs and help them adjust classroom strategies. Games and online collaborative projects offer students more engaging ways to appreciate and learn abstract subjects. Not every practice needs to be reinvented. Just like paper­ and ­pencil, many traditional habits around teaching, discussion and homework continue to work well for many teachers. But whatever their comfort or experience, educators increasingly have access to a powerful set of new technologies to help them refine—or redefine—the way that they teach students.

Read more here: https://www.edsurge.com/research/special­reports/state­of­edtech­2016/builders

In our analysis of education technology products, we explore the history, research and debates behind how to best teach and assess math and reading knowledge. This chapter explores: ● apps and games that represent numbers, arithmetic and other mathematical ideas in visual ways, allowing students to “see” math beyond a collection of numbers and symbols; ● algorithms that attempt to quantify text complexity to help students find the “right” difficulty of reading materials; ● alternative methods of testing students in more fun, engaging and low­ stakes ways, and using this data to help teacher hone their craft. Yet no matter what features are built into a product, the technology is unlikely to impact learning if it’s misapplied. To understand how today’s tools can be used, we borrow the SAMR framework, created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, to understand the different ways that technology can support changes in instructional practices and learning outcomes. To bring the framework to life, we also profiled a dozen educators from across the country on how they have used technology to support instructional needs and transform teaching practices. What these stories reveal is that changing ingrained habits and codified practices requires patience. Some teachers use technology to do the same tasks as before, albeit more efficiently. Others are creating entirely new sets of activities that transform learning from a solo to social experience. Whatever their comfort or experience, teachers increasingly have access to a powerful set of new technologies to help them refine—or redefine—the way that they run the classroom.

Read more here: https://www.edsurge.com/research/special­reports/state­of­edtech­2016

What are today’s tools capable of? Are these new features and capabilities impacting teaching and learning? How are these tools used by teachers to resolve some of the classroom’s gnarliest problems?

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John Oliver on Brexit Vote: ‘There Are No F—— Do Overs’

 

A warning for Americans thinking of voting for Trump.

A week after dedicating the bulk of an episode of HBO’sLast Week Tonight to laying out the potential pitfalls of a U.K. decision to leave the European Union, British comedian John Oliver returned on Sunday night with a condemnation of the Brexit referendum results.

Discussing the seismic aftereffects of the U.K.’s vote to leave the EU, the British-born Oliver kicked off Sunday’s show by joking that after the events of the past week the name, the United Kingdom “is beginning to sound a bit sarcastic.” He went on: “Because the U.K. this week voted to leave the European Union, a decision that has shaken the world. And not in a, ‘Muhammad Ali beating Sonny Liston’ kind of way. More in a, ‘Those IKEA meatballs you love contain horse kind of way.’ And, the fallout in Britain has been swift and significant.”

In addition to the global financial fallout in the wake of the U.K.’s historic decision, Oliver noted the announcement that British Prime Minister David Cameron will resign as a result of the vote, due to the fact that Cameron had supported the “Remain” camp in the vote. And he talked about the upheaval that will ensue from the Brexit vote.

“It seems like whoever the next U.K. prime minister is going to be, whether it’s Boris Johnson or a racist tea kettle, they are going to be in for a rough few years,” he said.

Even though he said he’d normally take pleasure in Cameron leaving his post, he couldn’t now because he knew how horrible the Brexit fallout will be for the U.K. “David Cameron announced he would be stepping down in the wake of the vote, which should make me happy, but in this situation, it doesn’t,” he said. “It’s like catching an ice cream cone out of the air because a child was hit by a car. I mean, I’ll eat it, I’ll eat it — but it’s tainted somehow.”

Warning to America

Oliver also discussed Donald Trump’s reaction to the Brexit results after the presumptive GOP nominee compared the “Leave” supporters in the U.K. to his own supporters in the U.S. Oliver’s response? “You might think, ‘Well that is not going to happen to us in America. We’re not going to listen to some ridiculously haired buffoon, peddling lies and nativism in the hopes of riding a protest vote into power.’ Well let Britain tell you, it can happen, and when it does, there are no f—ing do-overs,” the comedian said.

 

‘Inspiration porn’

The show then turned its attention to the 2016 Olympic Games, which kick off in Rio de Janeiro later this summer and which Oliver jokingly described as “your biannual reminder that NBC exists.” After quickly skewering the often treacly video segments featuring athletes’ backstories that typically run during networks’ Olympics coverage—Oliver called them “inspiration porn”—the comedian turned his attention to recent concerns over doping and drug-testing at this year’s games.

Oliver quoted a report estimating that 29% of athletes at the 2011 world championships admitted anonymously to doping within the previous year. He also noted that the incentive for athletes to cheat is immense, considering how much money is on the line for them as well as for the networks broadcasting the event and the organizations hosting. “There is a massive financial ecosystem dependent on spectacular athletic achievement in scandal-free games,” he said.

For instance, NBC has already sold more than $1 billion worth of advertising around this year’s Olympics and the network, in turn, is paying billions of dollars to the International Olympic Committee for the rights to televise the next several Olympic games. And, that’s not to mention the wide range of sponsor companies that strike deals with Olympic medal-winners to endorse their products. (“No professional swimmer wants a sandwich in the pool,” Oliver said with mock incredulity in reference to U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps’ commercials for sandwich chain Subway.)

In trying to explain how, despite strict testing, some athletes still get away with doping. Oliver displayed a graphic showing the convoluted process of how athletes are tested by various anti-doping agencies that receive oversight and funding from governments as well as the IOC itself. Oliver called the system “a sprawling mess” while pointing out how easy it is for corruption to spread throughout the system.

 

“This is all actually making FIFA look good . . . and, they’re basically just a mafia with slightly better branding,” Oliver said of soccer’s international governing body. It was an apt and scathing comparison from Oliver, considering the scale of scandals and corruption that have embroiled FIFA over the years.

To finish the show, Oliver introduced a video parodying the types of inspirational segments he’d mocked earlier in the show, except Last Week Tonight‘s version showed a fake athlete who trains for the Olympics by downing massive amounts of pills while practicing his preposterous excuses for how illegal substances could wind up in his bloodstream.

This story has been updated to include the video from John Oliver’s show.

IMPACT REPORT: 100 Examples of President Obama’s Leadership in Science, Technology, and Innovation

“We’ll restore science to its rightful place.”

President Obama’s Inaugural Address, 2009

On January 20, 2009, President Obama issued a simple and powerful pledge: to restore science to its rightful place. Coming into office, the President was committed to reinvigorating the American scientific enterprise through a strong commitment to basic and applied research, innovation, and education; to restoring integrity to science policy; and most importantly, to making decisions on the basis of evidence, rather than ideology.

In a speech at the National Academy of Sciences in April 2009, the President called for expanded investments in research and development and a focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. He noted that science, technology, and innovation are essential to sustaining economic growth, enabling Americans to lead longer and healthier lives, limiting the harm from climate change, and providing U.S. armed forces and homeland defenders with the tools they need to succeed in every contingency.

Today, the Administration is releasing a list of 100 examples of the profound impact that the President’s leadership has had in building U.S. capacity in science, technology, and innovation and bringing that capacity to bear on national goals. The release of this list marks the milestone of Dr. John Holdren becoming, on June 18, 2016, the longest-serving President’s Science Advisor since Vannevar Bush pioneered a similar role while serving Presidents Roosevelt and Truman during and after World War II.

EXPANDING SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND INNOVATION CAPACITY AND IMPACT ACROSS GOVERNMENT 

  1. Elevated the quality and rigor of the science, technology, and innovation advice in the White House. President Obama reinvigorated the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) by restoring the rank of Assistant to the President to the OSTP Director and rebuilding the two OSTP directorates—environment and national security—that had been slimmed down and subsumed into the science and technology directorates in the previous Administration. In addition, he created three new high-level science, technology, and innovation positions in the White House—a U.S. Chief Technology Officer, a U.S. Chief Information Officer, and a Chief Data Scientist. He also reinvigorated the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), which augments the science, technology, and innovation advice available from full-time government employees with part-time advisors who are leaders in science and technology in the private and academic sectors. This Administration’s PCAST is arguably the most distinguished and diverse in the history of presidential science and technology advisory bodies, which in their current form date back to the Eisenhower Administration. PCAST has produced more than 30 reports for the President on such topics as influenza preparedness, energy innovation, advanced manufacturing, and cybersecurity, and many of PCAST’s recommendations have been embodied in Presidential initiatives. Read more, more, and more.
  2. Boosted science, technology, and innovation talent across the Administration. The President raised the bar for science, technology, and innovation talent serving in his Administration with five Nobel Laureates in science and 28 other members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in his initial tranche of appointments. Through the U.S. Digital Service, 18F at the General Services Administration (GSA), and the Presidential Innovation Fellows program—each created by this Administration—more than 450 engineers, designers, data scientists, and product managers have signed on for a tour of duty to serve in over 25 agencies alongside dedicated civil servants to improve how government delivers modern digital services to the American people. Because of the efforts of these digital teams, for example, it now takes a fraction of the time it used to take for residents to renew their green cards and for prospective college students to identify which schools provide the best value for them, and all Americans can enroll in health insurance plans online. The President also created the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) STEM track, with the first Class of PMF-STEMs started in 2014. Read more, more,more, more, and more.
  3. Connected science, technology, and innovation experts and resources across the Administration to address national challenges and opportunities. The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC)—through its approximately 100 interagency working groups, task forces, and subcommittees—published over 90 policy papers over the course of the Obama Administration in the areas of environment, natural resources, and sustainability; homeland and national security; fundamental science; technology; and STEM education. The NSTC set strategies and coordinated resources for many of the Administration’s interagency science, technology, and innovation initiatives, including the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the National Nanotechnology Initiative, the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program, the Materials Genome Initiative, the Federal Cybersecurity Research and Development Program, and the Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Program. Read more.
  4. Elevated transparency, openness, and scientific integrity as guiding principles for Federal agencies. On the first day of his Administration, the President issued a Presidential Memorandum calling on all the agencies in the Federal Government to work together to create “an unprecedented level of openness” in government and to “establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.” An Open Government Directive and a plan for implementing those goals were issued in December 2009. In March 2009, the Transparency and Open Government Presidential Memorandum was followed by a Presidential Memorandum on Scientific Integrity, stating in part that:

