U.S. Education Reform and National Security: Report of a CFR-Sponsored Independent Task Force

U.S. Education Reform and National Security: Report of a CFR-Sponsored Independent Task Force

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Task Force Chairs Joel I. Klein and Condoleezza Rice discuss the findings and recommendations of the CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force report on U.S. Education Reform and National Security.

ANYA SCHMEMANN (Communications Director, Council on Foreign Relations task force program): And happy official spring. It's a pleasure to have you all here today. I'm Anya Schmemann. I'm director of the council's task force program. And it's my pleasure to welcome you this morning to the release of the U.S. Education Reform and National Security Task Force. This task force is chaired by Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein, who appear on our panel. And the project was directed by Julia Levy, who joins us this morning.

Let me say a few quick words about CFR's task force program before we turn to our presentation. CFR task forces influence diverse groups of experts. We tackle major foreign policy issues and provide analysis and recommendations for policymakers. They are nonpartisan and independent of CFR. CFR takes no institutional positions on issues. And task force members are responsible for the content of the report.

Task force reports are consensus documents. Members endorse the general policy thrust and judgments reached by the group, but not necessarily every finding or recommendation. Members may submit additional or dissenting views, and you will find some of these at the back of the report.

Lastly, this task force is part of CFR's Renewing America initiative, which was launched in conjunction with CFR's 90th anniversary. The initiative examines the domestic underpinnings of U.S. global power, looking at issues such as infrastructure, trade, investment, deficits, human capital and, in this case, education.

Task force members are listed on the back of the report. You have received today a special pre-publication, hot-off-the-presses copy. We'll have printed copies available in a few weeks. But for now you are welcome to read this one.

Task force members are listed. And we have a number of task force members and observers with us today. And I thank you all for your service in this project. Of course many others were instrumental. And I must thank some hardworking staff here, especially my deputy, Kristin Lewis, and the task force RA, Elizabeth Leader. So thank you.

And with that, I turn it to our panel for what I expect to be a very interesting conversation. Thank you.

TERRY MORAN: Thank you, Anya. And welcome. I'm Terry Moran with ABC News. And I'm really pleased and feel privileged to be here as the council launches this effort to bring the foreign policy and national security communities into this effort which has been going on my whole adult life, to fix our education system. And so it's very exciting to me. I've taken a look at the report. It's chock-full of good stuff. And I hope we have a very good conversation.

You know, there are just a couple of ground rules, I just want to make sure that everybody turns off all of our devices so that -- so that we don't get the buzzes and the rings. And just a reminder that this is an on-the-record meeting, so everything that we say is on the record.

Our co-chairs need no real introduction, but I'll do it anyway. Joel Klein, who's now the chief executive officer of the education division at News Corp and the executive vice president in the Office of the Chairman of News Corp -- he is of course the former chancellor of the New York Department of Education. And Condoleezza Rice, now professor at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford, the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution -- She was our 66th secretary of state of the United States and national security adviser to President George W. Bush.

And I want to congratulate you both on this report and begin where we were just -- where we were just talking. Joel, the -- one of the aspects of the report that -- it was very striking to me -- is, in some ways, the biggest issue that it tackles, you know, why is education important to national security. One of the things that the report deals with is this notion of national cohesion, education as an aspect of national cohesion. And the way I shorthanded it was you can't defend the nation unless there is one nation. We live in a time where that's maybe come in doubt.

JOEL KLEIN: I think that's absolutely right. There are obviously multiple levels of implication for education and national security, but you put your finger, I think, on the heart of it. In fact, when Secretary Rice came to me a couple of years ago and we were talking about education, she said, you know, people really don't see this through the prism of national security, but that's such an important prism. And your point is in the absence of a coherent nation, one in which the glue keeps us together, our national security, our global reach, our voice -- all of those things will be affected.

And why it's so important is today more so than ever the perception is that there are a smaller and smaller group who are succeeding in America and a larger and a larger group who are moving in the wrong direction. For the first time ever we have a perception that our kids won't do better as a group than we did. And the result of that is that the game, in terms of cohesion, becomes fractured.

And the only solution -- there are lots of things we want to do to address that, but the only solution that's only going to have long-term payoff is to ensure education. And we are today, as the report points out, massively undereducating our kids. And unlike 50 years ago where a high school dropout or a high school diploma could get you a good job, those days are gone. And we have got to really realize that in a highly competitive, technologically driven global economy, it's going to be educate or disrupt. And that's the choices we face. And that's why this report sees that as such a critical national security issue.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Well, I would just add that our great American narrative has always been that it doesn't matter where you came from, it matters where you're going, or you can come from humble circumstances, you can do great things. And the key to that has always been education. In fact, it's always been public education.

One of the things that I want to underscore is that we do believe that the public education system -- it's not hyperbole, the report says, to say that it's one of our critical democratic institutions. And yet it is unable now, particularly for kids who don't have means, to deliver that ticket to a better life.

I was also provost of Stanford. And it -- to me, the health of our nation is when I can stand in front of a Stanford class and one kid is a fourth-generation Stanford legacy and the next kid is an itinerant farm worker's child or the first ever to go to college in the family. And the only way that that happens is through educational opportunity for all. And so we believe this goes right at the issue of America's cohesion.

MORAN: And our national security -- why?

RICE: Well, our national security on a number of fronts. First, as you said Terry, if we are not one nation, then we cannot defend one nation, and we don't have the confidence and the unity and the optimism to do what we have done, which is to go out into the world and to advocate for free markets and free peoples and to have that leadership role.

