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  • The President: Hello, Bulldogs!

  • (applause)

  • Good to see you guys.

  • How's everybody doing?

  • You all look good.

  • You look good.

  • (applause)

  • Hey!

  • How's everybody?

  • Well, it is so nice to see you guys.

  • Everybody have a seat, though.

  • Have a seat.

  • I know you've been waiting here a while.

  • Good thing you all had your phones with you.

  • (applause)

  • As the father of two teenage daughters, I know the whole

  • time you were just like, "And then he said -- girl,

  • I couldn't believe it."

  • (laughter)

  • Anyway, it's so good to see you.

  • (applause)

  • A couple of people I want to acknowledge.

  • First of all, I want to thank our Secretary of

  • Education, who has done outstanding work, John King

  • is in the house.

  • (applause)

  • And then, my great friend and former Education

  • Secretary and multiple winner of the three-on-three

  • contest, as well as at the NBA All-Star Game -- he can

  • ball -- Arne Duncan.

  • (applause)

  • We've got your mayor; Muriel Bowser is here.

  • Give her a big round of applause.

  • (applause)

  • Your representative, Eleanor Holmes Norton.

  • (applause)

  • And we are so grateful not only for their service to

  • the country, but the amazing work they're doing with

  • their philanthropic work and America's Promise, Colin and

  • Alma Powell.

  • (applause)

  • So, by now you've settled into the new year.

  • Right?

  • Adjusted to classes.

  • You're preparing for Spirit Week.

  • (applause)

  • Learning how to ballroom dance.

  • (laughter)

  • I remember having to do that.

  • Getting the nerve to text that cute girl or boy in

  • your English class.

  • (laughter)

  • I don't remember that; we did not have texts.

  • We had to send little notes.

  • And then we used to actually have to go up to somebody if

  • we liked them and talk to them.

  • So that may happen to you someday.

  • (laughter)

  • Seniors are looking at colleges, taking tests,

  • filling out all the forms.

  • (applause)

  • Malia just went through this, so I know how tough

  • this is for you and for the parents.

  • But as I'm winding down my presidency -- I was so

  • impressed with Banneker the last time I was here in 2011

  • that I wanted to come back -

  • (applause)

  • -- because you're an example of a school that's doing

  • things the right way.

  • And I believe that if you're going to be able to do

  • whatever you want to do in your lives -- if you want to

  • become a teacher, or a doctor, or start a business,

  • or develop the next great app, or be President -- then

  • you've got to have great education.

  • We live in a global economy.

  • And when you graduate, you're no longer going to be

  • competing just with somebody here in D.C. for a great job.

  • You're competing with somebody on the other side

  • of the world, in China or in India, because jobs can go

  • wherever they want because of the Internet and because

  • of technology.

  • And the best jobs are going to go to the people who are

  • the best educated -- whether in India or China, or

  • anywhere in the world.

  • So when I took office almost eight years ago, we knew

  • that our education system was falling short when it

  • came to preparing young people like you

  • for that reality.

  • Our public schools had been the envy of the world, but

  • the world caught up.

  • And we started getting outpaced when it came to

  • math and science education.

  • And African American and Latino students, in part

  • because of the legacy of discrimination, too often

  • lagged behind our white classmates -- something

  • called the achievement gap that, by one estimate, costs

  • us hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

  • And we were behind other developed countries when it

  • came to the number of young people who were getting a

  • higher education.

  • So I said, when I first came into office, by 2020 I want

  • us to be number one again.

  • I want us to be number one across the board.

  • So we got to work, making real changes to improve the

  • chances for all of our young people, from the time

  • they're born all the way through until they got a career.

  • And the good news is that we've made real progress.

  • So I just wanted to talk to you about the progress we've

  • made, because you are the reason we've made progress

  • -- some outstanding young people all across the country.

  • We recently learned that America's high school

  • graduation rate went up to 83 percent, which is the

  • highest on record.

  • That's good news.

  • (applause)

  • More African American and Latino students are

  • graduating than ever before.

  • (applause)

  • Right here in D.C., in just five years, the graduation

  • rate in the District of Columbia public schools went

  • from just 53 percent to 69 percent.

  • (applause)

  • So D.C.'s graduation rates grew faster than any other

  • place in the country this year -- this past year.

  • That's something to be really proud of.

  • (applause)

  • Now, of course, here at Banneker, you graduated 100

  • percent of your seniors last year.

  • (applause)

  • One hundred percent.

  • It's been a while since I did math, but

  • 100 percent is good.

  • (laughter)

  • You can't do better than that.