    The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public-policy decisions. Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions. If scientific and technological information is developed and used by the Federal Government, it should ordinarily be made available to the public.

    This Presidential Memorandum called for all agencies to embed these principles in appropriate policies and procedures and charged the OSTP Director with overseeing the development and ensuring the adequacy of the agency plans. Detailed guidance concerning the content of the plans was developed by OSTP in consultation with the agencies over the next 20 months, and 22 agencies subsequently produced and published their scientific integrity plans. Read more, more, and more.

  5. Established a platform for “works better, costs less” government through a new network of agency innovation labs. The Administration has supported the creation of agency innovation labs consisting of dedicated internal teams with the resources to tackle core agency challenges from procurement to service delivery with new approaches. Labs like the IDEA Lab at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are improving agency performance by providing support for testing new ideas. For example, one recent IDEA Lab project consolidated a medical education loan-repayment program process—previously spanning multiple government agencies and technologies—into a single streamlined system. To date, this has cut the processing time for 3,200 medical education loan-repayment awards by 6 months, saving more than $3 million in taxpayer dollars and improving customer satisfaction.Read more.
  6. Created a behavioral insights team to improve Federal programs. The Administration launched the first-ever Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) by Executive Order in September 2015. SBST comprises leading experts who have been recruited into government to harness behavioral science insights to help Federal Government programs better serve the Nation while saving taxpayer dollars. Pilot tests conducted by SBST have already shown: a doubling in the rate of new enrollments in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) by military service members; a 9 percent increase in college enrollment by low-income students; a four-fold increase in applications for income-driven repayment plans by student borrowers; a 13 percent increase in health insurance enrollments; and millions of dollars in government savings. Read more.

FUNDING AND INCENTIVIZING RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

  1. Enacted a historic increase in research and development, and maintained it as a priority despite tight fiscal constraints. With $18.3 billion in research and development funding, the Recovery Act of February 2009 was part of the largest annual increase in research and development funding in America’s history, and every President’s budget proposed by President Obama since then has consistently prioritized research funding. Read more
  2. Increased support for high-risk, high-reward research. The Administration supported the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), expanded funding for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), prioritized investments in advanced technologies for space exploration at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and allocated the first funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) at the Department of Energy (DOE). Read more.
  3. Advanced the frontiers of physics. The Administration’s support of fundamental research and major capabilities for physics research via DOE and the National Science Foundation (NSF) has contributed to spectacular advances, including the July 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the long-awaited direct detection of gravitational waves—the existence of which was predicted by Einstein a century ago—by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) collaboration in September 2015. Read more and more.
  4. Made the Research and Experimentation (R&E) tax credit permanent. In December 2015, Congress responded to the President’s call (dating to 2009) and made the R&E tax credit permanent for the first time since its enactment in the early 1980s. Congress also expanded the credit to allow pre-revenue startups and small businesses to take advantage of the credit by counting it against payroll expenses. Read more.

PROMOTING INNOVATION NATIONWIDE

  1. Produced the first-ever national innovation strategy. In September 2009, President Obama released the Strategy for American Innovation, outlining an architecture of existing and proposed Federal efforts to promote long-term economic growth and competitiveness through innovation based on science and technology. The strategy’s major components include: investing in the science and technology foundations of innovation (including basic research, science and technology infrastructure, and STEM education); creating an economic and policy environment favoring entrepreneurship (through tax policy, intellectual property rights policy, and immigration policy); and catalyzing breakthroughs in key areas (e.g., innovation in clean energy and health care). Cross-cutting areas of focus include increased support for early-career scientists and engineers, increased opportunity and support in STEM training and careers for historically underrepresented groups including women and minorities, and commercializing university research. The Strategy for American Innovation was updated in February 2011 and again in October 2015. Read more.
  2. Made more than 180,000 Federal datasets and collections available to students, entrepreneurs, and the public. In May 2013, President Obama issued an Executive Order and policy guidance on making open and machine readable data the new default for government information. To date, more than 180,000 Federal datasets and collections have been made available on Data.gov. The release of these datasets and collections have been coupled with active outreach and thematic events such as Health and Energy “Datapaloozas”, so that data and tools are in hands of innovators, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and communities working together to develop new tools and solutions. Read more.
  3. Opened up Federally funded scientific research. The Administration has increased public access to the results of Federally funded scientific research, with more than 4 million full-text journal articles and growing volumes of scientific research data now free and accessible to the public via agency-designated repositories. Read more and more.
  4. Harnessed American ingenuity through increased use of incentive prizes. Since 2010, more than 80 Federal agencies have engaged 250,000 Americans through more than 700 challenges on Challenge.gov to address tough problems ranging from fighting Ebola, to decreasing the cost of solar energy, to blocking illegal robocalls. These competitions have made more than $220 million available to entrepreneurs and innovators and have led to the formation of over 275 startup companies with over $70 million in follow-on funding, creating over 1,000 new jobs. Read more and more.
  5. Expanded opportunities for citizen science and crowdsourcing. The Administration has expanded opportunities, including those efforts listed on CitizenScience.gov, for research agencies to work with citizen scientists and use crowdsourcing approaches. For example, Federal agencies have used these approaches to improve predictive models for coastal change and vulnerability to extreme storms, and to tag millions of archival records for the National Archives. Researchers have estimated that the in-kind contributions of more than a million citizen-science volunteers to biodiversity research alone have had an economic value of up to $2.5 billion per year. Read more.

STRENGTHENING STEM EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE TRAINING

