In a badly botched answer to the final question during this year's Miss America Pageant, Miss Utah Marissa Powell stammered something unintelligible about men and women in the workplace and saw the crown slip away.
Her answer has already gone viral, but she did manage to hit on something true about the current state of the U.S.: education-wise, we're in trouble.
Her mumbled advice to "create better education" is actually valid in light of a chronic achievement gap that could threaten America's economic future.
The Renewing America initiative, an arm of the Council on Foreign Relations dedicated to bolstering American economic strength, released its federal education progress report today under the moniker "Remedial Education."
The report highlights a chronic achievement gap between socioeconomic groups when it comes to education, something that the CFR says is a significant disadvantage for the U.S. in terms of economic competitiveness.
The problems are hitting younger generations: America ranks first in high school completion amongst people aged fifty-five to sixty-four in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, but tenth amongst people aged twenty-five to thirty-four.
The report also points out that the generation starting jobs now is less educated than the generation retiring, a rarity amongst developed nations.
The problems start early, with school enrollment nearly universal amongst four-year-olds in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Japan but down to 69 percent in the U.S. American college students are also increasingly less-likely to finish post-secondary education on time.
Most problematically, while every strata of income and race has higher test scores and greater access to a college education than their parents, wealthy students have made significantly larger gains than their less-advantaged peers. For kids born in 2000, i.e. those currently around high school age, rich students outperform poor students by 127 percent on standardized testing.
More highlights from the progress report:
- The U.S. ranks 10th worldwide in high school-level educational attainment.
- We have the highest college dropout rate in the developed world.
- In 1965, the gap between the least selective colleges and the most selective colleges in per-student spending was $13,500. That gap is now up to $80,000 as of 2006.
- Only 29 percent of the lowest income students enroll in college, as opposed to 80 percent for the highest income students.
- Nearly half of students who enroll in post-secondary education still have not graduated within six years.
- Students in the top income quintile are eight times more likely to attend a highly selective college than those in the bottom income quartile.
While race is no longer the barrier to educational attainment it once was, the significant correlation between race and wealth.
The report encourages investment in high-quality pre-K programs for low-income students in an attempt to lessen the divide, as well as improved teacher performance metrics to see who's actually making a difference in the classroom.
You can read the full report, with great education-themed infographics, here.
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