But it -- there are also some much more sort of technical aspects to this or tangible aspect to this. First of all, we're not educating enough people in the sciences and math and engineering and basic reading skills, for that matter, to take on the jobs that are available in the 21st century so that we have the competitiveness and the informativeness to continue to lead.

We know that we have difficulties in recruiting into the military from across folks of economic strata because of the failure to educate to the levels that the military needs, not to mention in foreign languages or cultures so that we have a ready group of people for the foreign service or for intelligence agencies. Think of the computer literacy that it takes to contribute to the problems of cybersecurity and critical infrastructure protection.

So across the board, human potential is what makes a nation great today. It's not what you can dig out of the ground, which it was in the 19th century. It's not what you can manufacture widgets along an assembly line, as it was in the 20th century. It is human capital. And the key to human capital is education. And that's why we believe that national security is indeed affected by the difficulties that our educational system -- (inaudible).

MORAN: There is one number in that report that would surprise a lot of people, and that is three-quarters of our kids are ineligible for the military. Some of those -- obesity, but a lot of those, either because they don't graduate high school, end up in prison or, even if they graduate high school, can't pass basic military tests -- it's not a winning formula.

KLEIN: It was -- it was stunning to see that. And it kind of jolted me with the -- with the sense that we talk about education often as a -- as an attribute of soft power, maybe. But the report, in specifics like that, discusses how it actually effects hard power, physical security of the country.

RICE: And one of the reasons, Terry, that we wanted to bring the national security community together around this -- and I want to thank the council and Anya and Richard Haass for foresightfulness in having the council look at the domestic sources of American strength and leadership. This is unusual territory for the council in some ways. But one of the reasons that we think it is so important for the national security community to become involved is it shows why there is a common interest in the education of our children.

You know, it can be too easy to say, well, I can send my kids to a good school; I can even send them to a private school, or maybe I'll move to an area where they'll be good public schools. But it really is a threat to each and every one of us if that kid in East Oakland isn't well-educated, or that kid in South Central LA, or in Anacostia for that matter. And that means that we have a collective national interest in the education of all of our children.

MORAN: And, Joel, if I could tap into your experiences as chancellor, did you find that it was hard to involve communities -- the haves, as it were, in the job of improving New York's public schools?

KLEIN: It was hard in one sense. Most people obviously are concerned about their own kid's education. But New York has got a pretty strong middle class invested in public education. And I think there was support there, not without issues and arguments and so forth. But I think there was generally support there.

The thing we found, though, is as we increasingly created options and choices in the city, more and more families from some of the more challenged neighborhoods got more involved because they saw the opportunity to really find what's best and what's right for their kids. And I think that's a powerful part of where this report wants to go in terms of choice, competition and empowering parents to make the best decisions for their kids.

MORAN: We'll get to some of the recommendations in a minute. First of all, to continue to talk about some of the problems, the notion of language education, of how important that part is for the Department of State, for the Intelligence services. And the country is falling behind other nations in that.

RICE: Other people learn other languages. (Chuckles.) And we are the most monolingual society -- major society on earth. And it's not just that -- people will sometimes take foreign languages, but they're absolutely incapable of saying the most elementary sentences in those languages. (Chuckles.) And so the state of foreign language teaching in our schools is just not very good.

And we know something very important now. We know that the brain imprints differently for something like languages if you start early. If you start learning a language when you're 20, you're not going to learn that language nearly as well as if you start to learn it when you're 7 or 8 or 10 or 11 -- and so getting foreign language into the schools.

We also make a pitch for civics education, or what used to be called civics education. Too many kids don't know anything about our country, about our history, about our institutions, about our democracy. And that too is a challenge.

So we know that we are asking, actually, a lot of our educational system these days in this report. And it's fair to say that our schools have an even tougher burden when today, as Joel said, a high school dropout or even a high school graduate is going to be brutally punished by the globalization and by this high-tech economy. And so we're asking a lot.

And to add to that civics and foreign languages and maybe even the arts, people may say, oh, well, wait a minute. But if you have high standards, we believe that teachers and kids can live up to them. We as a country can (do ?) this. If you have low standards, people will live down to them. And so part of this is setting high standards for ourselves.

KLEIN: But I think -- just to add one notion on that -- so we think -- right now we have an agrarian model of education. One of the things that's remarkable is so little has changed. So it used to be we had a 9:00-to-3:00 day, and we had basically 180 days a year. And the thought was, you know, the kid would go out and work in the farm before 9:00 and over the summer.

And so the idea that we're going to accomplish all the things that Secretary Rice is talking about and have a short school day and a short school year seems to me not to make sense. And schools that are starting to crack the code, extend the day, extend the year -- I'm pleased to see Mayor Emanuel in Chicago is now pushing that issue. We just need more time on task to literally accomplish some things the secretary is talking about.

Second of all, just to put an exclamation point on this civics thing, one of the things as chancellor that really did surprise me was how few kids knew basic facts about American history. There were -- the numbers in the report are really quite shocking. And so one of the things that I think we're spending too much time on is self-referential learning, how you feel about something, how it impacts you.

And knowledge acquisition is tough stuff, but in absence of -- in the absence of knowledge acquisition, we are not going to get kids to be higher-order thinkers. We're not going to get them to really take on the tough complicated issues that they need to face. So one of the things that I think inexorably flow from this, Terry, is we've got to think differently, not just tinker around the edges, but think differently about the K-to-12 model.

MORAN: And I want to zero in on one subject area or two: math and science education, which obviously in a technological era is so critical and obviously -- well, we're not doing very well, in comparison with how we used too or compared with the rest of the world. And I have a question that I'm not sure is answerable. What happened? What went wrong? Why can't we add? Well, we can, but you know what I mean.