  1. Prioritized STEM education. The President’s Educate to Innovate campaign, launched in November 2009, has resulted in more than $1 billion in private investment for improving K-12 STEM education. STEM education has also been incorporated into the Administration’s broader education efforts—from the Race to the Top competition to the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and the President has called on the more than 200,000 Federal scientists and engineers to get involved in fostering STEM learning through mentorship. Read more, more, and more.
  2. Strengthened the K-12 STEM teacher corps. The Nation is on track to meet the President’s January 2011 State of the Union goal to put 100,000 additional excellent STEM teachers in America’s classrooms by 2021. Thanks to the work of more than 280 organizations, 30,000 new STEM teachers have already been trained, and resources are in place to train an additional 70,000 STEM teachers by 2021. In parallel, the President has called for increasing the proficiency of America’s existing STEM teachers with a Master Teacher Corps initiative, which would identify the most effective K-12 STEM teachers and supports them in a program to propagate their best practices to their peers. Read more and more.
  3. Elevated and celebrated the achievements of students pursuing STEM fields. In hosting six White House Science Fairs, two White House Astronomy Nights, and an Hour of Code at the White House, the President has helped showcase to students that science, math, engineering, and computer programming are deeply compelling subjects that can help solve problems locally and globally. The White House has continued to expand outreach efforts to students, including by creating an annual student-centered State of STEM event the day after the State of the Union, launching the “We the Geeks” online series on science and technology topics, and encouraging students to become science advisors by sharing their feedback on science and technology issues with the White House. Read more, more,more, more, and more.
  4. Called for computer science education for all. In January 2016, President Obama called for a nationwide effort to give every student the opportunity to learn computer science, which has already resulted in more than $250 million in new private-sector commitments, support from more than half the governors in the country, and a robust public response. While nine out of ten parents surveyed say they want computer science taught at their child’s school, surveys show only one in four schools offer any computer science. NSF and the Corporation for National and Community Service, the agency that administers AmeriCorps, pledged more than $135 million to support teacher training and research. Read more and more.
  5. Encouraged broad participation and equity in STEM education. The “STEM for All” initiative emphasizes active learning, a teaching method that has been shown to enhance learning and participation for all students, and particularly for girls and students of color, with an Active Learning Day planned for this fall. In addition, in February 2016, the White House launched the first-ever National Week at the Labs, in which more than 50 world-class Federal labs in 20 cities opened their doors to neighborhood students, many of them in communities that have embraced the President’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative. The Administration has also focused on countering implicit bias, encouraging positive images of STEM in media and entertainment, and leading Federal science and technology agencies to identify steps to mitigate the effects of bias within the Government. Read more, more, more, and more.
  6. Expanded STEM education for military families. With leadership from the Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Math and Science Initiative, 60,000 military children in 200 schools around the country will get the opportunity to take STEM Advanced Placement courses, meeting 100 percent of a goal announced at the launch of Joining Forces in 2011. Read more.
  7. Increased the number of engineers joining the U.S. workforce.Thanks to leadership by the NSF, engineering deans, and technology organizations, 25,000 more engineers are graduating from American universities each year compared to when President Obama took office. The increase is more than double the October 2011 goal set by the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness when it issued a call to action to graduate 10,000 more engineers every year. Read more.
  8. Worked to break down gender stereotypes in toys and media.The Administration highlighted a series of new actions by toy manufacturers, media, retailers, and youth-serving organizations to break down gender stereotypes in toys and media to help children to explore, learn, and dream without limits. Children’s interests, ambitions, and skills are shaped early on by the toys they play with and the media they consume—and early STEM interest increases the likelihood of pursuing a STEM career. Read more.
  9. Created a new pipeline for well-paying tech jobs. The President launched the TechHire Initiative in March 2015 to equip people from all backgrounds with the skills they need to fill the more than 600,000 open tech jobs. The average salary in a job that requires technology skills is 50 percent more than the average private sector job. In the year since the Initiative was launched, more than 600 employers, working in more than 50 communities, have committed to work across sectors to train groups historically underrepresented in tech jobs and place them in tech jobs, resulting in thousands of new hires. Read more.
  10. Unlocked the talents of more high-skilled immigrant workers, scientists, and engineers. The Administration has strengthened and extended on-the-job training for international STEM graduates from U.S. universities. Approximately 34,000 individuals are participating in the STEM Optional Practical Training program at present, and with these improvements the total may expand to nearly 50,000 in the first year and grow to approximately 92,000 by the tenth year of implementation. The Administration has also allowed the spouses of certain high-skilled immigrants to put their own education and talents to work and contribute to the American economy, during the time that these “Americans in waiting” are stuck in lengthy green card backlogs. From May 2015 to now, more than 35,000 spouses have obtained work authorization through this new policy. Read more and more.

USING SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND INNOVATION TO ADVANCE EDUCATIONAL GOALS

  1. Supported millions of students with ConnectED. The Nation is on track to meet the President’s June 2013 commitment to connect 99 percent of students to high-speed internet through schools and libraries by 2018. Over the last 3 years, an additional 20 million U.S. schoolkids have become connected to high-speed Internet, and the number of schools that lack high-speed connectivity has been cut in half. At the same time, more than 2,200 superintendents, representing 16 million students, have signed the Future Ready Pledge committed to foster and lead a culture of digital learning in their districts. The Department of Education (ED), in coordination with the Future Ready coalition of more than 50 national organizations, held 12 summits around the country to help teachers and leaders leverage digital tools and 17states have launched Future Ready statewide initiatives. In addition, more than 5 million students are utilizing more than $2 billion worth of hardware, software, and mobile broadband resources provided by the private sector for ConnectED. This includes Open eBooks, which President Obama highlighted in April 2015—a new application developed by a coalition of literacy, library, publishing, and technology organizations to provide a world-class library of eBooks to kids in need. Finally, ED released the 2016 National Education Technology Plan, a roadmap for district leaders, outlining a vision of equity, active use of technology, and collaborative leadership to make everywhere, all-the-time learning possible.Read more.
  2. Launched an initiative to bridge the “30 million word gap”.The Administration took a series of steps to bridge early literacy gaps that emerge between low-income kids and their more affluent peers as a result of a huge difference in the number of words kids in the two groups have heard by age three. These efforts included an incentive prize to inspire new conversational tools for low-income parents, a grant for a national research network addressing the problem, and a “word gap toolkit” that provides a suite of resources for caregivers and teachers to help enrich learning environments for our Nation’s youngest. Read more.
  3. Promoted innovative use of digital tools to support learners.The Administration created the first-ever Federal interagency working group focused on the use of video-game technology for learning and held the first White House Education Game Jam to jump-start the creation of new apps and games that support educator and student needs. The Administration helped launch Digital Promise, which supports more than 2 million learners in a League of Innovative Schools. Additionally, under the President’s Testing Action Plan, the Administration is highlighting the role of innovative assessments such as games, simulations, and badges to give students the ability to show what they know in new ways. Read more, more, and more.
  4. Invested in openly licensed education resources. Building on the growing interest in open, free, and online education, the Department of Labor has invested more than $2 billion in community college grants that support the creation of open education resources (OER) through a free and open online SkillsCommons. To date, grantees have uploaded more than 6,000 OER in 16 high-demand fields, and users have downloaded more than 100,000 resources. In addition, both the Departments of Education and Labor now require certain grant-funded materials to be openly licensed. Fourteen states and 60 school districts have joined the Department of Education’s #GoOpen campaign, committing to transition to using OER in their schools. The Administration has raised the profile of OER internationally by committing to advance this work through the global Open Government Partnership. Read more, more, andmore.

FOSTERING INDUSTRIES AND JOBS OF THE FUTURE

  1. Launched a national network for manufacturing innovation.The Administration has launched a national network of nine Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, supported by more than $600 million in Federal investment and matched by more than $1.2 billion in non-Federal investment, and is on a course to launch 15 institutes by January 2017. Each manufacturing institute serves as a regional hub that leverages national capabilities and expertise. The institutes bridge the gap between applied research and product development by bringing together companies, universities and other academic and training institutions, and Federal agencies to co-invest in key emerging technology areas that can encourage additional manufacturing investment and production in the United States. Read more.
  2. Fostered a nation of makers. The President hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire; highlighted the growing importance of additive manufacturing by being the first President to be 3D scanned for his Presidential bust; and led a call to action resulting in commitments to create more than 1,000 maker spaces around the country. Under his tenure, the number of new manufacturing firms is rising for the first time in the past decade; participation in local maker events has risen ten-fold; and venture capital for hardware-focused startups is rising. Read more, more, and more.
  3. Supported rapid growth of the nanotech industry. Under the pre-existing National Nanotechnology Initiative, bolstered by implementation of recommendations from PCAST, revenue from the sale of nanotechnology-enabled products in the United States has grown more than six-fold from 2009 through 2016 and is projected to exceed $500 billion in 2016—amounting to more than 20 percent of the global total. Read more.
  4. Prioritized reducing the time and cost to develop advanced materials. Advances in materials have been key enablers of progress in domains ranging from biomedicine, to clean energy, to national defense. In June 2011, the Obama Administration launched the Materials Genome Initiative to discover, manufacture, and deploy advanced materials twice as fast, and at half the cost compared to historical experience. As part of the Initiative, in July 2015 a group of Federal agencies launched the Materials Science and Engineering Data Challenge, offering up a total of $50,000 in prizes for innovative approaches to using publicly available digital data to discover or model new material properties. The winning approaches came from universities, national labs, and small businesses, and included methods to better predict material properties and rapidly identify new materials. Read more and more.
  5. Supported next-generation robotics. In June 2011, the Administration established the National Robotics Initiative to spur research and development in the field of robotics across an array of disciplines and applications, including healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing, space exploration, and national security. The initiative has helped catalyze more than $150 million in funding since June 2011 for innovative robotics research and development at institutions across the country. The effort has led to new collaborations and advances, including in autonomous vehicles, robotics for educational development, and robotics for disaster response. In addition, efforts such as the DARPA Robotics Challenge, which brought together 25 robotics teams from around the world in a competition to demonstrate disaster-response operations, have pushed the field forward and shown what is possible.  Read more and more.
  6. Enabled the development of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and accelerated their safe integration into the national airspace. Uses for UAS are rapidly expanding to encompass a broad range of activities, including monitoring forest fires, responding to disasters, surveying land and crops, conducting scientific research, and inspecting critical infrastructure. In February 2015, the President issued a Memorandum directing action to improve privacy, accountability, and transparency for commercial and public UAS operations. Soon thereafter, OSTP created an interagency UAS technology user group to identify priority next steps in UAS development. Also in February 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed a framework of regulations that would allow routine use of UAS in today’s aviation system, while maintaining flexibility to accommodate future technological innovations. In December 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented a rule requiring the registration of small UAS, and in April 2016, and initiated steps to develop performance-based standards for the operation of UAS over people. The FAA also accelerated UAS research through the creation of a Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems and created the UAS Pathfinder program. Read more and more.
  7. Accelerated the transition of research discoveries from lab to market. The President issued a memorandum to agencies to accelerate the commercialization of Federal research, and made these lab-to-market efforts a core part of his management agenda. Subsequent steps include the expansion of the NSF’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) entrepreneurship training program, which is now the model for similar programs and has been adopted in 10 Federal agency partnerships. In the past five years, more than 700 research teams have completed training under the I-Corps model, and over 300 startup companies have been created by graduates with three acquisitions. NIH, DOD, NASA, and other Federal agencies launched startup accelerator programs that incentivize entrepreneurs to commercialize Federal laboratory technologies. Additional steps include NASA releasing 56 formerly-patented agency technologies and over 1,000 advanced engineering and aeronautical software programs into the public domain; NIH launching a Breast Cancer Startup Challenge to help start new companies based on unlicensed but promising interventions; and DOD’s Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) creating an accelerator to forge new companies from AFRL-licensing technologies. Read more, more,and more.

