Achieving Excellence and Equity: The U.S. Department of Education’s Strategic Plan Released for Public Comment

View the Department of Education’s draft FY2014-2018 Strategic Plan here. Please submit all comments to All comments must be received by Friday, October 4th at 5pm.

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.
  • Equity
    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.

View the Department of Education’s draft FY2014-2018 Strategic Plan here. Please submit all comments to All comments must be received by Friday, October 4th at 5pm.

U.S. Acting Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton


  1. Transforming teaching into a scientific practice — A search for a Knowledge Base

    1. A big problem of education is because we do not have a Knowledge Base (KB) for the teaching practice and the teaching practice is not scientific. A Knowledge Base of a domain is the constraining factor of a domain that holds activities of the domain together as a unit and as uniquely different from another. A Knowledge Base of a domain helps to determine what to or not to do in order to maintain integrity of the domain; it is the factor in a domain through which activities in a domain may transform into a scientific practice. In other words, with a Knowledge Base (KB) of a domain, one can call up an experience and learn from it. However, we do not have a KB for the teaching domain; therefore, teachers do not learn rules about what to or not do to reinforce progress in the teaching domain and/or help teaching to become increasingly effective. Yes, we have rules for teachers, but these rules are mostly about how to “keep your job” but not how to reinforce the profession. So, we say that teaching is not scientific.

    2. Without a KB for the teaching profession, teachers do not develop a view of students that is applicable to all students; research findings and developments in the teaching domain cannot build upon itself and no accumulation of knowledge of teaching could be built up and/or made available for other/future teachers. Therefore, the teaching practice cannot be said to be a scientific practice and/or have the means to become as effective as necessary. Many great teachers may occasionally grace the profession, discover and use effective strategies and help students to learn well. However, because there is no KB in place to determine, evaluate and consolidate new findings in the domain, researchers may discover new ways of teaching, but we do not harness such new discoveries. Therefore, we say that we do not have a process for growing the teaching profession or that teaching is unscientific.

    3. In every scientific practice, there is a KB; there is a process for searching and learning about new methods; there are also processes/rules for discovering, sharing and incorporating new findings and for improving the domain and its activities. Methods and activities of a scientific domain, implying an existence of a KB in the domain, often help to achieve progressive goals and objectives in in domain. Researching, sharing/accepting and incorporating new findings in a domain help to develop the KB of a domain; and the KB of a domain, in turn, helps to reinforce effectiveness of activities in the domain; the KB and activities of a domain are mutually reinforcing to each other.

    4. Furthermore, in the medical field, we do not say that a certain race/group are more likely to get ovarian cancer, that we must therefore gear medical research to treat only such race. Rather, we recognize that the subject matter (human physiology) are more or less the same, and we research and develop treatment of ovarian cancer accordingly. Systems and processes in the education field should also be modeled after the same scientific processes and methods; otherwise, we are likely to maintain our educational problems. We should not be researching and developing methods of teaching in accordance to the presenting problems of an individual student or a group of students.

    More about Transforming teaching into a scientific practice in the near future.

    Martin Odudukudu

  2. Stepping back from the problem is the answer. Find out WHY these kids fail…..then approach it from THAT angle. Why ALWAYS preludes the HOW…….

    Our kids future is in your hands….you better know darn sure what you are doing before you just throw more money at it. =)

  3. Searching for a Knowledge Base for the teaching practice
    1. A big problem of education is because we do not have a Knowledge Base (KB) for the teaching practice and because the teaching practice is not scientific. A knowledge base of a domain or subject matter is more or less serves the same purpose as Kuhn’s paradigm. KB differs from paradigm in that they do not have the same origin. Kuhn, a philosopher of science, defines a paradigm (or KB) as a consideration through which practitioners in a domain may determine what to or not to do in order to reinforce activities and progress in the domain. A Knowledge Base through which activities in a domain may transform into a scientific practice is important, but we do not have a KB for the teaching domain; therefore, teachers do not learn rules about what to or not do to reinforce teaching and progress in the teaching domain and/or to help teaching become scientific. Yes, we have rules for teachers, but the rules are mostly how to not “keep your job” but not how to reinforce the profession. So, we say that teaching is not scientific.

    CDOIL Inc.

  4. This plan completely misses the mark. The very basic issues for active learning, aren’t even on the radar screen. Do we even know if the kids are hungry, or do we even care? In our school district, there are no lunch programs or access to a breakfast, if need be. Only one of our schools has any lunch program at all and it’s done by non profits and consists of things like pizza or sub sandwiches. If the families are too poor to even make a lunch for their child, or don’t care, there is no net to help the child at least get some thing to eat.

    As far as real life education in things as simple as reading a ruler, knowing the tax system and understanding it, understanding our own monetary system, (let alone foreign currency exchanges, social interactions and any sense of pride, respect and responsibility, etc, etc, never occurs in our education system.Not everyone wants to be a doctor or lawyer, many just want a vocational/technical education and want to wear Carharts to work!