RICE: Well -- (chuckles) --- don't take that for granted.

KLEIN: So I think a lot of things changed, but I think one of the things that changed is when I went to public school in New York in the 1950s women had far fewer opportunities in life. And I think the teaching core has changed dramatically.

The countries that succeed in the world are recruiting their teachers from the top 10, 15, 25 percent of college graduates. For a long time America hasn't done that. We need to upgrade our teachers, support our teachers, provide constant learning and training for them. And one of the things in the report we make a point of saying as move toward a common core, the resources to support that has to be there.

Second of all, quite frankly, I don't think there's been enough political will to change the basic issues K-to-12. We have a system that's -- we spend $700 billion a year. After health care, it's the second-highest expenditure in our society. And that $700 billion protects a lot of current interests. And so trying to change that is not easy.

And one of the things, I think, that's important about the report -- and it's so great to see people from outside the education world here today -- is to say just what the secretary said. This problem is all of ours, and it's going to take citizenry willing to challenge the status quo and ensure that the general interests of this country triumph on these issues. And that will mean we need significant change. Small-bore tinkering is not going to get us where we need to go.

RICE: And on the math-science side, I do want to say, you know, we wanted to be careful not to suggest just rote learning, that people need to have critical -- skills of critical thinking and analysis. But there is to math and science actually some rote learning. You have to know the basics.

And one of the problems -- when I was provost at Stanford, we worked -- we were working with the School of Education because in some of our schools of education, subject-matter learning for those who will then actually go into the classroom and teach chemistry or math isn't very strong. And it's not the math major or the chemistry major who then goes and teaches in the schools.

And so we need to look also at some of the issues or -- of who's teaching, particularly higher math once you get to high school or higher sciences once you get to high school, and are they really trained to do it?

MORAN: Well, teacher training. Technology is something that's obviously dominating our lives. And it kind of teaches us itself, doesn't it? I mean, what is the impact of the fact that half the country now has smartphones and that the way software increasingly works is -- it is an educator?

KLEIN: So I think we got to be smart about technology. I think the big myth is somehow, give every kid a computer, and it'll solve all the problems. And that's not going to work. But how we think about technology, I think, is potentially important.

Most people probably saw this weekend they had Sal Khan on "60 Minutes" and the Khan Academy. And a number of people who literally are on his website studying math in particular and finance and business is really exciting. And he's trying to flip the model.

Now, I'm not saying it's the only way to think about it. He's trying to say a lot of the work of mastering the basics, of learning how to do square roots, of algebra -- that can be done at home for kids. And the classroom can really apply a lot of that knowledge. So now you're not just learning math, but you're building bridges to understand what's really mission-critical.

And I think there's the hope in technology. But again, the school system is resistant. There are things that technology can do to help educate our kids. In the end, you're going to need great teachers. It's going to be -- that's always going to be a core part.

But there are things that teachers are now being asked to do that technology can do. Not every teacher has to plan a lesson plan every single day that she uses once until the next year. There are things like that that you're seeing come into the school system.

But I will tell you just a simple example of how resistant the school system is to change and innovation. We created a lot of small high schools in New York. And what we found was in some of them, there weren't enough kids to take an AP class with a teacher. You'd have three or four kids who wanted to take advanced placement physics.

Well, in New York they had a rule that said -- this is called seat time. And it said unless you had a live teacher, you couldn't get credit for the high school course. Now, there are these good online courses in advanced placement. And of course, if the kid passes it, he gets college credit and certainly should get high school credit.

I could not for six years get that rule waived in New York. And I'd say to them -- I'd say, look, it doesn't make sense. If the kid can get college credit for this by passing a rigorous AP exam, why shouldn't she get high school credit? And I was told, that's not the way we do things. And I kept saying, I understand; that's why I'm asking for a waiver. (Laughter.)

But -- no, you laugh -- you laugh, but that show -- I mean, it -- you couldn't even explain it. But that's a feather-bedding rule, right? We want a live person teaching no matter what. And so if a kid has three kids in his school who want to take AP physics, now that's -- those kind of things are starting to break down.

Think of the challenges in rural America. When I left the New York City Public Schools, on the last day I was there, I watched a class being taught by a teacher from Arizona who got up at 6:00 in the morning, who was a great math teacher, who we literally Skyped in to teach a math class. Why can't we start to think about those opportunities so the shortage of teachers in rural areas and poverty areas can change dramatically, software that can actually help instruct, customize? If you're having trouble with fractions and I'm having trouble with decimals, one teacher -- going to have a hard time balancing all of that. But they're a way to drive exercises toward kids and mini-lessons and instructions. And all of that, I think, is the promise of technology. It's not just putting an iPad in the hands of a kid.

MORAN: One of the things in the report is the -- is the international perspective, comparing and contrasting what do we do right, what do we do wrong. When you take a look at other countries, first, how serious is the threat that the United States is falling behind in this attribute of national power? And what are they doing that we're not?

RICE: Well, clearly, we are falling behind in the sense that if you look at those numbers and United States is 17th in this and 30th in that, that we don't tend to think of ourselves -- and we're talking -- (chuckles) -- among our peers our -- the industrialized or the developed countries -- we don't tend to think of ourselves as that far down the list on almost anything else that I can imagine. And yet we accept that somehow for our schools and for our kids' performance on math or science tests.

Now, people will say, but there is a paradox, which is that we still are the most innovative and creative society. Out in the Silicon Valley where I live, we're still doing the Facebooks and the Twitters, and there's something new every -- so how are we doing it?