SUPPORTING ENTREPRENEURSHIP ACROSS AMERICA

  1. Cut red tape for entrepreneurs. The Administration’s Startup in a Day initiative is cutting red tape to make it easier for more entrepreneurs to get started and grow their businesses. Eighty cities, home to 35 million Americans, have taken a public pledge to build online platforms by the end of 2016 to streamline the requirements entrepreneurs must fulfill in order to start a business, making it possible to file everything needed within a single day. Thirty-five thousand small business borrowers have connected to lenders under a new Small Business Administration (SBA) online tool called LINC, and SBA One is taking SBA’s lending process entirely online, which will save hours of time and thousands of dollars per loan for entrepreneurs. Read more.
  2. Expanded entrepreneurship across the nation. Startup America, launched in January 2011, is a White House initiative to celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the nation through both Federal actions and private sector calls to action. For example, from 2014 to now, SBA has funded over 100 startup accelerator programs in every corner of the country, serving well over 3,000 startups that have collectively raised over $850 million in capital. SBA’s investments in 62 Regional Innovation Clusters have helped participating small businesses achieve an average growth rate of more than five times faster than regional benchmarks. Through its Regional Innovation Strategies program and the i6 Challenge, the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration has awarded nearly $45 million in capacity-building grants that help entrepreneurs in diverse regions of the country move ideas to market. Read more andmore.
  3. Prioritized inclusive entrepreneurship. As part of the first-ever White House Demo Day in August 2015, 40 leading venture-capital firms with more than $100 billion under management committed to advance opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities, and more than a dozen major technology companies committed to new actions to ensure diverse recruitment and hiring. Read more.
  4. Created opportunities for promising entrepreneurs from abroad. The Administration is creating clear opportunities for entrepreneurs from abroad to start and scale their companies, and grow the economy here in America, based on U.S. investor financing and the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies. Read more andmore.
  5. Worked with Congress to expand access to capital for entrepreneurs. Thanks to the bipartisan Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act signed by the President, entrepreneurs have greater access to capital from the seed stage all the way to an initial public offering (IPO). These new capital-formation pathways include the “IPO on-ramp,” which makes it easier for qualifying smaller firms to go public; “mini public offerings” that allow entrepreneurs to raise up to $50 million more easily; and a new class of regulated crowdfunding platforms for fundraising up to $1 million from regular investors, consistent with investor protections. In addition, the President’s Budget has consistently called for the elimination of capital gains taxes for certain small business investments, and Congress permanently enacted that change in December 2015.Read more and more.
  6. Made the U.S. patent system more efficient and responsive to innovators. The President signed the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act in September 2011, giving the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) new resources to significantly reduce patent application wait times. Total processing times for both patents and trademarks have been reduced by approximately 25 percent and 14 percent, respectively, since 2009. This reduction has come with a 50-75 percent reduced costs for startups, thanks to USPTO fast track programs. In addition, with a series of executive actions, the Administration has taken on patent trolls, which are costing the economy billions of dollars in lost innovation, and leveraged the knowledge of the American people by crowdsourcing information about prior art. Read more and more.

DRIVING INNOVATION IN HEALTH CARE AND THE BIOECONOMY

  1. Supported a new era of precision medicine. In January 2015, President Obama launched the Precision Medicine Initiative, providing more than $200 million to accelerate a new era of medicine that delivers the right treatment at the right time to the right person, taking into account individuals’ health histories, genes, microbiomes, environments, and lifestyles. Federal agencies and dozens of private-sector organizations have made commitments to make it easier for patients to access, understand, and share their own digital health data, including donating it for research; have opened up data and technology tools to invite citizen participation and unleash new discoveries; are adhering to strong privacy and data security principles; and are encouraging the scaling of precision-medicine approaches in clinical practice. Read more.
  2. Embarked on the Cancer Moonshot. In his final State of the Union address in January 2016, the President tasked Vice President Biden with heading up a new national effort to end cancer as we know it—by encouraging public and private efforts to double the rate of progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care in order to make a decade’s worth of advances in 5 years. As part of the effort, the Administration has announced $1 billion for the initiative, including $195 million in new cancer activities at NIH in Fiscal Year 2016, a proposed $755 million in mandatory funds for new cancer-related research activities at both NIH and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget, and increased investments in cancer research at DOD and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Read more.
  3. Invested in technologies to revolutionize understanding of the human brain. In April 2013, President Obama launched the BRAIN Initiative to develop neuro-technologies that could uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury. The initiative has already catalyzed $1.5 billion in public and private funds, as well as more than 100 academic papers tied to the effort. In addition, the Administration launched a broad neuroscience initiative, in May 2012 issued a national plan to address Alzheimer’s disease, and has supported a near doubling of the research budget for Alzheimer’s research at NIH between 2012 and 2017. Read more,more, and more.
  4. Improving mental health with data-driven innovation. In August 2012, the President issued an Executive Order on improving access to mental health services for veterans, service members, and military families. In 2015, President Obama proclaimed September 10 as World Suicide Prevention Day, reaffirming that mental health is an essential part of overall health. With renewed commitment to supporting and empowering all Americans to seek the care they need, the White House proposed a $500 million investment to increase access to mental health care and inspired new audiences from all sectors to collaboratively address suicide prevention. Outcomes showcased at the 2016 Health Datapalooza featured tools, analysis, and outcomes from the Mental Health Hackathon, VA Brain Trust, and the Lyme Innovation hackathons, which have collectively engaged over 1,000 new problem solvers for this complex issue. The Administration has also worked with five major cities to host hackathons to develop new tools for suicide prevention. Read more, more, and more.
  5. Began a broad effort to understand and explore the microbiome. The Administration developed and launched the National Microbiome Initiative in May 2016 to advance understanding of microbiomes, the communities of microorganisms that live on or in people, plants, soil, oceans, and the atmosphere. As part of this initiative, more than $121 million in Federal investment and $400 million in supporting financial and in-kind contributions will be focused on research, technologies, and workforce development to advance microbiome applications in areas such as health care, food production, energy supply, and environmental remediation.Read more.
  6. Developed a strategy to combat rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In September 2014, President Obama signed an executive order directing key Federal departments and agencies to take action to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria; the Administration released a National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic Resistance; NIH and the Biomedical Advance Research and Development Authority announced the launch of a $20 million prize to facilitate the development of rapid, point-of-care diagnostic tests for healthcare providers to identify highly resistant bacterial infections; and PCAST released a report with recommendations for additional Federal actions. In March 2015, to facilitate the implementation of the strategy, the Administration released a National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistance, and HHS established the Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. In June 2015, the Administration announced commitments from more than 150 food companies, retailers, and others, and the President signed a memorandum directing Federal agencies create a preference for the purchase of meat and poultry produced according to responsible antibiotic use. The Administration released a comprehensive plan identifying critical actions to be taken by key Federal departments and agencies to combat the global rise of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in December 2015. Read more, more, more, andmore.
  7. Issued a national bioeconomy strategy. The Administration released the first-ever National Bioeconomy Blueprint in April 2012, to outline a series of steps to grow and manage a sector that is generating annual revenues greater than $300 billion and that is contributing the equivalent of at least 5 percent of annual GDP growth in the United States. Read more.
  8. Launched the first update of biotech regulations in a quarter century. For the first time in nearly 25 years, the Administration is reviewing and modernizing the regulatory system for biotechnology products to improve transparency and ensure continued safety in biotechnology and is ensuring that there is ample opportunity for the public to comment on opportunities and challenges in this space. Read more.
  9. Approved more breakthrough drugs. There were a record 45 novel drugs and 21 drugs for rare diseases approved by FDA in 2015—all drugs that have never before been used in clinical practice. In addition, in 2016, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation ranked the United States first out of 56 countries based on how public investment, intellectual property, and drug pricing policies in those countries contribute to or detract from life-sciences innovation. Read more.
  10. Bolstered the scientific data underpinning forensic science.Following publication of a 2009 National Academy of Sciences report questioning the adequacy of the scientific underpinnings of a number of forensic-science disciplines, the Administration created the National Commission on Forensic Science to help address the issue, launched a Center of Excellence in Forensic Science funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to strengthen the statistical foundation for pattern and digital evidence, and explored ways to strengthen the medico-legal death investigation system. In 2016, PCAST is carrying out an up-to-date review on the state of the relevant science. Read more.
  11. Worked to reduce the organ transplant waiting list. In a Presidential Proclamation on April 1, 2016, President Obama issued a call to action across government, industry, academia, patient organizations, and the medical and philanthropic communities to support efforts to shorten the organ waiting list. At a White House Organ Summit in June 2016, new Federal and non-Federal actions to increase access to organ transplants and reduce the organ waiting list were announced. Read more andmore.

