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Failing: The Public Will for Equity in Education

Nations strive for high academic performance and low variance from student to student and school to school.

Why? The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data has shown that nations who hit that sweet spot will in turn score major points economically in the years to come. In other words, excellence and equity in education is a major economic indicator.

When I say low variance in high academic performance, I mean that every student succeeds, even though there may be significant differences in the racial and ethnic make-up of schools or in the wealth of the children's parents.

Impossible, some say. But nations like Canada, Finland, and Singapore—replete with diversity—have achieved excellence with equity. They have designed education systems that don't leave children behind; rather they leave behind learning obstacles stemming from socio-economic status—and the excuses that go with them. The key to each of these countries' success? A national will to develop the potential of each and every child.

There is unfortunately very little evidence that a similar will truly exists within the United States. If anything, inequalities are increasing.

On average, one out of four children did not complete their education last year; the ratio is higher in urban areas. American schools are mediocre, at best, according to international rankings. And yet, creating equity in education is largely absent from public and political discourse.

We cannot sustain our standard of living, much less our security, if we don't somehow find a national will for excellence with equity—and in great haste.

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