Computer science and data-driven accountability dominate education items in next year's federal budget.
This month, President Barack Obama submitted his fiscal year 2017 federal budget proposal to Congress. Much of the education side of the next federal budget focuses on increasing equity and closing the achievement gap — principles that guide the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the newly passed education law. And many of these new initiatives hinge on implementing more technology in K–12.
Obama hopes to allocate $4 billion over three years toward a new Computer Science for All initiative, which would support state efforts to help K–12 teachers get access to computer science training and materials. It would also expand access to computer science curricula supported by the National Science Foundation.
ESSA, adopted in December, broadens the scope of STEM education in public schools. Computer science was added alongside core subjects such as writing, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This shift signals to policymakers across the country that STEM initiatives are a priority, and it will help guide them when they are making decisions on how to use federal dollars, says Tanya Roscorla, managing editor of the Center for Digital Education.
Other initiatives Obama hopes to fund as part of ESSA would establish new data-driven accountability systems to measure student performance and other factors.
"Educators could analyze students’ academic achievement and better target supports that may help struggling students to master certain skills or become proficient in English. The use of robust information can be leveraged by teachers, local educational agencies, and states to advance equity and excellence throughout our education system," according to a Department of Education blog post.
Obama’s administration has been slowly building support for analytics-driven solutions in education. At a December 2014 White House summit for higher education, some of the top examples of student retention efforts were data-driven. Such efforts also build on the White House's previous evidence-based grant initiatives, including the Investing in Innovation Fund and the First in the World program, which help develop new solutions for some of modern education's greatest challenges.
It remains to be seen what Obama’s 2017 federal spending plan will resemble once it makes it through Congress.