Well, first of all, we're doing it with an increasingly narrower slice of our society, the people who do go and get engineering degrees. And we are importing the talent. Now, I am a major proponent of immigration as one of the great strengths of our country. But if it ever becomes the case that we are mostly importing the talent and not developing it here, that's going to be another split.

And you feel it in some of the venom in the immigration debate, where there's something underneath that they are taking our jobs. And so we want to be sure that we're training it here. So that's how we're staying innovative and creative. And it's a short-term fix. We've got to broaden the base of people who can do that kind of creativity and innovation.

What do they do differently? I think, again, Joel can probably speak to it. Clearly, time on task is some of it. We have the shortest learning day and the shortest learning year practically in the industrialized world; that's not a good thing.

And secondly, obviously, the teachers -- the teaching corps is respected and valued in ways that I think we sometimes don't the right messages about how important it is to be a teacher.

And so those are some of the things that we need to change. And is it hurting us? Absolutely. If we're being outeducated, we're going to be outcompeted. There's no doubt about that.

MORAN: And that'll affect our interests and the ability to project power?

RICE: It will affect our interests to do everything from project power to compete in the international economy to creating jobs for our people.

KLEIN: Well, you know, I don't remember a time -- maybe others do, but I don't remember a time when there was a sense in America of this divisive notion that the game is rigged, there are people on the top who have kind of figured this out, crony capitalism and the like, and then the rest of us somehow are not going to get our shot at the American dream.

You know, the glue in America is this notion that the secretary keeps talking about. It's not where you come from, it's where you're going to, and a poor kid from nowhere can show up -- and there are several of them here, friends of mine, who literally show up at the top of their field, top of their profession and so forth.

Well, if people don't believe that, and it becomes simply a game of, I want to get mine because everybody's getting theirs, then I think we're going to end up with the kind of lack of unity. We don't have a shared religion. We don't have a shared sort of historical culture. We have this uniquely American thing, and that impacts it.

So take today. If you look at high school dropouts, their unemployment rate is multiples ahead of college graduates. And in fact, there were people who would tell me all the time, I have jobs; I just don't have people with the skills for the jobs.

(The secretary ?), who teaches at Stanford, will tell you kids coming to Stanford don't write as well as they need to write, don't think in a way that really reflects that investigative reporter type of thing. And that's an issue for education.

And you say, what are other countries doing? Well, look at Korea, for example, where discretionary spending by families after living goes to education. I mean -- and the time and the amount of commitment and the aspirations of families -- all of those things take a toll. The respect for teachers in Japan -- the teacher is called sensei. That connotes something.

All of those things I think really affect this. But the short answer to your question is the global companies of today will search out talent where it is. They don't feel conscripted to stay in the U.S. And that will have long-term implications for all these issues, Terry.

RICE: And I just want to add, you know, the -- Joel talked about the destructive dialogue that you hear. Now, the American narrative has never been one of aggrievement and entitlement. It's always been, Give me a chance, and I'm going to do better than they do, or my kids will. And education has always been the key to that.

But what we wanted to do in the report was to be very careful to acknowledge what others are doing -- the Singapores, the Chinas, the South Koreas, the Finlands, all very fine systems -- but not to say that the United States needs to look like that, because we are unique. We are a federal system, where the states play a much greater role and we respect the role of the states, not just the federal government, in this struggle.

We wanted to be sure that we built on our strength for innovation and creativity, not just rote learning, because some of those folks in places like Korea or Singapore will say, well, your kids can think; we want to preserve that.

And it led us to look at what our strengths really are: competitiveness, competition among -- you know, the higher education systems -- you said we'll get to the recommendations, but one of the things that the higher education system in the United States has which is the gold standard internationally -- that's where everybody wants to go to school internationally -- it has competition. We compete for students at Stanford. They compete for students at Ohio State. They compete for students in small colleges.

And we have also a multiplicity of choices that can fit your circumstances. Maybe you will do well in a big research university. Maybe you'll do better in a small liberal arts college. Maybe a big state school is fine for you. Maybe a historically black college is better for you.

And so the competition, the variety, the options tell us something about how education might be included.

MORAN: (Off mic) -- to open it up for discussion. I hope we do get to some of the recommendations in that. And also the -- (off mic) -- but the politics of it, what Joel was saying about our attitudes. I mean, one can't imagine a presidential candidate -- at least I can't -- saying college is for snobs -- (off mic) -- (laughter) -- when I was growing up. And that's not to comment on the candidacy at all, but that is a reflection -- (laughter) -- seriously, it's not, but I -- we've got just a couple of ground rules. Wait for the microphone. Speak directly into it. Keep your questions and comments as concise as possible, so we can get to as many as possible.

But I'd like to begin with Randi Weingarten, who -- there were some dissenting statements signed on to much of the report. Randi, of course, has been a leader of teachers and teaching for many years, and I just wanted to give you an opportunity to share your perspective and where you come from on this.

RANDI WEINGARTEN (president, American Federation of Teachers): Sure. Would you like me to stand up?

So you know, I was very honored to be a member of the task force, as were several of the other dissenting opinions, and we had some very robust conversations about some of the areas that we disagree on.

But let me lean into for a second where we agreed, because this notion of how we use education to reignite America is a really important notion, and having CFR as part of this and having more of the community as part of this is very, very important. And that's why I was engaged in this process.

I think about Joel's point and Secretary Rice's point about civics and science and math -- I think about it, actually, in early childhood, which wasn't touched on in the report. We know that a third of the achievement gap for American children happened between 3 and 5 years old.

We also know the return on investment in early childhood is anywhere from you invest a dollar, we get back $7 in reduced spending later on and reduced other costs, like the prison -- school-to-prison pipeline -- we know all that, and yet only 27 percent of our kids are in early childhood -- (off mic). That is a clarion call for needing more people involved in this process, because without that, it's only the people who have kids that get involved in this process. So I think that's really, really important.