ACTING ON CLIMATE CHANGE, ADVANCING CLEAN ENERGY, AND ENSURING ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY

  1. Launched an ambitious Climate Action Plan. In June 2013, President Obama released his Climate Action Plan (CAP), with three components: reducing U.S. emissions of heat-trapping pollutants; building the Nation’s preparedness for and resilience against the impacts of climate change; and working with other countries to encourage and help them do the same. A key pillar of domestic emissions reductions, the Clean Power Plan (CPP), was released by President Obama and Environmental Protective Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy in August 2015. The CPP sets strong but achievable standards for carbon emissions from power plants and allows for flexibility in state emission-reduction plans to meet the tailored state goals. To help build preparedness and resilience, the Administration: created a State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force, as well as an interagency Council to understand needs and coordinate efforts; implemented a 10-year research plan from the U.S. Global Change Research Program; completed the National Climate Assessment, the most comprehensive assessment ever of expected climate-change impacts in the United States, disaggregated by region and economic sector; and launched the Climate Data Initiative and Climate Resilience Toolkit to provide the data and tools needed by officials, businesses, and individuals to take appropriate action to increase their preparedness for climate change. To support international efforts to address climate change, the Administration leveraged bilateral and multilateral cooperation to reach a historic agreement on climate change at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris in December 2015. Read more, more, moremore, more, more, and more.
  2. Assisted developing countries with resilient development.The Administration—led by USAID, with participation from multiple Federal agencies—launched the Climate Services for Resilient Development partnership in June 2015, with $34 million in financial and in-kind contributions from the U.S. Government and founding partner institutions, to provide actionable scientific information to developing countries that are working to strengthen their national resilience to the impacts of climate change. Read more.
  3. Engaged the education sector to enhance climate literacy and action. The Administration launched the Climate Education and Literacy Initiative to help connect American students and citizens with the best-available, science-based information about climate change. Additionally, more than 300 campuses across the country have joined the American Campuses Act on Climate pledge that the Administration launched in November 2015. Read more and more.
  4. Contributed to the rapidly declining cost of renewable-energy technologies. The Administration launched the SunShot Initiative through DOE as a collaborative national effort to develop solar-energy technologies to make solar energy cost-competitive without incentives by 2020. The Administration’s energy-research priorities, combined with industry innovation encouraged in part by vital Federal tax credits, have contributed to dramatic reductions in the cost of wind and solar photovoltaic electricity generation, which in turn have led to rapidly increasing uptake of these renewable-energy technologies. The United States now generates more than three times as much electricity from wind and 30 times as much from solar as it did in 2008; and the cost for wind electricity in good-to-excellent sites has fallen roughly 40 percent, and the cost for solar electricity has fallen by 50-60 percent. President Obama has also worked with Congress to secure multi-year extensions of the Investment Tax Credit and Production Tax Credit for renewable energy, which will ensure that these vital incentives will continue to support the growth of clean energy technologies. Read more and more.
  5. Improved energy productivity. From 2009 to 2015, the Administration finalized 40 new or updated efficiency standards, which are estimated to save more than $540 billion in consumer energy costs through 2030. Supported by the Administration’s leadership, which has included more than $300 million in research and development for improving LED, the L-prize competition, and the Global Lighting Challenge, LED bulbs available now consume 85 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs, and costs of LED bulbs have dropped by more than 90 percent since 2008. Read more,more, more, and more.
  6. Issued first-ever greenhouse gas and new fuel-economy standards and improved electric vehicle technology. The Administration released greenhouse gas and fuel-economy standards for light duty and heavy duty vehicles. The fuel-economy standards for passenger vehicles are the toughest in U.S. history and once fully implemented, will save drivers as much as $8,000 per vehicle in fuel costs over the life of their new vehicle while cumulatively avoiding 6 billion tons of greenhouse gas pollution and reducing American dependence on foreign oil by 2 million barrels per day in 2025. The standards for heavy-duty vehicles for model years 2014-2018 will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 270 million metric tons and save 530 million barrels of oil over the life of these vehicles. In addition, supported by Federal research investments, the costs of lithium-ion batteries have dropped by more than 70 percent since 2008, making electric vehicles more affordable. More than 400,000 plug-in electric vehicles are now on the roads. Read more and more.
  7. Created new models for supporting innovation in the energy sector. The Administration’s five Energy Innovation Hubs are bringing together investigators from the government, academic, and business sectors, from multiple disciplines, to focus their collective talents on key national energy-innovation needs. In addition, the Energy Frontier Research Centers created by the Administration in 2009 are advancing fundamental science and long-term research relevant to real-world energy systems and overcoming roadblocks to revolutionary energy technologies in particular domains. And ARPA-E is supporting research with potentially high commercial impact that is deemed too risky for industrial investment. Read more, more, and more.
  8. Set a goal to double global government funding for clean energy research and development through Mission Innovation. As part of COP21 of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris in December 2015, the United States launched an initiative in which the 20 countries that account for most government-funded energy research and development globally pledged to double their clean-energy research and development investments over 5 years. At the inaugural Mission Innovation Ministerial, which took place alongside the seventh Clean Energy Ministerial in June 2016, those 20 nations, plus the European Union as the newest partner, announced their specific plans to meet that target to invest nearly $30 billion per year in public clean energy research and development by 2021. Read more and more.
  9. Encouraged private-sector investment in clean-energy innovation. Through the Clean Energy Investment Initiative, foundations, institutional investors, and other long-term investors have pledged more than $4 billion in independent commitments to scale up clean-energy innovation and climate-change solutions. Additionally, in June 2015, the Administration launched a new Clean Energy Investment Center at DOE to make information about Federal energy and climate programs more understandable to the public, including to mission-driven investors. The Administration has also created and promoted new opportunities for clean-tech entrepreneurship, including support for student startups through business plan competitions, vouchers for services available to small businesses at National Laboratories, and embedded entrepreneurial training within the National Laboratories. These opportunities have already supported hundreds of startups that have attracted well over $250 million in follow-on funding, doubled the number of partnership agreements between small businesses and National Laboratories, and generated hundreds of jobs. Read more.
  10. Created the most comprehensive process ever for assessing energy-technology and energy-policy options. Following recommendations of PCAST studies in November 2010 and March 2013, the Administration launched two of the most comprehensive Federal assessments of energy technology and energy policy ever undertaken by the Federal Government. To assess energy-technology options, DOE completed two cycles—in late 2011 and mid 2015—of the Quadrennial Technology Review, a rigorous review of the status of and prospects for all known energy-supply and energy-efficiency technology options. To assess energy policy options, DOE issued the first installment of the Quadrennial Energy Review in 2015, focused on infrastructure for energy, transport, distribution, and storage. This 4-year, moving-spotlight assessment of the Nation’s energy-policy options is now entering its second phase, scheduled for completion in late 2016, which will focus on the electricity sector from generation to end-use. Read more andmore.
  11. Enhanced U.S. Earth-observing capabilities. The Administration completed the first ever National Strategy for Earth Observations, the first National Earth Observations Assessment, and the first National Plan for Civil Earth Observations. These documents are informing the development of more efficient and effective Earth-observation capabilities in support of public services. Between February 2014 and now, NASA has launched seven Earth-science missions, including critical weather, space-weather, ocean-monitoring, and land-imaging satellites. Read more and more.
  12. Improved accuracy and timeliness of weather forecasts. Due to investments made by the National Weather Service (NWS) under this Administration, there has been a significant improvement in weather radar, average tornado warning times across the country have improved threefold, and tornado warning accuracy has roughly doubled. For hurricanes, the NWS is now using an upgraded Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting model that can now produce forecast guidance out to 5 days in advance for up to seven separate storms simultaneously. Read more.
  13. Encouraged innovative water solutions. The White House released a Water Innovation report in December 2015, highlighting the need to improve water efficiency and new water-supply technologies. The President’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Request supported this two-part strategy through a $300 million request, a 33 percent increase from the prior year. The Administration also hosted the first-ever White House Water Summit in March 2016 to highlight commitments of nearly $4 billion in private capital to promote cross-cutting, creative solutions for today’s water problems.  The President issued a Presidential Memorandum making improved data on water use and drought one of six priorities for the government, expanding Federal efforts to use better data to make the country more resilient to drought. In April 2016, the Administration launched a concerted, strategic engagement with key partners and stakeholders to develop and implement a drinking-water national action plan to address critical drinking-water challenges and opportunities. Also in April 2016, PCAST announced a new study on science and technology for drinking-water safety. Read more, more, and more.
  14. Deployed open innovation approaches to reduce nutrients in waterways. The Administration has led a Challenging Nutrients Coalition of Federal agencies, academia, and the private sector to bring open innovation and incentive prize approaches to develop better and cheaper nutrient sensors, improve nutrient management practices on land and from waste, generate new technologies to recover nutrients from water, and improve ways that information on water quality can be visualized by the public. Read more.
  15. Advanced a comprehensive approach to Arctic issues.Building on the National Strategy for the Arctic Region released in 2013, the President created the Arctic Executive Steering Committee in January 2015 to coordinate priorities and implementation across the 25 Federal departments, agencies, and offices with Arctic responsibilities. In August 2015, the Administration hosted the 22-nation GLACIER conference in Anchorage. President Obama addressed the conference as the beginning of a multi-stop visit to Alaska; the first-ever trip to the Arctic by a sitting American President. Elevating Arctic leadership to unprecedented levels, the United States, Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden committed to the highest global standards and best international practice when considering new and existing commercial activities in the Arctic. Additionally, the Administration implemented the first 5-year research plan from the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee; and produced progress reports to the American people. The White House will also host the first-ever White House Arctic Science Ministerial, to be held in September 2016, which aims to align governments around the world on joint scientific efforts on the Arctic. Read more and more.
  16. Created the first-ever National Ocean Policy. Launched by President Obama in July 2010, the National Ocean Policy is being implemented by a multi-agency National Ocean Council co-chaired by OSTP and the Council on Environmental Quality. The centerpiece of the effort is the development of regional marine plans for coordinated management of U.S. territorial waters and coastal zones by Regional Planning Bodies consisting of Federal, State, local, and tribal officials, as well as representatives of business, civil society, and stakeholder organizations. The Northeast Regional Planning Body was the first to release its draft plan for public comment in May 2016, and the Mid-Atlantic counterpart is expected to do the same by the end of the year.Read more and more.
  17. Promoted the health of pollinators. In 2014, President Obama issued a Memorandum calling for an all-hands-on-deck approach to reverse pollinator losses through a combination of research, habitat creation, education and outreach, and public-private partnerships. In 2015, Federal agencies responded through release of the Pollinator Strategy and Research Action Plan, accompanied by budget initiatives, research, guidance, and on-the-ground actions to reduce honeybee losses, increase monarch butterfly numbers, and restore or enhance land and floral resources that benefit all pollinators. These Federal actions have expanded to include collaborative efforts internationally, with States and counties, and with the private sector and individual citizens, including the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge and the recent agreement among six prairie States and the Federal Highway Administration to work together to advance the “Monarch Highway” designation for Interstate 35 to restore native habitat along the Monarch butterfly migration route. Read more, more, and more.
  18. Expanded the use of technology to fight wildlife trafficking.The Administration has expanded its efforts across Africa, South America, and Asia to improve the use of science and technology to combat poaching of elephants and other wildlife crimes that fuel instability, undermine security, and are perpetrated by armed criminal syndicates. The Federal action strategy led to new improvements in forensic science and helped lead the launch of the Wildlife Crimes Tech Challenge, a prize competition to put technology to work to fight this problem.Read more and more.
  19. Improved the consideration of natural capital in government decisions. Spurred by a PCAST study, the Administration launched the first government-wide effort to have agencies institutionalize the consideration of ecosystem services in their planning and programs. Read more.

