As Prepared For Delivery:
Good afternoon. And thank you so much for joining this critical event on improving student academic success.
As we start the new year and a new semester, President Biden is laser-focused on ensuring that every child, in every school, is succeeding.
Simply put, nothing is more important to our future as a country than whether our children are equipped to compete in the 21st century.
And that is why today is so important—because as an Administration, we are laying out an agenda for student academic success for every single school in the country. And employ every tool in our tool book to ensure schools adopt these strategies.
While our students and schools have been through a lot these last few years, it is all the more urgent that states and school districts provide a high-quality education to every single child.
So that students are learning at least on grade level, every grade.
The basic fact is schools and school systems are responsible for improving student achievement. But we can be a partner to promote success.
Today, we are announcing a strategy based on hard evidence. Designed to ensure every school is improving academic results for students.
Our new Agenda for Student Achievement is focused on three strategies: reducing absenteeism, increasing access to intensive tutoring, and expanding after school and summer learning programs.
First, on absenteeism: We need to make sure every student is in school because kids can’t learn if they are not in school.
The most recent data shows that rates of chronic absenteeism were more than double last year compared to the 2018-19 school year. Absenteeism can account for up to 27% of the test score declines in math and 45% of the test score declines in reading, respectively1.
We simply cannot accept chronic absenteeism as a new normal.
Fortunately, we know what works—engaging parents and families as partners in their children’s education that includes:
Meeting families at home to find solutions to transportation challenges or other services they need.
Sending text messages and letters to parents about their children’s missed school, which can lower absenteeism by more than 15 percent2.
To help schools and communities get kids back in the classroom, we are providing a detailed roadmap for states to strengthen school accountability for attendance. We all need to send a clear, consistent message: Students have to be present if they’re going to learn.
Second, intensive tutoring is a proven step that we know can help kids regain lost ground quickly.
One year with a well-trained tutor in school at least three times a week can help a student gain an additional year and a half’s worth of math3. That’s high impact.
Third, we need to give students more time to learn beyond the regular school day, including during summers and after school.
Consistently participating in strong afterschool programming builds on the daily teaching and learning in the classroom. It can add about four months of learning in a year. And there’s no better time to start extending time than this summer.
So this is an agenda that has proven strategies that will work.
And today, we are also announcing that the Department of Education will use every tool at its disposal to ensure schools adopt these strategies for academic success.
First, many states have unused resources from the President’s American Rescue Plan. The Department is providing flexibility to use those resources for summer programs or tutoring and home visits not only this school year, but also next year.
Second, we’re stepping up our use of the Every Student Succeeds Act to hold states accountable for honoring the requirements of the law and their responsibility to implement evidence-based strategies in struggling schools.
Third, we’re tailoring future grants and support to promote these proven strategies.
Taken together, the federal government is supporting states and school systems to do what works for student success.
Every school can implement these strategies.
And some schools already are doing so.
Take Gompers Elementary-Middle School in Detroit. The school was struggling with chronic absenteeism in the wake of the pandemic.
A sixth-grader named Jay’Sean had missed four days of classes by the end of October 2022. He wasn’t alone.
So, his school sprang into action.
The school brought in staff to support families.
Administrators paired dozens of students, like Jay’Sean, with adult mentors at the school.
The mentors visited families at home.
At the end of the school year, the school had reduced chronic absenteeism by 18 points—a remarkable achievement.
The Biden-Harris Administration will use every lever we can to ensure that states and school districts can implement proven strategies to support students like Jay’Sean and their families.
Because as the President likes to say, what defines America is possibilities. Every child’s potential will define the possibilities of our country’s future. And schools play a critical part in ensuring that each child can reach her potential.
Today, you will hear from governors and state education leaders who are committed to implementing our Agenda for Improving Student Achievement.
First, though, it’s my honor to turn it over to my friend, a tremendous champion for our Nation’s students, Secretary Miguel Cardona.
1 Council of Economic Advisers, “Chronic Absenteeism and Disrupted Learning Require an All-Hands-on-Deck Approach” (Sept. 13, 2023). https://www.whitehouse.gov/cea/written-materials/2023/09/13/chronic-absenteeism-and-disrupted-learning-require-an-all-hands-on-deck-approach/.
2 Heppen, J.B., Kurki, A., & Brown, S. (2020). Can Texting Parents Improve Attendance in Elementary School? A Test of an Adaptive Messaging Strategy (NCEE 2020–006). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee.
3 Guryan, Jonathan, Jens Ludwig, Monica P. Bhatt, Philip J. Cook, Jonathan M. V. Davis, Kenneth Dodge, George Farkas, Roland G. Fryer, Susan Mayer, Harold Pollack, Laurence Steinberg, and Greg Stoddard. 2023. “Not Too Late: Improving Academic Outcomes among Adolescents.” American Economic Review 113, no. 3 (March): 738–65. http://dx.doi. org/10.1257/aer.20210434.