In America today, the reality is that access to opportunity is limited—especially for children living in poverty.
To reverse this trend, we need to rethink education
More than ever before, living a middle class life requires an advanced education. And, for children today, graduating from college is highly dependent on family income. Redesigning the education system so it works for low-income children—as well as it does for their affluent peers—would change everything.
Our education system was built for a different era
In the early 20th century, we had an industrial economy that mostly called for unskilled labor. Today, we have a knowledge-driven economy in which most jobs require a college education. But we still have an education system designed half a century before the first televisions arrived in American homes.
Affluent kids get what they need to succeed—and others don't
In early childhood, the most important phase of human development, low-income children have less access to learning experiences and more exposure to toxic stress. They are less likely to be ready for school by age 5, and throughout their school years, they won't have the afterschool and summer enrichment opportunities their affluent peers experience. Higher family income also grants access to healthcare and social capital.
What about the education reform efforts of the past 35 years?
In 1983, the report A Nation at Risk set off a wave of state and federal reforms and spurred government and business leaders to demand a high quality education for all students—not just the elite. These reforms were necessary but insufficient to achieve excellence and equity for all. Higher academic standards and aligned assessments, a more rigorous curriculum, and strategies to improve low performing schools resulted in some key successes. However, research on the impact of poverty on student achievement and the persistent link between socioeconomic status and educational attainment highlight the need for an expanded and integrated system of education and child development—one that offers early childhood education, access to healthcare, afterschool and summer enrichment, and college readiness.
America is at a critical moment
The dramatic rise in income inequality in the U.S. since the 1980s has tested the fabric of our democracy and exacerbated the unequal access to quality supports and opportunities for children.