  5. Goodness, I missed this gem the first time around: “supporting comprehensive early learning assessment systems”

    Why “supporting…..assessment systems,” and NOT “supporting early learners”?

    The DoE’s sense of priorities here is seriously seriously skewed, and not toward the student. 🙁

  6. My comment on this thread hasn’t made it to publication, so I’ll submit my thoughts again in a slightly different form:

    “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.”

    This is the absolute LAST thing that should be guiding your work. Children and THEIR educational needs – which are inextricably entwined with their developmental and social needs – should be the first and foremost thing on your agenda, your North Star guiding each and every decision and policy anyone in the Department makes.

    Our children’s needs should NOT be secondary to the US ranks on test scores compared to any other country, or to our chest-beating supremacy on international benchmarks as perceived by the government and the business community. You’re putting the cart before the horse, and in so doing, completely getting education wrong, especially for our youngest children.

    • Very well said. I’m not a teacher, but am an RN, married to a seasoned >30 yr teacher, Algebra ( pre, Honors as well). He has been a very successful teacher at private schools but is faced with more difficult puzzle situations in the public schools he has and is presently teaching at. I once sat in on a class ( I had volunteered to speak about about a Health topic to a class), …. It didn’t take long for the stories he brought home to be matched with behaviorial issues,
      inattentiveness, blatant refusal to open a book, take notes, etc. He encourages & he expects the students to take on personal responsibility. Some do, a lot don’t. Afterwards, as an RN, looking into more of the “why” are the kids acting like this, I ask, has this and that student been evaluated. I start to go in “mom ” mode. It’s what we did for our kids….they started to struggle , one early (pre- k) so we had her evaluated. ….short term memory, fluency issues, a tad if ADD, and auditory processing. Actually the ADD WAS DX IN 1st grade. She got the help to become successful. Now,26, married, employed as an ULTRASOUND TECH. As I always tell my husband. It’s not rocket science. EARLY ASSESSMENTS and intervention is key. But again this is just one of the pieces if the puzzle.

    • My work intercepts the child’s classroom behavior where 98% of my findings lead to the child’s home deficiencies. Which, by the way, leads to the well known fact: parent’s are checked outside the nest and into the rat race of consumerism. Which, in turn, is why educational marketing researchers focus on the wallet. The take home message here: education is a business. Recommendation: simplify and discover the jewel of character building for yourselves and your family. Question: why are we here, after all?

  7. Creating a strategic plan that addresses next steps as a collective is critical for awareness and action. However the opening statement , “….to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness” is missing a critical word: “global competiveness and RESPONSIBILITY.”

    But to really see the deeper perspective of the powers-that-be “take” on education, it spells out pretty easily when one looks at this from this perspective:

    How many times is the word “—-” used:
    “Caring”: 0
    “Nurture”: 0
    “Ethical”: 0
    “Responsibility”: 4
    “Partnership”: 10
    “Competitive”: 13
    “Standards”: 66

    A strategic plan comes from seeing from the past and reflecting at a deeper level in order to understand and create a meaningful plan. This report fails to get to the core of HOW to fix a broken system. As Sir Winston Churchill put it, “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”

    • The system is not broken. We can always improve, but there is no evidence that something is seriously wrong with American education. When we control for poverty, our international test scores are at the top of the world. The problem is poverty.

  8. This is a very great blog post, and makes me extremely hopeful for the direction the DOE is taking to ensure that every students gets the highest quality of education. In my opinion, I think more focus should be put on the level of family participation in children’s learning. For example, DC Public Schools has recently rolled out home visits in which teachers are now going directly to their students’ homes to talk with the parents. What’s important to note here is that the teachers participating in the home visits aren’t simply going to homes to discuss student performance. Though that is an aspect, home visits are primarily used for teachers to get to know families on a personal level and inspire parents to take an active role in their child’s learning. Another component of these home visits is that teachers participating in home visits are trained to train parents on how to help children with homework. For example, reminding parents of Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. From here, education isn’t simply abandoned at the end-of-day bell; instead, education continues in the home setting. I think this is a great opportunity for increase opportunities for students, and DCPS is already seeing amazing improvements since the inaction of home visits.

  9. I see a set of goals. Where is the action plan? How will you support schools to obtain these goals? I’ve seen increased mandates but no financial backing to support the mandates.

  10. The fact that we now have Common Core really says that the Government doesn’t care at all about our children!!!!! The children’s self esteem is already going down because of the work that Common Core is pushing down their throats, and will the Government do anything about the rising in suicide rates because of the stress that our children are now under at school because of this? Common Core will only increase the suicide rate!!!

  11. Could not be more disappointed with the past decade of education reform. Can anyone at the Department of Education show a single benefit to the 95% of children who attend traditional public schools? They have less funding, a narrower curriculum and much more standardized testing. Now they’re to be subjected to experiments in “blended learning” and their test scores, already wildly and ridiculously over-valued, will determine if their teacher is fired. My poor fifth grader.

    You’ve harmed our public schools.

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