Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 01/2015

For Each and Every Child: A strategy for Education Equity and Excellence

Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar

February 2013

Center for International Security and Cooperation


While some young Americans—most of them white and affluent— are getting a truly world-class education, those who attend schools in high poverty neighborhoods are getting an education that more closely approximates school in developing nations. In reading, for example, although U.S. children in low-poverty schools rank at the top of the world, those in our highest-poverty schools are performing on a par with children in the world’s lowest-achieving countries. With the highest poverty rate in the developed world,  amplified by the inadequate education received by many children in low-income schools, the United States is threatening its own future. A recent McKinsey report, for example, concluded that the inequities within the U.S. education system impose an economic impact on the country equivalent to a “permanent national recession.” To achieve the excellence and equity in education on which our future depends, we need a system of American public education that ensures all students have a real and meaningful opportunity to achieve rigorous college- and career- ready standards. A world-class education consists not solely of mastery of core subjects, but also of training in critical thinking and problem-solving, as well as in 21st-century concerns like global awareness and financial literacy. Such high levels of education are key to self-reliance and economic security in a world where education matters more than ever for the success of societies as well as individuals.