UNLEASHING THE NATIONAL POTENTIAL OF INFORMATION, COMMUNICATION, AND COMPUTING TECHNOLOGIES

  1. Expanded national, local, and mobile broadband access.Under the Recovery Act, the Administration added or improved more than 114,000 miles of broadband infrastructure, making high-speed connections available to more than 25,000 community institutions. The Administration issued a “Dig Once” Executive Order to streamline broadband permitting and accelerated the deployment of broadband infrastructure on Federal lands. Overall, the average home Internet speed in the United States has tripled in the past 4 years. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken action to preempt state laws that restrict local communities from investing in their own broadband networks, opening the way for increased broadband competition and deployment. The Administration took steps to aggressively repurpose spectrum for mobile broadband and other innovative uses. Through aggressive spectrum policy and private investment, more than 98 percent of Americans have access to fast 4G/LTE mobile broadband, and the vast majority of Americans are covered by four or more LTE providers. The FCC held the most successful spectrum auction in U.S. history—raising more than $40 billion—and launched an innovative two-sided auction to repurpose television spectrum for broadband use. The United States made 100 megahertz in the 3.5 GHz band available for shared use through a three-tier access system like the one envisioned by PCAST. The U.S. Ignite partnership has created an ecosystem of 40 local gigabit and next-generation broadband testbeds and more than 75 applications that use these networks. Through these efforts and the FCC’s aggressive steps to unlock high-band spectrum, the United States is poised to maintain its lead as the world shifts to 5G. Read more, more, more, more, andmore.
  2. Accelerated efforts to meet the digital needs of low-income Americans. In July 2015, President Obama announced the ConnectHome initiative—led by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)—to provide home-based Internet access, digital literacy training, and devices to families with school-age children living in HUD-assisted housing in 28 pilot communities to initially reach over 275,000 low-income households—and nearly 200,000 children. In its first year, the pilot has already secured commitments from Internet service providers to auto-enroll public housing residents. Under the ConnectALL initiative, the President issued a national call-to-action in March 2016 to connect an additional 20 million Americans to broadband by 2020. This initiative will bring together Federal agencies, the private sector, and non-profit organizations to help close the digital divide. In parallel, and with the support of the Administration, the FCC has created a national $2.25 billion broadband subsidy for low-income families by reforming its Lifeline program. Read more and more.
  3. Championed net neutrality. In 2014, the President and millions of Americans encouraged the FCC to take up the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality and protect free expression and economic growth. The FCC responded with robust rules to keep the Internet open and free. Read more.
  4. Used data to strengthen the relationship between communities and police. Through the Police Data Initiative, launched in May 2015, a growing number of law-enforcement agencies from across the country, representing more than 40 million people, have publicly embraced the concept of open policing-activity data as a core component of being a modern, accountable, and engaged police department. Read more.
  5. Gave energy users access to their own data. Under the Green Button effort, over 150 utilities and electricity suppliers have committed to providing more than 60 million homes and businesses, or 100 million people total, access to their own energy usage data. This data allows commercial properties and homeowners to understand their energy consumption patterns and make smarter decisions about usage, which translates into cost savings and a cleaner environment. Read more and more.
  6. Expanded access to resources and services that families and communities need to thrive. The Opportunity Project is putting Federal and local open data and digital tools in the hands of families, community organizations, and local leaders to help them navigate information about neighborhood-level resources such as access to transit, housing, parks, and quality schools.Read more and more.
  7. Launched a major effort to advance high-performance computing. With a July 2015 Executive Order, the President launched the National Strategic Computing Initiative, a cohesive, multi-agency strategic vision and Federal investment strategy in high-performance computing to spur the creation and deployment of computing technology at the leading edge, helping to advance Administration priorities for economic competiveness and scientific discovery. Read more.
  8. Created a multi-agency program to harness big data. In 2012, the Administration launched a multi-agency research initiative on Big Data that now includes an NIH effort to harness big data for biomedical research, NSF support for four Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs that cover all 50 states and more than 250 organizations, and a Federal big data research and development strategic plan. The Administration also published several reports on the opportunities and risks that algorithmic systems pose to important issues such as privacy, consumer pricing, and civil rights. Read more, more, more, and more.
  9. Created a network of “Smart Cities.” Under the Administration’s Smart Cities initiative, localities are leveraging a new generation of sensors and data to transform city services, and there are already more than 60 new “smart city” projects underway. These projects are addressing community challenges by, for example, decreasing congestion with smarter traffic management and monitoring air quality with unprecedented accuracy. Read more.
  10. Launched a national conversation on artificial intelligence. In May 2016, the Administration launched a broad public-engagement initiative on artificial intelligence to discuss the implications of artificial intelligence and machine learning with the public to inform government policymaking related to this transformative and rapidly developing technological field. Read more.
  11. Developed improved atomic timekeeping for advanced technologies. Americans rely on advanced technologies like cellular telephones, GPS satellite receivers, and the electric power grid, which depend on the high accuracy of atomic clocks. The civilian time standard is about three times more accurate today than in 2008, thanks to NIST’s development of the NIST-F2 cesium atomic clock, which debuted in April 2014 and would neither gain nor lose one second in about 300 million years. Read more.

