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Closing education achievement gap: blue-ribbon panel offers blueprint

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“Our education system, legally desegregated more than a half century ago, is ever more segregated by wealth and income, and often again by race,” asserts the report, adding that “simply achieving a 90 percent graduation rate for students of color would add as much as $6.6 billion in annual earnings to the American economy.”

The commission, which was charged by Congress to examine the ways in which disparities in educational opportunities give rise to the achievement gap and to recommend policies to address that gap, is independent. It is now up to Congress, the administration, education advocacy groups, and various state and local bodies to decide what, if anything, they will do with its recommendations.

Given the attention President Obama gave to early-childhood education in his State of the Union address, in which he called for universal access to good preschools, it’s a safe bet that that area of the report will receive particular attention in coming months.

“Nothing is more important,” said Duncan, emphasizing that any effort to address the achievement and opportunity gap “has to start with high-quality early-learning opportunities in disadvantaged neighborhoods.”

And the recommendations the commission proposes seem to align with the proposals Mr. Obama has outlined.

Under Duncan, the Department of Education has also emphasized the need to reform the teaching profession and ensure that all students – particularly the most disadvantaged – have access to high-quality teachers. That received particular attention in the report, and, historically, has been a controversial issue in education-reform circles.

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