  • So what all these numbers mean is that more schools

  • across D.C. and across the country are starting to

  • catch up to what you guys are doing here, at this school.

  • Now, some of the changes we made were hard, and some of

  • them were controversial.

  • We expected more from our teachers and our students.

  • But the hard work that people have put in across

  • the country has started to pay off.

  • And I just want to talk to you a little bit about some

  • of the things that we did.

  • It starts with our youngest learners.

  • High-quality early education is one of the best

  • investments we can make, which is why we've added

  • over 60,000 children to Head Start.

  • We called for high-quality preschool for every

  • four-year-old in America.

  • And when I took office, only 38 states offered access to

  • state-funded preschool.

  • Today, it's up to 46.

  • We're trying to get those last holdouts to do the

  • right thing.

  • And, by the way, the District of Columbia leads

  • the nation with the highest share of children -- nearly

  • 9 out of 10 -- in high-quality preschool.

  • And that's a big achievement.

  • (applause)

  • We launched then a competition called Race to

  • the Top, which inspired states to set higher, better

  • standards so that we could out-teach and out-compete

  • other nations, and make sure that we've got high

  • expectations for our students.

  • D.C. was one of the winners of this competition.

  • It upgraded standards, upgraded curriculum, worked

  • to help teachers build their skills.

  • And that, in part, is why D.C. has done so well.

  • We realized that in today's world, when you all have a

  • computer in your pocket in those phones, then you need

  • to learn not just how to use a phone, you need to learn

  • computer science.

  • So we're working with private and philanthropic

  • partners to bring high schools into the 21st

  • century and give you a more personalized and

  • real-world experience.

  • We're bringing in high-speed internet into schools and

  • libraries, reaching 20 million more students and

  • helping teachers with digital learning.

  • And coding isn't, by the way, just for boys in

  • Silicon Valley, so we're investing more in getting

  • girls and young women and young people of color and

  • low-income students into science and engineering and

  • technology and math.

  • (applause)

  • And because we know that nothing is more important

  • than a great teacher -- and you've got some great

  • teachers here, as well as a great principal at Banneker

  • -- (applause) -- we have focused on preparing and

  • developing and supporting and rewarding

  • excellent educators.

  • You all know how hard they work.

  • They stay up late grading your assignments.

  • That's why you got all those marks all over your papers.

  • They pull sometimes money out of their own pockets to

  • make that lesson extra special.

  • And I promise you, the teachers here and the

  • teachers around the country, they're not doing it for the

  • pay -- because teachers, unfortunately, still aren't

  • paid as much as they should be.

  • They're not doing it for the glory.

  • They're doing it because they love you, and they

  • believe in you, and they want to help you succeed.

  • So teachers deserve more than just our gratitude --

  • they deserve our full support.

  • And we've got to make their lives easier, which is why

  • we enacted a law to fix No Child Left Behind, which

  • gives teachers more flexibility to spend more

  • time teaching creatively than just spending all their

  • time teaching to a test.

  • Give your teachers a big round of applause.

  • (applause)

  • They deserve it.

  • So we've made real progress, but here's the thing -- and

  • I think all of you know this because you go to this great

  • school -- a high school education these days

  • is not enough.

  • By 2020, two out of three job openings require some

  • form of higher education.

  • Now, that doesn't always mean a four-year college

  • degree, but it does mean -- whether it's a four-year

  • university, or a community college, or some sort of

  • training program -- you've got to get a little bit more

  • than just what you're getting in high school.

  • It used to be that a high school job might be enough

  • because you could go into a factory or even go into an

  • office and just do some repetitive work, and if you

  • were willing to work hard you could make a decent living.

  • But the problem is repetitive work now is done

  • by machines.

  • And that's just going to be more and more true.

  • So in order for you to succeed in the marketplace,

  • you've got to be able to think creatively; you've got

  • to be able to work with a team; you've got to be able

  • to work with a machine and figure out how to make it

  • tailored for the specific requirements of your

  • business and your job.

  • All those things require some more sophisticated

  • thinking than just sitting there and just doing the

  • same thing over and over again.

  • And that's why you've got to have more than just a high

  • school education.

  • And if you doubt that, I just want to give you

  • some statistics.

  • Compared to a high school diploma, just getting a

  • degree from a two-year school, going to a community

  • college and getting an associate's degree could

  • earn you more than $300,000 over the course of your

  • lifetime.

  • And a four-year degree earns you a million dollars more

  • than if you just had a high school degree.

  • Think about that.

  • A million dollars -- that's real money.

  • So one of the things that we're trying to do is to

  • make it easier for you to access free money for

  • college -- to figure out how you can pay for your college

  • without having a mountain of debt.