REINVIGORATING AMERICA’S SPACE PROGRAM

  1. Fostered a burgeoning private space sector. Working with NASA, American companies have developed new spacecraft that are cost-effectively delivering cargo to the International Space Station and are working towards ferrying astronauts there by the end of 2017. In addition, U.S. companies that got their start supporting government missions have increased their share of the global commercial launch market from zero in 2011 to 36 percent in 2015, and more venture capital was invested in America’s space industry in 2015 than in all the previous 15 years combined. Read more and more.
  2. Drove down the cost of space exploration, while increasing capabilities for our journey to Mars. The Administration’s investments in space technology development, including through the Space Technology Mission Directorate created by NASA in 2013, are developing less-expensive capabilities for NASA’s exploration missions and for the President’s goal of a human mission to Mars in the 2030s—capabilities such as high-powered, solar-electric engines that will enable NASA to efficiently send cargo to Mars. And investments in small satellite technology will help dramatically reduce the cost of scientific and commercial missions in space. Read more, more, and more.
  3. Extended the life of the International Space Station (ISS). Due to the Administration’s leadership, ISS’s lifetime has been extended twice, and the Station is now due to continue operating until at least 2024. Last year, the ISS marked 15 years of humans continuously living in space, supporting research and technology demonstrations that will help astronauts reach Mars and “push out into the solar system not just to visit, but to stay,” as the President called for in his 2015 State of the Union address. In addition, earlier this year in March, NASA astronaut Commander Scott Kelly returned to Earth after a nearly yearlong mission aboard the ISS, setting the American record for most time spent in space. The scientific and medical research conducted during his mission will pave the way for future human missions to Mars and beyond. Read more and more.
  4. Expanded the capabilities of robotic space missions. The Administration’s commitment to studies of Earth, the solar system, and the universe has been reflected in a high level of pioneering activity in the development and execution of robotic missions. The aggressive pursuit of advances in Earth observations and long-term monitoring during this Administration have led to a diverse array of space-based missions now providing new insights into Earth’s interconnected natural systems through studies of Earth’s atmospheric composition, carbon cycle, and climate. This Administration also brought to fruition the launch of the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) in February 2015, which now resides one million miles away from Earth providing a unique, continuous view of our planet and serving as an early warning system for solar magnetic storms.  In space science, in addition to the continued support of missions already underway—such as the Curiosity rover now exploring Mars, the New Horizons spacecraft that took the most detailed photos of Pluto in history, and the James Webb Space Telescope slated for launch in October 2018—NASA also has initiated work on the next generation of technologies to explore and understand the universe. Mission formulation has begun on the Wide-Field Infrared Space Telescope (WFIRST), the next-generation large-aperture space telescope, and on the first mission to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa. Read more, more, more, more, more, and more.

ENGAGING IN THE WORLD AND ENSURING NATIONAL SECURITY

  1. Helped establish the Open Government Partnership. President Obama helped to launch the global Open Government Partnership with seven other countries in September 2011, with the aim of promoting transparency and innovation, empowering citizens, fighting corruption, and transforming the ways in which governments use technology and other tools to serve and engage with their citizens. The partnership has now expanded to nearly 70 governments and hundreds of civil society organizations, and participating governments have made more than 2,500 commitments to be more open and accountable to their citizens. Read more.
  2. Strengthened international cooperation on science and technology. The Administration revived and expanded bilateral and multilateral collaborations in basic science, clean energy, public health, sustainable agriculture, nuclear safety, the oceans, the Arctic, and climate change, among other topics of mutual interest and mutual benefit. These interactions included the ministerial-level meetings supporting the bilateral science and technology cooperation agreements between the United States and Brazil, China, India, Japan, Russia, and South Korea, which are led on the U.S. side by OSTP; the 40 other bilateral science and technology cooperation agreements led on the U.S. side by the State Department; the U.S. China Dialogue on Innovation Policy; the multilateral G7 and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) science ministerial meetings; and the annual meetings of Carnegie Group of Chief Science Advisors to the G7+5. Read more.
  3. Deployed top scientists to advance global diplomacy. Spurred by President Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech, the Administration created the U.S. Science Envoy program to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to science, technology, and innovation as tools of diplomacy, economic growth, and partnership. To date, the program has sent 18 eminent scientists to 30 countries, including Egypt, Indonesia, Libya, and Pakistan. Read more and more.
  4. Promoted international connectivity. The Administration launched the Global Connect Initiative in September 2015 to prioritize international connectivity for stabilization, security, and protection of U.S. economic and policy priorities. The initiative includes more than 40 countries, as well as major tech industries, nonprofits, and development banks, working together to connect at least an additional 1.5 billion people by 2020, close the digital divide, and foster an open and accessible Internet. Read more.
  5. Challenged the science and technology community to develop new solutions to combat Ebola. As the 2014 Ebola outbreak was rapidly accelerating, the Administration called for innovators, scientists, and partners to generate new solutions and technologies that could be deployed to fight Ebola as part of the overall U.S. government response. In the course of that effort, the Administration launched the Ebola Grand Challenge in March 2014, which harnessed the power of crowdsourcing and partnerships to identify breakthrough innovations to address specific challenges faced by healthcare workers—such as personal protective equipment, decontamination, and information technology—and better prepare the world for future outbreaks. Read more and more.
  6. Enhanced biosafety and biosecurity. The Administration conducted a comprehensive review of the nation’s biosafety and biosecurity enterprise, involving experts from inside and outside the Federal Government, and is implementing a consolidated program to achieve efficient and accountable oversight of this domain. In October 2015, the Administration released recommendations for further action reflecting a commitment to protecting Americans and the global community and aimed at ensuring the adequacy of measures to prevent dangerous actors from accessing or misusing sensitive biological material and creating a deliberate process for assessing the risk and benefits of life sciences “gain of function” studies. Read more and more.
  7. Advancing the Global Health Security Agenda. The United States has committed to assist at least 31 partners to achieve the targets of the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). Launched in 2014, the GHSA is a multilateral, multi-sectoral initiative of 50 countries to increase global capacity for preventing, detecting, and responding to biological threats, whether naturally occurring, deliberate, or accidental. Working with Finland, the World Health Organization, and other partners, the United States supports undergoing and sharing Joint External Evaluations to show progress in meeting all of the GHSA targets, as well as other capabilities required by the International Health Regulations. Read more.
  8. Used tech to combat trafficking. In July 2012, the White House launched the Tech versus Human Trafficking Initiative by bringing together nonprofits, human trafficking survivors, academia, and technologists to brainstorm ways that technology could be used to combat human trafficking. The initiative worked to develop tools that survivors could use to connect to social services, encourage tech companies to work with law enforcement and NGO’s to better understand data on trafficking, and improve the state of technology that law enforcement and government agencies use to identify human traffickers and assist their victims. Read more.
  9. Improved space-weather resilience. In 2015, the Administration released the first-ever National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan to clearly articulate the ways in which the Federal Government will work to enhance national space-weather preparedness by coordinating, integrating, and expanding existing policy efforts; engaging a broad range of sectors; and collaborating with international counterparts. Read more.
  10. Minimized civilian use of highly enriched uranium. The White House and DOE worked together on development and implementation of technologies to minimize and, where possible, eliminate the civilian use of highly enriched (thus directly weapon-usable) uranium, including in research reactors and isotope-production facilities worldwide. Read more.
  11. Developed a new approach for addressing critical minerals.Supplies of some of the minerals that are used in manufacturing goods of economic and national-security importance are subject to disruption, diminution as a result of scarcity, or cost escalation. A multi-agency collaboration led by OSTP, United States Geological Survey (USGS), and DOE has developed a new, more systematic approach for assessing such risks and prioritizing responses. Read more.
  12. Carried out an ambitious agenda to bolster U.S. cybersecurity. From the beginning, this Administration worked hard to improve the Nation’s cybersecurity. In 2011, the Administration submitted legislation to Congress to improve information sharing with the private sector, which Congress passed in December 2015. The Administration has supported the development of new technologies to replace the password as the primary means of online security. In response to the President’s February 2013 Executive Order, NIST facilitated the development of the Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, a globally recognized approach for managing cyber risk. In February 2016, the Administration released a Cybersecurity National Action Plan to enhance cybersecurity awareness and protections, protect privacy, preserve public safety, ensure economic prosperity and national security, and empower Americans to take better control of their digital security. The Cybersecurity National Action Plan included the development of the 2016 Federal Cybersecurity Research and Development Strategic Plan. The Administration has also worked to bolster the cybersecurity workforce by identifying, classifying, and mapping the Federal cyber workforce using the National Initiative for Cyber Education’s National Cybersecurity Workforce Framework; promoting cybersecurity competitions to attract more talent; and developing a cybersecurity consortium at the Department of Energy. Read more, more, more, more,more, and more.
  13. Enhanced resilience to natural hazards. The Administration has taken actions to enhance citizen safety and better reflect scientific understanding of the risks of natural hazards (including those being influenced by climate change) by: deploying sensors and systems to increase warning times for thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes; engaging technologists and companies to provide services, tools, and platforms to aid in disaster response and recovery; improving science-based tools to inform rebuilding after devastating storms such as Hurricane Sandy and the 2013 Moore, Oklahoma tornado; establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard; increasing capabilities to address growing risks from drought and wildfires; requiring Federal buildings and assets to adhere to up-to-date, scientifically sound building codes; and investing in research and development to support earthquake early-warning capabilities. Read more, more, more, more,more, and more.

