Leadership on Education

Americans Deserve Leadership on Education More than ever, the prospects of a nation and its children depend on the strength of its schools. Unfortunately, our schools are failing to prepare students for college, careers, and life—with dire consequences for all Americans.

Too many students drop out.

  • This spring (2008) 1.2 million students will fail to graduate with their peers. More than 6,000 students drop out of school every day.
  • Failure starts early. By eighth grade, nearly 70% of students are below proficient in reading, and most will never catch up.

Too many graduates are unprepared for college, careers, and life.

  • Not ready for college: More than one in three college students must take remedial math or English courses to catch up on skills they should have learned in high school.3 In the community colleges, which enroll half of all undergraduates in America, the remediation rate climbs to 42%.
  • Not ready for careers: Nearly half of recent high school graduates who enter the workforce (46%) say they are not prepared for the jobs they hope to get in the future. Employers agree, estimating that 45% of recent high school graduates are not prepared with skills to advance beyond entry level job
  • Not ready for life: American students have a hard time solving real-life problems that call for practical decision making and troubleshooting. Among 29 developed countries, the U.S. had the fourth-highest percentage of very weak problem-solvers and the sixth-lowest percentage of strong problem-solvers.

Education has huge economic consequences for families and the nation as a whole.

  • The poverty rate for families headed by dropouts is more than twice that of families headed by high school graduates.
  • Each cohort of dropouts costs the U.S. $192 billion in lost income and taxes.
  • Just at the community college level, families spend $283 million to pay for remedial courses every year, and taxpayers foot an additional $978 million. Counting lost productivity because students who take remedial courses are much less likely to earn a degree, poor preparation costs $2.3 billion annually.
  • If we raised the academic performance of American students to just middle of the pack of European nations, our Gross Domestic Product would grow by five percent over 30 years—a gain of about $700 billion annually.
  • Solving the problem will take strong leadership to raise standards, improve teaching, and provide time and support for learning.

25 million students attend school in states have set proficiency standards for fourth grade reading below even the most basic level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

  • More than 12 million students in grades 7-12 are taught academic courses by teachers who have no degree in the subject they’re teaching.
  • High schools where teachers have time to provide students with high levels of support manage to cut dropout rates in half.
  • Minority students are most disenfranchised by the lack of national leadership on education.
  • Only about half of the nation’s Black and Latino students graduate on time from high school.
  • Only one out of ten Black eighth graders reads at a proficient level, and only half have been taught to read at even the most basic level.
  • By the time they near graduation, Black and Latino teenagers have math and reading skills that are no higher than those of White middle school students.
  • Black and Latino graduates are only about half as likely as White students to leave high school adequately prepared for four-year colleges.
  • More than 10 million Black and Latino students attend school in states that have set proficiency standards for fourth grade reading so low they fall below even the most basic level.
  • Teachers in high-minority schools are almost twice as likely to be inexperienced as teachers in low minority schools.