WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s security and economic prosperity are at risk if schools do not improve, warns a report by a panel led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Joel I. Klein, a former chancellor of New York City’s school system.
“The dominant power of the 21st century will depend on human capital,” the report said. “The failure to produce that capital will undermine American security.”
The report said that the State Department and intelligence agencies face critical shortages in the number of foreign-language speakers and that fields like science, defense and aerospace are at risk because a shortage of skilled workers is likely to worsen as baby boomers retire.
According to the panel, 75 percent of young adults do not qualify to serve in the military because they are physically unfit or have criminal records or inadequate levels of education. It said 30 percent of high school graduates do not do well enough on an aptitude test to serve.
The 30-member committee was organized by the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York-based research and policy organization.
Ms. Rice and Mr. Klein said in interviews that they were encouraged by efforts to improve schools, like the adoption by most states of new learning targets, known as the Common Core, in reading and math, as well as the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition, in which states compete for federal money in exchange for developing a system of teacher evaluations.
Mr. Klein said he hoped the findings would prompt discussion. “I don’t think people have really thought about the national security implications and the inability to have people who speak the requisite languages who can staff a volunteer military,” he said.
The panel made three main recommendations:
Not all panel members agreed with all the report’s findings. A dissent by Carole Artigiani, founder of Global Kids, said that a proposed national audit would only raise the stakes for standardized tests, and that money would be better used to improve the neediest school districts. Stephen Walt, an international affairs professor at Harvard, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, agreed.
Ms. Weingarten also said that parts of the report undermined schools, and that school choice options like vouchers and charters, which use public funds but are run by a third party, have not proved to be sustainable or to improve schools.