When it comes to education, Obama highlighted some achievements — the nation’s record high school graduation rate and a cap on college-loan repayment, among them — while flagging unrealized goals, which he pledged to keep working toward.
The president talked about universal preschool for 4-year-olds, a goal he has been promoting for years and that Congress failed to include when it rewrote the nation’s main federal education law last month.
And he spoke about the need to reduce the cost of college, another unmet goal and a notion widely popular in a country where college debt is now the second-largest category of consumer debt, after mortgages. The president also repeated his pledge to fight to make community college free.
Obama talked about “offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on Day One,” an administration initiative that has been gaining traction in the past two years.
Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft, was among first lady Michelle Obama’s guests. Microsoft is investing $75 million to ramp up computer-science classes in high schools, with an emphasis on engaging girls and students of color.
Only 25 percent of U.S. schools teach computer science and programming, but efforts by such companies as Microsoft and nonprofit groups such as Code.org, along with the push from the Obama administration, has led 17 states to expand funding and change policies to count computer science toward high school graduation credits.
The president drew loud applause when he spoke about how the country needs to “recruit and support more great teachers for our kids,” although his administration’s education policies have often drawn criticism from teachers unions.