The Popularity of the Open Ed. Resource EngageNY, By the Numbers

Many districts have shown a strong interest in open educational resources—free academic materials that can be shared and repurposed by teachers and others. And there are few collections of open materials that can rival EngageNY, an online resource created by the state of New York, which has found a surprisingly devoted—and massive—nationwide audience.

How popular are EngageNY resources, exactly? New York officials say the materials have been downloaded 45 million times by educators around the country. There are 13.3 million yearly users, and 34.6 million visits to the site.

Open ed resources are viewed with suspicion by some commercial publishers, who see them as static materials that lack the continuous investment necessary to improve them and meet specific school needs.

Yet they’ve drawn a strong response from many educators. As we’ve reported, some districts have found that choosing resources like EngageNY gives them more power to customize content to their liking—even the collection and organization of those materials requires a ton of work on their part.

Here are the state’s estimates of how daily usage of EngageNY’s online resources, which are designed to be aligned with the common-core standards, have grown since its launch in 2011:

 

EngageNY growth

 

When it comes to visits by individual states, New York, probably not surprisingly, tops the list. Here are the state rankings:

State   Visits
New York 17,814,572
California 2,814,201
Illinois 1,084,078
Arizona 882,443
Louisiana 880,299
Washington 673,192

 

Here’s the usage in the United States and other countries:

Country Visits
United States 33,799,714
Philippines 191,727
Canada 60,473
India 53,351
United Arab Emirates 21,864
United Kingdom 20,595

 

Even as EngageNY’s popularity among educators has grown, other efforts are taking hold to offer teachers additional help. As my colleague Liana Heitin recently reported, a new organization called UnboundEd is launching a free website designed to help teachers master the common core’s grade-level goals.

UnboundEd’s site will be populated with EngageNY materials and other common-core resources vetted by its team members, most of them former classroom teachers. It will also provide in-person training for educators, at a cost.

Seven big myths about top-performing school systems

 

Students in Shanghai
Image captionDisadvantaged students in Shanghai are better at exams than rich students in the US

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan says she wants England to get into the top five of the international Pisa tests for English and maths by 2020.

The man in charge of the Pisa tests, Andreas Schleicher, says the evidence from around the world reveals some big myths about what makes for a successful education system.

1. Disadvantaged pupils are doomed to do badly in school

Teachers all around the world struggle with how to make up for social disadvantage in their classrooms. Some believe that deprivation is destiny.

And yet, results from Pisa tests show that the 10% most disadvantaged 15-year-olds in Shanghai have better maths skills than the 10% most privileged students in the United States and several European countries.

Children from similar social backgrounds can show very different performance levels, depending on the school they go to or the country they live in.

Education systems where disadvantaged students succeed are able to moderate social inequalities.

They tend to attract the most talented teachers to the most challenging classrooms and the most capable school leaders to the most disadvantaged schools, thus challenging all students with high standards and excellent teaching.

Some American critics of international educational comparisons argue that the value of these comparisons is limited because the United States has some unique socio-economic divisions.

US graduation ceremony
Image captionThe US education system has high costs but very mixed results

But the United States is wealthier than most countries and spends more money on education than most of them, its parents have a higher level of education than in most countries, and the share of socio-economically disadvantaged students is just around the OECD average.

What the comparisons do show is that socio-economic disadvantage has a particularly strong impact on student performance in the United States.

In other words, in the United States two students from different socio-economic backgrounds vary much more in their learning outcomes than is typically the case in OECD countries.

2. Immigrants lower results

Integrating students with an immigrant background can be challenging.

And yet, results from Pisa tests show no relationship between the share of students with an immigrant background in a country and the overall performance of students in that country.

Even students with the same migration history and background show very different performance levels across countries, suggesting that where students go to schools makes much more of a difference than where they come from.

3. It’s all about money

South Korea, the highest-performing OECD country in mathematics, spends well below the average per student.

South Korea
Image captionFamily backing: Parents in South Korea light candles for their children taking exams

The world is no longer divided between rich and well-educated countries and poor and badly-educated ones. Success in education systems is no longer about how much money is spent, but about how money is spent.

Countries need to invest in improving education and skills if they are going to compete in an increasingly knowledge-based global economy.

And yet, educational expenditure per student explains less than 20% of the variation in student performance across OECD countries.

For example, students in the Slovak Republic, which spends around $53,000 (£35,000) per student between the age of 6 and 15, perform on average at the same level at age 15 as the United States which spends over $115,000 (£76,000) per student.

4. Smaller class sizes raise standards

Everywhere, teachers, parents and policy-makers favour small classes as the key to better and more personalised education.

Reductions in class size have also been the main reason behind the significant increases in expenditure per student in most countries over the last decade.

And yet, Pisa results show no relationship between class size and learning outcomes, neither within nor across countries.

Andreas Schleicher
Image captionAndreas Schleicher runs the OECD’s influential Pisa global league tables

More interestingly, the highest performing education systems in Pisa tend to systematically prioritise the quality of teachers over the size of classes. Wherever they have to make a choice between a smaller class and a better teacher, they go for the latter.

Rather than putting money into small classes, they invest in competitive teacher salaries, ongoing professional development and a balance in working time.

5. Comprehensive systems for fairness, academic selection for higher results

There is a conventional wisdom that sees a non-selective, comprehensive system as designed to promote fairness and equity, while a school system with academic selection is aimed at quality and excellence.

Red Army school, Sichuan
Image captionRed Army school in Sichuan, China: There is nothing incompatible about high results and fair access

And yet, international comparisons show there is no incompatibility between the quality of learning and equity, the highest performing education systems combine both.


More from the BBC’s Knowledge economy series looking at education from a global perspective


None of the countries with a high degree of stratification, whether in the form of tracking, streaming, or grade repetition is among the top performing education systems or among the systems with the highest share of top performers.

6. The digital world needs new subjects and a wider curriculum

Globalisation and technological change are having a major impact on what students need to know.

Maths
Image captionCurriculums that are “mile-wide, inch-deep” do not work as well as in-depth study

When we can access so much content on Google, where routine skills are being digitised or outsourced, and where jobs are changing rapidly, the focus is on enabling people to become lifelong learners, to manage complex ways of thinking and working.

In short, the modern world no longer rewards us just for what we know, but for what we can do with what we know.

Many countries are reflecting this by expanding school curriculums with new school subjects. The most recent trend, reinforced in the financial crisis, was to teach students financial skills.

But results from Pisa show no relationship between the extent of financial education and financial literacy. In fact, some of those education systems where students performed best in the Pisa assessment of financial literacy teach no financial literacy but invest their efforts squarely on developing deep mathematics skills.

More generally, in top performing education systems the curriculum is not mile-wide and inch-deep, but tends to be rigorous, with a few things taught well and in great depth.

7. Success is about being born talented

The writings of many educational psychologists have fostered the belief that student achievement is mainly a product of inherited intelligence, not hard work.

The findings from Pisa also show this mistaken belief, with a significant share of students in the western world reporting that they needed good luck rather than hard work to do well in mathematics or science. It’s a characteristic that is consistently negatively related to performance.

Teachers may feel guilty pushing students who are perceived as less capable to achieve at higher levels, because they think it is unfair to the student.

Finnish students
Image captionTalent or hard work?: An opera singer stands before ice domes made by students

Their goal is more likely to be enabling each student to achieve up to the average of students in their classrooms, rather than, as in Finland, Singapore or Shanghai-China, to achieve high universal standards.

A comparison between school marks and performance of students in Pisa also suggests that teachers often expect less of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. And those students and their parents may expect less too.

This is a heavy burden for education systems to bear, and it is unlikely that school systems will achieve performance parity with the best-performing countries until they accept that all children can achieve at very high levels.

In Finland, Japan, Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong, students, parents, teachers and the public at large tend to share the belief that all students are capable of achieving high standards.

Checking exam entries in Shaanxi
Image captionExaminers look at students’ work submitted for places at an academy of fine art in Shaanxi province, China

Students in those systems consistently reported that if they tried hard, they would trust in their teachers to help them excel.

One of the most interesting patterns observed among some of the highest-performing countries was the gradual move away from a system in which students were streamed into different types of secondary schools.

Those countries did not accomplish this transition by taking the average and setting the new standards to that level. Instead, they “levelled up”, requiring all students to meet the standards that they formerly expected only their elite students to meet.

In these education systems, universal high expectations are not a mantra but a reality.