WASHINGTON (Dec. 30, 2015) — Today I’m writing to say thank you. Over my seven years at the Department of Education, it has been a privilege to work with this extraordinary team and with educators and our partners in states and communities across the country. Improving education is the civil rights issue of our time, a moral imperative, and vital to the success of individuals and the prosperity of our nation. The value of your efforts to help all students succeed simply cannot be measured. Thank you.
Thank you for your commitment to serving our nation’s students and educators. Thank you for the dedication that you bring to your programs and to fulfilling the Department’s mission. Thank you for teaching me so much every single day and for making me a better person in this work. The last seven years have been incredibly meaningful, and it is the honor of a lifetime to serve President Obama and the American people, alongside you.
As I leave this agency, I know that the Department and its important work will be stewarded by a great leader in John King. John knows firsthand the transformative impact that outstanding educators and a quality education can have on our children. He has devoted his whole career to education and is passionate about boosting educational outcomes and improving life chances for every single student—especially our nation’s most disadvantaged and traditionally underserved students. I know you’ll continue to support him, just as you have supported me; and for that, I am grateful. Schools, teachers, and students throughout the nation are going to continue to need your very best effort—which you give every day—going forward.
This next year will be critical. In the last few weeks alone, we reached two important milestones that will serve as a foundation for the many opportunities and challenges ahead.
First, our country has a new education law: the Every Student Succeeds Act. This legislation is a long-overdue revision of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the previous version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The new law aligns with many priorities put forward by the Obama Administration and builds on key areas of progress—made possible by the hard work of teachers, families, students, and all of you—over recent years. By many measures, the Every Student Succeeds Act is a vast improvement over NCLB, and will be instrumental in accelerating student achievement and ensuring that every child can reach his or her full potential.
Also, earlier this month, we celebrated the highest high school graduation rate in our nation’s history—at 82 percent. This is the third straight year we’ve seen an increase, and it means that our country has taken another step closer to fulfilling education’s promise as a force that can expand opportunity for all our young people. This builds on other good news: college-going rates are improving for African American and Hispanic students as well. Access to high-quality early childhood education is increasing. These are crucial steps in a continuum of high-quality education that begins in the early years and continues through success with a college degree and credential.
The work of making that quality public education available and accessible to every student in America—regardless of zip code, ethnicity, home language, disability, income, or background—has advanced tremendously, and you’ve played an extraordinary part in that story, from early learning through higher education and adult education; from our programs and regulations to our civil rights enforcement. Thank you.
The mission of excellence and equity that we share and the incredible potential of the students we serve have inspired me every day—and these things always will be a part of the purpose that drives me. Despite our progress together, much work remains to be done, and I am so glad this team will remain to do it.
Best wishes to you and yours for a happy holiday season. Enjoy time with family and loved ones—and thank you for all I know you will continue to do on behalf of our nation’s children in the new year and beyond.