The places that -- where we disagreed was simply on the issue of not whether or parents should have choices but what happens in terms of a system and kids, ultimately, if it's an opt-out system as opposed to an investment-in system.

And I was very appreciative particularly of Secretary Rice's comments about the importance of public education and how, as our population is getting poorer -- half of our population is under 200 percent of poverty right now -- the population is getting poorer, the responsibilities that public education now have.

And the last thing I would say is that in the systems that outcompete us -- and I was just in Singapore, I was just in China, I was just in Japan -- some of the systems that outcompete us -- they do still look at us as the innovators of the world. That's absolutely correct.

But what they actually do in a place like Singapore, which is a very market-oriented place, they have more of a public education system than we would ever have. They -- and Tom Friedman said this as well in his -- in his comments a few weeks ago -- Finland and Singapore see the fact that a public system lifting all boats is the way to go, and in fact they've invested in -- they've trained people up, they pay people appropriately, and people -- and what you see is the results of that.

So really thank you very, very -- (off mic).

RICE: Can I just --

MORAN: You bet.

RICE: -- I'd really like to acknowledge and thank Randi and several others for their engagement in this. I very often hear, well, we're so polarized and nobody ever wants to try to come to common agreement. And if we can't have difficult discussions where we disagree in a civil manner, then we're not going to come to good solutions to our country's problems. And I think that I feel that it was a model of engagement, and I want to thank you for that, Randi. I know that for many years you have been a fearless warrior on behalf of our kids, and even though in the end we disagreed about certain elements of the report, thank you for your engagement.

KLEIN: Let me add my thanks as well, and when Randi was a fearless warrior, I was often on other side of the debate. (Laughter.)

MORAN: I know that. I was, (Mr. Chairman ?) --

KLEIN: But this was, I think, genuinely a productive process, and I do appreciate your comments this morning.

MORAN: Hm. OK, let's open it up right here. Please wait for the mic and just identify yourself, please.

QUESTIONER: Than you. My name is Christopher Graves with Ogilvy. And thank you very much for a great report, especially credibility of including the dissent in this.

My question is, are we trapped? And I've got a daughter born in Singapore, and I'm a permanent resident of Hong Kong, so I've experienced -- are we trapped in a guilt cycle with American teachers in that we treat them so poorly, pay them so little, that we're afraid to fire them, so that if it were private sector, it would be a very, very different approach? And I'm not advocating the public education private, but I'm saying the approach to managing, recruiting and effectively reviewing teachers -- are we trapped in a guilt cycle?

KLEIN: I think that that may be a dimension of it. I think we're sort of trapped in a cycle of our own making, which is very hard to change and why I don't think you can simply look at another country and say we should have their model, because we have -- you know, it's the hardest thing in the world that when I was chancellor, you got to both fly the plane at the same time you're trying to redesign it. And that's a perilous endeavor under the best of circumstances, as General Miller (sp), I'm sure, will tell you.

But I think we really -- the model that is not working in teaching is fundamentally a nondifferentiation model, where excellence is not the driver, seniority is. And any system in which seniority is the essential and excellence is not will end up with the kind of system we have right now, where reward length of stay, where actually the economics are all back-ended, so that you need -- to try and attract young people in the earlier years are very hard to do.

Some of that is giving way now, but one of the reasons why I think choice is such a powerful lever in this is, I think schools will have to start to compete more. I know that there are issues whenever people engage in competition. But when people talk about why America is the most innovative country, for all of the issues we face, one of the reasons is clearly because we're highly competitive -- (off mic) -- country. And when you see people like Steve Jobs really are American icons -- he was as competitive a person as anyone we know, and I think if schools were forced -- instead of having a guaranteed allotment of kids, were forced to differentiate, to compete, to look for excellence, to reward excellence, to innovate, all the things that drive the successful aspects of our economy, I think that would change K to 12 in America.

MORAN: Great. Let's go right up here. Ma'am.

QUESTIONER: I'm Mitzi Wertheim with the Naval Postgraduate School. I want to ask about some of the politics of this. I was -- when Bush I was working on trying to improve the education system, I was a part of the IBM team working on that.

And we have 16,000 school boards. They don't seem to be playing a very (good ?) role, as best as I can tell, and yet they have a lot of -- it's -- they have a lot of control. Politics in the districts started at the school board. How do you change that?

RICE: Well, again, this is something that Joel has, I'm sure, the scars to show for it. So I'll defer to him.

But if I could just say one thing about the politics, I do think that -- and we hope this report will be part of it -- something is changing underneath. People know that we can't keep going the way that we can (sic). And a lot of leadership is coming out of the state houses, where they are at least a little bit closer to the problem, and with mayors, where they're even closer to the problem.

And so one thing that we wanted to do was to say, through the national security prism, this -- there is a federal role, but let's get the federal role right, which is to have a sense that we are one nation and therefore we ought to have some common standards, which why we endorse the Common Core, as it's called. But the Common Core was developed by governors. And so we really do want to respect the federalism, the localism, the decentralized nature of the American system, but recognizing that we are one country and it absolutely has to be the case that the kid in Alabama and the kid in Texas and the kid in California and the kid in Minnesota all have the same basic skills. If we have a sort of common set of expectations, then I think the more decentralized character of our system is less of a problem as people find local solutions to the implementation of those common standards.

