“This is a call to action that we can and we must and we should do better for our children, and for communities who have historically been denied opportunities … and in doing so, strengthen our country,” said Secretary Duncan, in a conference call with reporters Tuesday.
The report clearly lays out the scope, and importance, of the challenge: Math results that show the average African-American eighth-grader performing at the 19th percentile of white students, and the average Hispanic eighth-grader at the 26th percentile. International testing results rank US students 27th for math, and show just 1 in 4 American students performing on par with the average student in countries like Singapore and Finland.
“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.