Author(s): Center for American Progress
Published: July 2, 2019
“There is no question that education is a powerful driver of prosperity. Americans with college degrees earn 117 percent more a year than those who do not complete high school. Based on data for the high school class of 2015, raising the nation’s high school graduation rate from 83 percent to 90 percent would result in an additional $3.1 billion in earnings for each high school cohort, which would translate into a $5.7 billion increase in gross domestic product. Moreover, Americans with higher levels of education are more likely to vote, to volunteer, and to donate to charity.
But on the whole, the results of the U.S. education system are not where they need to be. Between 2000 and 2017, the United States slipped from fifth to 10th among Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries in its rate of postsecondary degree attainment. America’s 13-year-olds continue to languish in the middle of the pack internationally in math and science achievement. After some hopeful progress in the early 2000s, results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have stagnated in both reading and math. Even more alarming, the nation continues to see the effect of systemic and structural barriers to opportunity for Black, Latinx, Native American, and some Asian American and Pacific Islander children, not to mention the ongoing segregation and isolation of students from families with low incomes who are locked into under-resourced schools. Additionally, it is clear that students with disabilities, students who identify as LGBTQ, and students who are English language learners continue to grapple with added barriers to accessing a quality education.
As the 2020 elections near, the conversation about how to change the direction of the country will gain even more prominence—on education, as well as the many other critical issues Americans are facing. More and more candidates for national office are presenting ideas for how to increase access to high-quality early childhood education and how to make higher education more accessible and affordable. And yet, with a few prominent exceptions, presidential candidates have not yet taken clear positions or staked out big ideas on how to ensure that every child has an excellent school. Elementary and secondary schools are where students learn to read, write, do math, and develop the skills, knowledge, and abilities that will make them successful lifelong learners and full participants in U.S. democracy…
There is no silver bullet or single idea that will dramatically improve opportunities and outcomes for students, but there are ways that federal policymakers—including the next presidential administration—can take action and set a new agenda for K-12 education. This agenda should focus on five key components:
- Applying an explicit race equity lens to policy development
- Preparing all students for college and the future workforce
- Modernizing and elevating the teaching profession
- Dramatically increasing investments in public schools and improving the equity of existing investments
- Bringing a balanced approach to charter school policy
This report, in turn, takes a detailed look at each of these components.”