KLEIN: Your example is, to me, just perfect, right? We've got these 16,000 school -- you couldn't have -- if you came from Mars and looked at it, you'd say, how did they design that? Right? Would try to change a one of them, because -- and it's a classic example of what I think is a larger issue. And I've got to be careful saying this in Washington, D.C., but so often now in our politics, the special interests triumph this general interest, and that's because we allow that.

In the end, the people who run the school board, they will fight like to the -- they'll fight like hell in order to protect their little fiefdom. No question. I mean, you see this time and time again. And the rest of us, life is too short, so we go about it. So, so often our policies are really corrupted, in a sense, by those people who are re protecting status quo interests.

And so one of the hopes of this report, and why it's so great to see so many people from outside the school world here, is that people will start to prioritize. Business people ask me all the time, what can I do to improve K-12 education? And I have lots and lots of concrete ideas, but I always say the first one is, when you next go to the state house, when you're next meeting with your congressperson or your senator, make sure you prioritize K-12 education. You know, you may want some tax provision or you want some environmental abatement or some other issue, but if we don't prioritize these things, they're not going to happen. And that's the only way I know in a democracy to change these things.

MORAN: I just wanted to follow up quickly on the idea of localized control of the schools and curriculum. And one of the recommendations in the report is to strengthen and adopt the core curriculum. But that does get into politics, because we are different across the country, and some communities will be more comfortable, frankly, teaching Darwin than others.

KLEIN: (Inaudible) -- whether -- if you go to Creationism first, you crowd out the discussion, right? (Laughter.) I mean, life is -- look, there's a whole --

MORAN: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)

KLEIN: How about algebra? How about calculus? (Laughter.) How about fundamentals of reading? One of the things that shocked me in K-12 was how little time kids spend reading complicated texts. Forget what the meaning of the text is. How about understanding the text? And that kind of work is equally important in California as it is in Alabama, as it is in Minnesota. And countries that are doing well in driving the global education scene invariably have high national standards. If you compared America's standards to Korea's standards, what you see is kids in Korea are learning math a couple of years ahead of kids here in America. That can't be different in Alabama.

Now, if we have to carve out a Creationism-Darwinian exception so that, you know, we get through that space, fine, but let's get the 90 percent where everyone admits our kids need to be able to do these things.

RICE: Put simply, it would be nice if they could read either text. (Laughter.)

MORAN: And then make up their mind.

RICE: Right.

MORAN: OK, I'm going to go way in the back there. Actually -- OK, we'll go there. You bet.

QUESTIONER: Good morning. Rob Muller with CNA Education. Terrific discussion. I have -- and I'll be really brief -- a plea, a comment and a question.

The plea is regarding education research, and it seems to me an area that the task force could really have a national voice on. If you look at federal investment in education research, education is in the other line. You know, other sectors have a big chunk of change; education doesn't. And it seems to me to advance the goals that you've articulated here. How the nation invests in education -- in research specifically related to education is really critical. So that's the plea.

Comment is: Extended learning time, maybe; it depends on how you do it. There is a state that heard that and passed a law that said if you don't do well in reading, you can do it twice. And if you flunk the second time, you can do it a third time. Impact on student achievement, not so much. So it depends on how you implement and how you change teaching practice to effect these kinds of changes.

The question is regarding your idea of national coherence and how do you do that, particularly in the political environment that was just identified, and how do you identify, you know, the aspects of political coherence; what it means to be educated in an environment that is so diverse, where there are so many different values at play.

MORAN: (Fair ?) question.

RICE: It's a very good question. (Inaudible) -- university, and so research is very key. I will say that I'd like to see education research really drive toward understanding the data. Now, we have really -- I've been stunned at how poor the data are in the educational space, actually because we don't collect it very well; it's not nationally collected. If I want to do something on trade policy, I can go to 10 major data sets that are all very unified and are kept up to date. Collecting it state by state, city by city makes the education space -- not to put too fine a point on it, but sometimes data free. And I think we could do much more on that. And one of the notions of the national audit is we would do something about better -- better data.

Let me just say, on national coherence, it's a very difficult thing, because in the United States, it is an intangible in our psyche. And when something is intangible and in your psyche, it's hard to get your arms around it but you know it's there and you know when it begins to break down. And I do think it comes to this notion that everybody gets a fair shake to be very, very good and everybody gets a fair shake to succeed. And so much of that, the core has been the educational system, and the public educational system that gave people who came from modest means a way to a better life.

And so I would say if you went to most Americans -- I don't know what the numbers are, but most Americans -- I don't care whether they immigrated here and are now first-generation, or maybe the kids are second-generation, whether they've been here since the Mayflower, whether they have a Hispanic surname or a German surname or a Chinese surname, that's either why they are here or why their parents were here or their grandparents were here; somebody believed that in the United States of America, if you worked hard you could have a better life. And that really does set us apart. Nobody was born to it. Nobody was born king, nobody was born into nobility, nobody was trapped permanently in this or that class. That, I think, is actually the key to our national cohesion.

Now, I don't think that it varies across ethnic groups, across, really, economic classes, but it is fragile, and we have to make sure that it's true. One reason that it was so powerful in the United States is it was true. And it ever becomes not true because the educational system can't deliver it, then there's o hope of rebuilding it, however much we talk about it.

MORAN: It was true in part because the schools worked.

RICE: It was true because the schools helped people -- (inaudible). Now, it is also true that some people were fortunate -- let me say fortunate, by the nature of the economy, that the $18 an hour unskilled labor job was there if you didn't make it through the education system. So, ironically, you're punished even more now for not being educated, just by globalization and by the technological capacity or the technological nature of -- (inaudible).

KLEIN: It seems to me that's such a critically important point, but I guess my question back to you would be, what's Plan B? In other words, given the challenges we face, education increasingly is going to have to play that lever. And if people don't believe that they can get a fair shake because their kids can get educated to a level they weren't educated, then I think this cohesion erodes.

