The U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access to quality educational opportunities. Every four years, the Department of Education has the opportunity to share our strategic plan for achieving this mission—making clear our goals and how the Department will meet them. Too often, achieving excellence and equity has been relegated to a wish rather than elevated as an attainable goal. This plan attempts to make clear how we will define and attain this audacious goal; and we hope to get your input.
Ensuring America once again leads the world in post-secondary completion by 2020 is the North Star guiding all our work at the Department of Education. The basic arithmetic of achieving this goal requires improvement at every level of education—from school entry to post-secondary enrollment and completion—and for all populations, including the historically underserved, from poor children to displaced adults.
We must address existing opportunity gaps so that all youth, beginning at birth, have access to a high-quality education and graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and careers. Dramatically improving learning and life outcomes across the spectrum means that we must identify and develop significantly more effective and more scalable approaches to our most persistent educational challenges.
To guide our efforts, ED has committed to goals and objectives in six areas during this next phase of the agency’s work:
- Early Learning
Improving the health, social-emotional, and cognitive outcomes for all children from birth through third grade, so that all children, particularly those with high needs, are on track for graduating from high school college- and career-ready.
- Elementary and Secondary Education
Continuing to improve the elementary and secondary education system’s ability to consistently deliver excellent instruction aligned with rigorous academic standards while providing effective support services to close achievement and opportunity gaps and ensure all students graduate high school college- and career-ready.
- Postsecondary Education, Career and Technical Education, and Adult Education
Increasing college access, affordability, quality, and completion by improving postsecondary education and lifelong learning opportunities for youths and adults.
Increasing educational opportunities for and reducing discrimination against underserved students so that all students are well-positioned to succeed.
- Continuous Improvement of the U.S. Education System
Enhancing the education system’s ability to continuously improve through better and more widespread use of data, research and evaluation, evidence, transparency, innovation, and technology.
- U.S. Department of Education Capacity
Improving the organizational capacities of the Department to implement this strategic plan.
A subset of objectives will be prioritized and will guide the day-to-day work of the Department for the next two years. These goals include: supporting comprehensive early learning assessment systems; supporting the successful implementation of college- and career-ready standards and assessments; ensuring more students have effective teachers and leaders; decreasing disparities in the national high school graduation rate; dramatically decreasing the number of high schools with low graduation rates; increasing college degree attainment among 25-34 year olds; and increasing evidence-based decision making and investment.
Although we, at the federal level, have chosen in many cases to hold ourselves accountable for the ultimate educational outcomes of Americans, we are clear that educators at the classroom, school, district, and state levels will continue to design, lead, and execute the efforts determinative of our collective success. We are also aware that Congress will define the breadth, depth, and sustainability of our success; therefore, this plan assumes Congress will provide the needed context and resources to support this plan. Finally, the ability to build stronger and better partnerships with stakeholders—from parents to CEOs—always has been and always will be essential to educational success.
Although we at the Department of Education fully anticipate realizing our goals, we are also conscious that the road ahead will not be easy. We believe our mission and the potential benefits of success are worth the challenges.
To view and contribute to the development of the Department of Education’s Draft fiscal year 2014-2018 strategic plan and 2014-2015 priority goals, please click here. We invite your questions, comments, and all other feedback on the draft plan.
U.S. Acting Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton