ReMARCs: Achievement Gaps: Are we failing our children?

By Marc Morial

President and CEO, National Urban League

On Monday, I joined Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and National Council of La Raza President & CEO Janet Murguia, among others, in addressing a group of approximately 200 parent leaders and education activists during the National Assessment Governing Board’s Education Summit for Parent Leaders.

The goal of the one-day summit was to convey the urgency of improving student achievement in the United States for all children and of reducing achievement gaps between students.  This meeting and others like it are critical to continuing to raise awareness and drive action around necessary education reform in our nation.

This year marks 60 years since the U.S. Supreme Court called education “a right which must be made available to all on equal terms” in its Brown v. Board of Education decision.  Yet, since 1970, the achievement gap between high and low-income students has increased by almost 40%.  According to the most recent 8th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as The Nation’s Report Card, about 40% of all students were proficient or advanced in reading and math – compared to proficiency rates of Black students at 13% in reading and 10% in math.  As a nation, we trail other countries in the critical areas of math (26th), reading (17th) and science (27th) and are below-average in equity in education opportunities.  The economic impact of our achievement and graduation gaps is an across-the-board loss of tens of billions of dollars per year in earnings, increased GDP and sales.  But the cultural and psychological impact on our children is immeasurable.

We are facing an undeniable Education State of Emergency.  It’s time to invest in our children with the same level of commitment and resources that have built our nation up as the world’s #1 military power or that rescued and stabilized the financial system when it was on the brink of collapse.  When we commit ourselves to being the best, we do it.  Our children’s future is too big to fail.