U.S. Department of Education: Promoting Educational Excellence for all Americans

Office for Civil Rights
2000 Annual Report to Congress

Our Goal Is Equal Access
To Quality Education

Providing all our children with the high-quality education they will need to succeed is one of the greatest challenges we face. In this new information age, driven by science and technology and an increasingly competitive global economy, the future of our children will depend, in large part, on the quality of education they receive in the classroom.

The statistics all point in the same direction. Almost 90 percent of the new jobs require more than a high school level of literacy and math skills. High-skill jobs are growing at nearly three times the rate of other jobs. Within the next decade, 65 percent of all jobs will require technology skills. The number of jobs requiring at least four years of college will more than double in the near future.

The link between education and earning power is confirmed by a range of economic studies. Fifteen years ago a worker with a college degree made 38 percent more, on average, than a worker with a high school degree. Today, that difference is 73 percent. Over the course of a career, a person with a bachelor's degree will earn, on average, $600,000 more than a person who has a high school diploma. This makes the return on a college investment nearly double the stock market's historical rate of return.

Nations that prepare all of their citizens for the new technology are going to enjoy the highest standards of living. If America is to remain a leader in the world community, all our children must have access to quality education. We cannot afford to permit discrimination against any segment of America's diverse population to interfere with the opportunity to receive a high-quality education.

In facing the challenge, we can draw encouragement from some of the progress we are witnessing. Our world is changing--and so are our schools. In 1980, a computer in a classroom was a novelty. Today, 72 percent of fourth-graders are using computers at least once a week. That's a step forward to prepare students to succeed in the information age.

Today, educators are working hard to include as many students as possible in challenging courses. The good news is that more students are taking the rigorous courses needed to prepare and succeed in the 21st century.

In 1997, more than two-thirds of high school graduates went directly on to college. That's up from fewer than half of all students in 1980. And for the first time in history, a majority of young African Americans are enrolling in higher education immediately after their graduation from high school.

It is critical that we continue to build on these accomplishments. In our efforts to promote both excellence and equity, we need everyone's ideas in identifying and promoting strategies to help close the remaining opportunity gaps.

Our children are the most priceless resource of this great nation. We can seize the enormous opportunities of the new millennium by making it possible for all our children to receive the first-class education they deserve. They and our country will be far the better for it.

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