On your other point -- I'll just say it quickly -- you're absolutely right and I should have made it clear. More time poorly spent is not the solution. And one of the things even -- and I agree completely with Randi on pre-K, but one of the things I will say is, poor pre-K is no solution either. And this country made a massive investment in Head Start, and I'm a big supporter of Head Start, but we didn't get a massive return for the investment we made.

So the quality of education -- six hours of great is a lot of better than eight hours of poor. Just like a class with a great teacher and 25 kids is better than a class of 20 kids and a poor teacher. That issue of excellence has got to drive this discussion.

MORAN: Two of the big stories we in the media have been covering over the past year, the presidential campaign and the Occupy Wall Street movement, one thing you see when you go to cover both is that sense that the game is rigged, as you pointed out and as you put it, the sense of deep frustration and fear, anxiety that that ideal that's made us who we are is eroding. And that's really important.

Now, I want to go to one of our -- one of our participants through our national program, remotely. This is a question from John R. Baker (ph), who's U.S. Air Force, retired, in Dardanelle, Arkansas. He raises a complete -- a very interesting area. How do you view the decline in the number and types of trade schools in the United States -- especially (as ?) we've been talking about skill sets that are declining -- for kids leaving secondary schools without the aptitude or interest in university. They need a way to get a trade. Are trade schools important in the task force's view?

KLEIN: First of all, this is a teachable moment. You're sitting there with an iPad getting this question.

RICE: (Laughs.)

KLEIN: This is the way technology can -- it's changed your world.

MORAN: Totally.

KLEIN: It's got to change the education world. The answer to this question, though, is actually -- it's a terrifically important question, and I'm glad that we got somebody from Arkansas to raise it -- because I do think we have this paradigm in our mind that kids have to be college-ready or career-ready. We have a sense of what college-ready means, which a lot of kids today are not. We don't have any sense of what career-ready is; we haven't thought intelligently about that.

One of the last things I did in New York, which really took off, was to put together a school with IBM that's in -- nine to 14. So it's high school and a two-year community college; changed the way community college does business. If you graduate that school, you get certificated if you can pass a rigorous exam by IBM to be a technician and they guarantee you a job as long as there are job openings at IBM. That motivated so many kids that when business people ask me how to think about this, there's so much opportunity.

Rahm Emanuel who is a copycat, who wanted a whole lot more; now opened up five of those schools in Chicago.

RICE: (Laughs.)

KLEIN: Good for him. No, five of those schools. And I think that model will take (on ?).

We have a school in New York City, a construction trade school, where a kid graduates high school and is apprenticed right into this construction (trade's ?) union; starts out with, oh, $40,000 a year; and that attracts lots of people into it. So when businesses ask me, I think this is a real opportunity for skills training because I don't think 100 percent of our kids are going to go to four-year liberal arts colleges.

MORAN: Great. Let's continue.

Way in the back row there, the gentlemen right there.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Deng Quiu (ph) with China's Review News Agency. A very quick question for Dr. Rice. Why "Tiger Mom" is so popular -- (laughter, scattered applause) -- and controversial in the United States?

MORAN (?): Oh, that's a great question.

RICE: Yeah, it is a great question. I think "Tiger Mom" was very popular because parents really are always looking for models of parenting. You know, how am I going to make my kid better? And this seemed to be a kind of answer, although people -- some people were a little uncomfortable with quite how aggressive the "Tiger Mom" was. But, you know, having myself had a kind of "Tiger Mom" when I grew up, I understood. I will tell you a very quick story in that regard.

And parents are very important here, and Joel makes the point that, when parents believe they have good options, they will be involved. It -- I think it's rarely true that parents don't care what happens to their kids. But what you -- some of you know that I was a musician. So, when I was three years old, I started to learn to play the piano. When I was 10 years old, I decided I wanted to quit, and I went to my mom, and I said, "I'm quitting." She said, you're not old enough or good enough to make that decision. (Laughter.) And I continued to play and got to play with Yo-Yo Ma many years later. So I think that's why people like "Tiger Moms." They are pretty directive. (Laughter.)

KLEIN (?): "Tiger Moms" work.

MORAN (?): (We're ?) going to leave it right there, sir. Good, good, good.

And more. We'll go over to this side now.

Ma'am. Right there.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Vivian Lowery Derryck, The Bridges Institute. And thank you for this really stimulating presentation.

(Coughs.) Excuse me.

Usually when we think about education, we think about access, quality, retention and completion. We've talked a lot about access and quality. I'm wondering if you can give us a little bit more about retention and what you found in your study. Thank you.

KLEIN: So what we found generally on retention is two things: Kids that were doing well, obviously, were -- they felt a sense of success, the empowerment and the retention. And that retention leads, in turn, to completion.

The second thing we found in terms of retention was that at least in some instances -- and this is referenced in a report -- really this personalization issue became important. And I -- what I meant by that is we have -- there was a report out yesterday from America's Promise that touched on this, too -- we've had too many of these schools that are really dropout factories. And they shine -- and President Obama shined a spotlight on it; Secretary Powell and Alma Powell shined a spotlight on it; and what we see is a declining number of these dropout factories. Basically the culture of a school is only a quarter of those kids or 35 percent of those kids'll succeed. What you're going to see is that erodes retention.

Indeed, the most important question I used to ask when I walked into a school -- in a high school, I'd say, who runs this school? And in most New York City schools, you never got the answer you were hoping for: the principal. You always got, you know, this kid who is the toughest kid -- (laughter) -- no, you're laughing. No, no, you're laughing, but it's pretty powerful because that's -- and those factors really intensify and exacerbate. But, in the end, nothing succeeds like success and education, and just as parents feel empowered, kids feel empowered.

