For children, for justice, for freedom

For generations, public schools have educated the vast majority of our people and prepared them to lead productive lives. Schools have helped create a sense of community and enabled us to participate in a democratic society. But public schools today face many challenges.

The Achievement Gap

Low-income students typically lag behind their middle class peers in academic performance and school completion. The gap exists when students enter kindergarten and persists through the grades. The cognitive skills of poor 4-year-olds, for example, are 18 months behind what is typical for their age, and by age 10 they are still behind. Studies show that the gap can be overcome in at least two ways: high quality early childhood experiences and innovative programs such as the Harlem Children's Zone.

High School Dropouts

According to one measure of high school completion, one quarter of U.S. students drop out before graduation. That's far too many. At least half of all jobs today require education beyond high school. Another third requires a college degree. Gone are the days when a hard-working young man or woman could drop out of school, go to work in a factory or a store, and earn enough to provide for a family.

Need for Skilled Workforce

Employers have complained about the lack of basic skills in prospective employees. According to the National Commission on Adult Literacy, more than half the U.S. workforce face at least one education barrier: limited English proficiency, no high school diploma, or no college. In an increasingly competitive global economy, schools must educate all children. In addition, schools must educate more girls and minority students to study science, technology, engineering, and math.

Reforms Underway

Schools are responding to the challenges by offering a more rigorous curriculum, extending the school day and year, establishing higher standards, providing better training to teachers and campus leaders, and other measures. More change is needed at all levels from pre-K through college.