The national education system is mired in a deep crisis, as funding, teachers, student loans, social, and a myriad of other issues threaten to bring the already declining standards of American education even lower.
A 2009 report from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which measured the performance of 470,000 15-year-old students from 34 OECD countries and another 31 partner countries, in the areas of reading literacy, mathematics literacy, and science literacy, made for some extremely troubling reading. The assessment, conducted every three years, reveals that the United States ranks 17th in reading literacy, 31st in mathematics literacy and 23rd in science literacy - while China comfortably tops each category.
A June 2007 analysis by the EPE Research Center (a division of Editorial Projects in Education), "Diplomas Count: Ready for What? Preparing for College, Careers, and Life After High School" concludes that "an estimated 1.23 million students, or about 30 percent of the class of 2007" failed to graduate. In a similar study conducted last year (Diplomas Count 2011: Beyond High School, Before Baccalaureate - Meaningful Alternatives to a Four-Year Degree), EPE revealed that "nearly 3 out of every 10 students in America's public schools still fail to earn a diploma. That amounts to 1.2 million students falling through the cracks of the high school pipeline every year, or 6,400 students lost every day."
These numbers are staggering, and not simply because of the social implications - it's the economic one that we should be wary of. A high school dropout, according to Professor Cecilia Elene Rose in her 2005 paper, "The Labor Market Consequences of an Inadequate Education," will earn $260,000 less compared to their counterparts with high school diplomas. Additionally, the country will lose approximately "$192 billion 1.6% of GDP -- in combined income and tax revenue losses with each cohort of 18 year olds who never complete high school."
But the story doesn't end there. Americans used to have the second highest rate of college graduates in the world, a figure markedly reflected in the 55-64 age group, which consists of 41% college graduates - coinciding with the nation's post-WWII economic growth. Fast forward three decades later, and we are now languishing in the 16th spot.
There is much to consider here, and it's time to hear what the candidates have to say on the matter.
“Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called
Sputnik, we had no idea how we'd beat them to the moon. The science wasn't there yet. NASA didn't
even exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn't just surpass the
Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new
.. Think about it. Over the next ten years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that
goes beyond a high school degree. And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren't even
finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations.
America has fallen to 9th in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the
question is whether all of us -- as citizens, and as parents -- are willing to do what's necessary
to give every child a chance to succeed…
… In South Korea, teachers are known as "nation builders." Here in America, it's time we treated
the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers
and stop making excuses for bad ones. And over the next ten years, with so many Baby Boomers
retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science,
technology, engineering, and math. In fact, to every young person listening tonight who's
contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if
you want to make a difference in the life of a child -- become a teacher. Your country needs you. Of
course, the education race doesn't end with a high school diploma. To compete, higher education must
be within reach of every American…”
January 24, 2012: President Obama’s State of The Union
“Getting the best possible education has never been more important than it is right
now. And that’s because in today’s world, a good job requires a good education. I travel all
across the country, I go into factories, I go into companies. And it doesn’t matter where you are
working, if you do not have a good education you are not going to be able to succeed. And that
includes being on the factory floor these days, because most of the equipment is highly
Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require a level of education beyond a high
school degree. Which means, obviously, first of all, you can’t drop out of TechBoston. That’s
not allowed. All ight? You can’t even think about dropping out. But, can’t even think about
it. But even after you graduate, you’re going to need some additional education. And I know that
TechBoston is doing an outstanding job of making sure that every student is prepared to go to
Unfortunately, the reality is too many students are not prepared across our country. Too many leave
school without the skills they need to get a job that pays. Today, as many as a quarter of American
students are not finishing high school, a quarter. The quality of our math and science education
lags behind many other nations. And America has fallen to ninth in the proportion of young people
with a college degree. We used to be number one, and we’re now number nine. That’s not
March 08, 2011: President Obama speaking at TechBoston Academy in
this defining moment in our history, America faces few more urgent challenges than preparing our
children to compete in the global economy. The decisions our leaders make about education in the
coming years will shape our future for generations to come. It will help determine not only whether
our children have the chance to fulfill their God-given potential or whether our workers have a
chance to build a better life for their families, but whether we as a nation will remain in the 21st
century the kind of global economic leader that we were in the 20th century. The rising importance
of education reflects the new demands of our new world.”
September 9, 2008: Obama offers
comprehensive educational plan during a campaign speech in Dayton, Ohio