"Ten million students in America’s poorest communities...are having their lives unjustly and irredeemably blighted by a system that consigns them to the lowest-performing teachers, the most run-down facilities, and academic expectations and opportunities considerably lower than what we expect of other students."
— For Each and Every Child
On February 19, a federal education commission charged with addressing the achievement gap in education in the United States released its first report — For Each and Every Child: A Strategy for Education, Equity and Excellence. The core conclusions: 1) states and the federal government must redesign funding so that resources are distributed based on student need and, 2), broad access to high quality preschool must be a national priority.
The nonpartisan Equity and Excellence Commission was established in 2010 within the U.S. Education Department at the behest of Congressmen Mike Honda (D-CA) and Chaka Fattah (D-PA). The commission includes researchers, union leaders, school officials, and civil rights activists.
According to a Stanford News Service story: "The report said that 10 million students in the country's poorest communities are 'having their lives unjustly and irredeemably blighted' by an education system that assigns them low-performing teachers, run-down facilities and low academic expectations and opportunities."
This report is the product of two years of deliberations among the commission's 27 members. The members agreed to focus their report on America's need for better school funding, high quality early childhood education, the necessary supports for teachers and school leaders, and mitigating poverty's adverse effects on learning.
Commission member and SCOPE co-director Linda Darling-Hammond notes, "We should fund schools equitably and ensure that all children get a high quality education because it is who we are as Americans. It is a moral calling. But the issue of educational equity is also increasingly a matter of economic self-interest. In a knowledge-based economy, we can no longer afford to educate only a small share of students well, while under-educating many others. Those who do not succeed in school are increasingly likely to be unemployed, on welfare, or incarcerated, rather than able to engage productively in the economy.
"In California, as the prison system has quadrupled and education spending has fallen, we having been spending $50,000 a year to incarcerate young people from under-resourced communities like Oakland and Compton, on whom we would not spend $10,000 a year to provide a decent education. As a result, we are now spending more on the corrections system than the public higher education system in California. High-achieving nations have understood that they grow their economies by creating a highly educated workforce that prepares all young people for the challenges of today and tomorrow.
"We hope that this report will call attention to the urgent need to create an equitable starting point for all children – with investments in their welfare and preschool education – that continues with equitably funded schools staffed by well-prepared and committed educators. Our recommendations outline what needs to be done to remain a world leader in the 21st century."
Two other Stanford faculty are also commission members: law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar and Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Eric Hanushek.
Cuéllar, commission co-chair, is quoted in the Stanford News Service story as well. He notes, "We have a staggering achievement gap at home. The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born 25 years earlier."
A new book, Global Education Reform: How Privatization and Public Investment Influence Education Outcomes, provides a powerful analysis of these different ends of an ideological spectrum – from market-based experiments to strong state investments in public education.