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U.S. Education Reform and National Security

Summary of the Overview of the report from the Council on Foreign Relations

The Council on Foreign Relations sponsored an independent Task Force, which developed this report on how education plays a role in national security. Joel Klein, former chancellor of New York City’s school system; and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, were the chairs of the task force. The report states that the United States spends more on K-12 education than any other developed country, though they determined that our students are still behind students in all the other countries. They looked at the results from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international standardized test, and found that students in the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 25th in math, and 17th in science compared to the other developed countries.

The Task Force found that with U.S. students lagging behind the rest of the developed countries there is in fact a national security threat. They mentioned five specific threatened areas in the report: economic growth and competitiveness, physical safety, intellectual property, U.S. global awareness, and U.S. unity and cohesion. Each of these areas currently is or will become a vulnerable spot if we do not improve our education system.

The report discusses three proposals to attempt to fix America’s lagging education system. The first is to implement educational expectations and assessments in subjects that are important to our national security. To do this they are encouraging all states to expand the common core standards and include them in every classroom nationwide.

The second proposal is to make some structural changes in order to provide students and families with school choice options. The final report tells states to “stop locking disadvantaged students into failing schools without any options. …”

The last proposal from the Task Force is to have a “national security readiness audit” in order to hold schools and policymakers accountable for results and to raise public awareness.

Each of these proposals is what the Independent Task Force feels will help improve our national security and the overall education system. With only 43% of high school seniors reaching “college-ready” standards there is clearly a problem and if we do not fix it these students will pass through elementary school, secondary school, and post secondary school without knowing just how damaging it is to the country itself.

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