Yesterday, an endorsement by the Council on Foreign Relations of school choice and competition prompted the Wall Street Journal to ask, “Do you believe in miracles?”

In its report released yesterday, U.S. Education Reform and National Security, the Council on Foreign Relations concluded that “while the United States invests more in K-12 public education than many other developed countries, its students are ill prepared to compete with their global peers.” Specifically,

  • More than 25 percent of students fail to graduate from high school in four years; nearly 40 percent for African-American and Hispanic students.
  • Only about 25 percent of American students are proficient or better in civics.
  • Just 22 percent of American high school students meet college-ready standards in all of their core subjects. Percentages are even lower for African-American and Hispanic students.
  • Among college-bound seniors, only 43 percent met college-ready standards, so more college students need to take remedial courses.

“Educational failure puts the United States’ future economic prosperity, global position, and physical safety at risk,” warned the CSF Task Force, chaired by Joel Klein, former head of New York City public schools, and Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. secretary of state. The country “will not be able to keep pace—much less lead—globally unless it moves to fix the problems it has allowed to fester for too long.”

Among the CFR Task Force’s recommendations was making structural changes to provide students with good choices. “Enhanced choice and competition, in an environment of equitable resource allocation, will fuel the innovation necessary to transform results.”

The Task Force also recommended adding math and science to national common core standards and establishment of a federal-state “national readiness audit,” ideas the Wall Street Journal suggested sounded like gimmicks. Nevertheless, concluded the Journal, “the real story is how much progress the reform movement has made when pillars of the establishment are willing to endorse a choice movement that would have been too controversial even a few years ago.” Call it a miracle on the Upper East Side.