The United States is an economic leader in part because of its leadership in education during the 20th century. We were the first country in the world to provide free K-12 public education and for many decades our citizens where the most educated and well prepared to drive national economic growth. In the past few decades, other countries have greatly expanded and improved their education systems, and now we’ve and we’ve lost our leading edge.
Our international rankings continue to slip when comparing key education indicators to our international counterparts. For example, as recently as 1995, the United States was still tied for 1st in the proportion of young adults with a college degree, but by 2000 it had slipped to 9th and by 2006 to 14th – below the average of the industrialized world. High School graduation rates have seen a similar decline. After World War II, the United States’ ranked 1st, today we have dropped to 21st among the world’s 30 industrialized nations. This statistic is even more startling when put in a different perspective, currently there is one US student dropping out of school every 26 seconds. Among these dropouts, under the age of 25, a startling 44% of are jobless.
These alarming indicators have propelled education reform to the forefront of our nation’s priorities once again. This time around we need to do more than hold debates and implement weak policy, we must make significant improvements a reality. Reforms in the past were based on educational ideas that did not necessarily have widespread support from legislators or policy makers, much less the public. As a result, little progress, and some argue none at all, has actually been made.
Today, the fear about American decline touches far more people than ever before, and they seem willing to do something about it. People now understand the link between education and economics, recognizing... [continues]
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