I attended the Excellence in Action National Summit on Education Reform this week in Washington, D.C. It was fabulous. I heard empowering speeches from reformers such as Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and Chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education. His message of truly maximizing every student’s potential while preparing him or her for the work world of the 21st Century is something every educator needs to hear.
I also heard a very sobering report from Dr. Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State; Joel Klein, former chancellor of New York City’s public schools; with Dr. Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations.
The trio discussed a recent Council on Foreign Relations task force report. This independent, nonpartisan group reports that our failure to educate students in the United States leaves them unprepared to compete with global peers and threatens our country’s ability to thrive in the global marketplace and maintain our role as a world leader.
The report notes that while the United States invests more in K-12 public education than many other developed countries, its students are still coming in far behind global counterparts in subjects such as reading, mathematics and science. According to the results of the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment, U.S. 15-year-olds ranked 14th in reading, 25th in math, and 17th in science compared to students in other industrial countries.
The report also points to low graduation rates and ACT scores that show many of our students are not prepared for the rigors of college. This, of course, means these young people in many cases also are not employable or fit for military duty.
The good news is many of our education reforms in Oklahoma fit with the task force’s recommendations, which they believe will put the nation back on track to becoming an educational, economic and military leader.
The task force makes three recommendations:
1. Implement educational expectations and assessments in subjects vital to protecting national security. This includes the recommendation to expand to the new rigorous Oklahoma C3 Standards.
2. Make structural changes to provide students with good choices. Choice and competition, in an environment of equitable resource allocation, will fuel the innovation necessary to transform results.
3. Conduct a national security audit with published results to ensure students are gaining the skills and knowledge necessary to safeguard America’s future security and prosperity.
I know Oklahoma educators are working hard every day to ensure our students are prepared for whatever their futures hold, whether that be college, career or the military. With your effort and our continued implementation of needed education reforms, we are doing our part to safeguard our nation’s heritage.