On Saturday, June 18, U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. will deliver the commencement address at the graduation ceremony for T.C. Williams High School at George Mason University’s EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Virginia. King will applaud graduates for their hard work and perseverance, and underscore the importance of preparing all students for success in college and career. He will also discuss the importance of renewing national focus on outcomes in higher education to ensure students are graduating on time with a more affordable, meaningful degree or credential.
In 2010, T.C. Williams High School—one of the largest and most diverse high schools in Virginia—was identified among the state’s lowest-performing schools. Five years later, aided by a School Improvement Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the school has significantly improved graduation rates, especially among students of color. Today, among other initiatives, the school assigns a counselor and a social worker to all students to provide guidance and support. T.C. Williams High School is well known for being featured in the 2000 movie, “Remember the Titans,” for the successful racial integration of its football team in 1971.
Access to and completion of higher education has never been more important in a rapidly-changing global economy. The Obama Administration is committed to making college more affordable and expanding educational opportunities through partnerships with schools, colleges and universities. Efforts such as the America’s College Promise proposal, announced last year, seek to make two years of community college free so students can learn critical workforce skills and earn college credits at no cost. Additionally, the Expanding College Access Through the Dual Enrollment Pell Experiment would allow students from low-income backgrounds to receive Pell Grants to pay for college courses while still in high school. The Administration is also committed to ensure equal access to a full range of career and technical education (CTE) programs to enable all students the opportunity to be prepared for high-skill, high-wage, and high-demand occupations. The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act focuses on the academic achievement of CTE students to strengthen the connections between secondary and postsecondary education while improving state and local accountability. It also requires states to ensure that there is equitable representation for male and female students in non-traditional fields. Education is—and must remain—the “great equalizer,” ensuring that every student has the opportunity to join a thriving middle class.