Educator in Chief: The President’s Role in Shaping K-12 Education Policy in America

Good afternoon everyone. My name is Robert Fisher, and I am studying political science and history at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in Chattanooga, TN. I am certainly looking forward to meeting all of you in the near future.

Given that education policy, specifically education reform, has become an increasingly discussed topic in policy circles, I thought it might be interesting to explore recent changes in the K-12 public education system that have been facilitated by strong presidential influence. “Recent changes” is a fairly loose interval in which to frame my research, so for the purposes of my paper, I am limiting myself to twenty first century reformations in education.  That time frame leaves me with two presidents: George W. Bush and Barack Obama, both of which have been ardent supporters of public education reform. Though both Presidents initiated policies ostensibly aimed at counteracting the deficiencies in public education, there are significant differences in the methods by which each president addressed those deficiencies.  The differences in their methodologies and the factors that influenced those methods, I believe, have contributed in the relatively jumbled and discombobulated system of public education we have today.

Through my analysis of both President Bush and Obama’s influence on K-12 education policy, I aim to identify the competing motivations that influenced both presidents to initiate their own version of education reform legislation, and further aim to identify how the dissonances between those different motivations resulted in the system we have today. For President Bush I will examine how the general push in policy circles for outcomes based assessment and increased accountability as well as political affiliation resulted in No Child Left Behind (NCLB). As for President  Obama I will examine how or if Race to the Top is a rejection of NCLB and its failures, factoring in President Obama’s political affiliation as well. Ultimately my research will answer the following question: what factors most influenced each president’s role in the policy formulation process for NCLB and RTTT, respectively, and how are those factors manifested in the policies themselves?



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