Despite spending more money per child than nearly every other developed country, U.S. students are falling dangerously behind their international peers and just half of all African-American and Hispanic students graduate from high school in four years. Key leaders, with different perspectives, engaged in a frank conversation about the state of American education, underscoring the urgency of our current situation. They discussed how vital it is that we work across party lines, and with all sectors of our society to develop a superior educational system based on accountability and transparency, that serves all of our children well for lives of opportunity and to compete in the global economy. To view the complete discussion, go to www.aspeninstitute.org/urgentcall.
* Moderator: Michael Lomax, President, United Negro College Fund
* Margaret Spellings, U.S. Secretary of Education
* Roy Romer, Chairman, Strong American Schools
* Joel Klein, Chancellor, New York City Public Schools
* Tom Donohue, President & CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Excerpts from the discussion:
“What do we do in the real-world to improve schools? Rome is burning and we need to put out the fire.”
“Making the case to the American people is essential.”
“Americans don't understand why they must be concerned about ALL children.”
"Without public will, public support, and public understanding of the importance of education to our economic strength, politicians won't move very far in their efforts to improve public education."
“We're fat, dumb and happy as a country. Without information about public will, public support and public understanding, politicians will feel no urge to scratch the itch. We have to make the case that we all have a stake in each other's kids. This is why the business community is so essential.”
"There is a real advantage we had between our economic strength over the past 50 years and the education level of our populace. That is beginning to slip and we are asleep at the wheel."
"We’ve had a massive failure to recognize the disparity between state tests. We're asleep in this country and need a national call for better testing and transparency in data.”
“How do you change the collective will of this country? Have a presidential report card delivered annually to every family about your student's ranking compared to their counterparts nationwide. To keep score educationally, you have to agree to certain things, right now we have 50 states doing 50 different things.”
“I would like to see 30 days after the next president is elected, a call for all 50 governors to gather together and ask 15 of them to voluntarily look at testing and accountability. The feds would pay for the design and administrative cost of the test, and will help pay for teachers.”
“The good news with ED in 08 is that we've touched a movement in this country that knows we need to do better. I am concerned that Americans still don't see the seriousness of the problem. Average families are smart enough to know they can't have kids 25th in math compared to other countries.”
“The reason we don't get the traction on this crisis is because people think it doesn't affect all children. Leadership must be on the hook and must challenge entrenched groups.”
"In the absence of real accountability, we will improve very little. The system needs to be based on accountability."
"The most important thing in improving education in the classroom is having a quality teacher in every classroom."
“The federal government should provide incentives to teachers who are getting real results with their students, the federal government can also put more dollar muscle behind changing the quality of teaching – we need real national leadership on this.”
"It will take national leadership to get this done...accountability, quality teaching and meaningful choice for families in high-poverty school districts."
"The real action takes place at the district level but we need a national umbrella to bring all of those efforts together, moving in the same direction. The federal government could reinforce what we are doing at the local level with greater resources."
“Education has to be the civil rights call of this century. We'll never fix poverty in this country until we fix education in this country.”
“All of the knock on the tests is that people want to avoid accountability. The most important thing in the quality of education is the teacher. Our neediest kids are not getting their fair share of high quality teachers. We must use federal dollars to incentivize choice in needy communities.”
“Local and national leadership matter. We should not let mayors off the hook. In New York City, we cluster similar schools and grade them annually. Give the people the information and data and you'll get citizens involved.”
"We're creating a two-tier society that creates a group of people without hope. With that comes an environment where crime, gangs and other negative aspects in our society thrive. All of this occurs when people don't receive a high-quality education."
"The business community needs to do more than it has done to date. We need to take a more involved approach to improving education and become a more visible, active and aggressive voice in creating lasting reform."
" Every time we leave a child or community behind we're exacerbating the problem. We need to look at education in a more practical sense - where do we get the workers to hold up this country? To take it to new heights?”
“The business community has not done as much as it could regarding education reform - business must take a more serious view, that's why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is working with John Podesta (Center for American Progress) and others. Business must become a more visible force - we won't be as successful as we can be unless we get involved.”
“We need real data to enable people and to get them involved.”
“Workforce demographics, global competitiveness, a need for high-skilled employees demand we get going with a plan now.”