I met with one kid that was an NCLB transfer we had. The kid was going to a school, and he was just -- couldn't do it. And I knew the kid could do the work, but he just kept failing. Went to another school where he transferred to, his parent moved him out from Staten Island to Brooklyn. And I said, man, I said, you're like an A student now; what happened? He said, well, in the other school, nobody expected anything; nobody did anything. Here, he said, you couldn't get away; you would stick out like a sore thumb, and I got engaged. I said, how do you feel about it? He said, I hate to tell you this, because in the old school if you said this, they'd laugh at me. But I got to tell you: I love it.

And those factors create a positive feedback loop, and we've got to be willing, hard as it is sometimes -- break up big, massive, dysfunctional schools so that the psychology of the place isn't toward failure and dropout.

MORAN: Time for a couple more here.

Sir, right here. (Thank you ?).

QUESTIONER: Thank you very much for giving us a great opportunity of talking about education. My name is Imuah (ph) from Mitsubishi (ph) Heavy Industries.

This year is the amahadat (ph), anniversary of the Cherry Blossom, given from the Japanese government to the United States, and taking this opportunity, we are going to have a grand tea ceremony at this end of March at the Embassy of Japan. And the tea ceremony is -- this is a two-year kind of package of education program in some aspect for conservation, following the tradition and the sometime -- (inaudible). And my question is, how do you (respect ?) to a different way of education. of a different country, based on the different culture and different society, not only in school basis, but also traditional role -- each society. Thank you very much.

RICE: Well, there is no doubt that despite all of the talk about globalization and homogenization that we do maintain different cultures and people have different expectations, different ways of learning. But I think that the one thing that globalization has done is it's demanded that, whatever cultural context you come from, however that culture (met ?), you'd better know some of the same things.

And so part of our goal here was to recognize that the United States is different than some of those competitors that we have talked about. We're decentralized. Our kids are -- I mean, let's just put it -- maybe not as disciplined as kids in some parts of the world. (Laughter.) They're just not going to behave in certain ways, and you do have to address them in different ways.

But the one thing that I think is common in human beings is that they like to achieve, and they actually know when they're achieving and when they don't, which gets to Joel's point about the virtuous cycle. When kids know that they are doing better, then they have higher expectations of themselves. When their teachers have high expectations of them, then they do better and then you get into a virtuous cycle.

So even if our children perhaps will not walk in a straight line to their -- to their seats, as they might do in some cultures, when they get there, I would hope that we're doing everything we can to give them a sense of achievement. But real achievement, you know, not the self-esteem -- gee, everybody gets a trophy and everybody gets a medal. Kids know better; they know when they're not doing well. But real achievement -- and I think that's actually pretty common across all cultures.

MORAN: Great. We have time for one more question. Just wanted to remind everyone that this meeting has been on the record.

So one more question, and we'll go right over to -- (inaudible).

KLEIN (?): Now you tell us?

RICE: Yeah. (Laughter.)

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Keith Schulz with the U.S. Agency for International Development. How does the report address the issue of investment in education, declining investment in education, and not just because of, you know, short-term declines because of the economic crisis, but what I see as long-term declines in support for investment in education? I think you have to look no further than the state of California, where, you know, 40 years ago the state had what was seen to be the best school system in the country, and now because of declining, you know, budget and increasing demands, I don't think you can make the same case in California. So how does the report deal with garnering, you know, public support, making the case to the public that, you know, a better education system is going to require more financial investment? Thank you.

KLEIN: So I think -- a couple of things. I think, first of all, you're certainly right about California. We look at the fact from 1960 to 2010 the amount of money in K to 12 that the country has invested in real dollars has gone up 3 times. We've actually almost doubled the number of teachers in that period of time. And one -- some of that relates to special education, but a lot of that relates to general education.

And one of the things we focus on is how the money is being spent and not just how much we're spending. We are mindful of the short-term issues, but we also say it's going to be a cruel hoax if we try to move toward these national common core standards or (state agreed-on ?) without making the investments in teacher supports and training and other thing. So we're trying to balance the realities of where we are -- a certain public skepticism, which I hear a lot, is pouring more money into K to 12 is not going to work, that it's not a dollar issue. I mean, when I was in New York City, the average per-pupil expenditure was over $20,000 a year. In Newark, it's closer to 25,000 (dollars). Here in D.C., it's over 20,000 (dollars) all in -- so I think -- I think how we spend it matters.

The other thing the report does focus on, which is important, is to make sure there's equity of funding. It cannot be that those who are the most affluent get the most -- the greatest amount of funds. And that -- those equity issues start to take on real force when you deal with choice as well.

MORAN: And then that brings us back -- and if we just close with this notion of national cohesion, that money has to come from somewhere, from people who feel connected to this project.

RICE: That's right. And again, I'm a great believer that you should adequately resource. And so I want to be on the record as adequate -- in favor of adequate resourcing of K-12 education. But adequate resourcing means not necessarily more money; it means money well-spent. And I think that some of the skepticism that you get about the resourcing of education is that people don't believe that the money is well-spent. And until you can convince that we are actually spending well, that we are dealing with the equity issues that Joel mentioned, that we have the right balance of administration to actual teaching in the classroom, that is not -- you're not going to rebuild the view about adequate resourcing of education.

And it is hard to explain when you look that some of the worst-performing systems are the ones that spend the most money, and that doesn't really do very well for the argument that we're inadequately resourced. And so all of us have a job to do to say fundamentally, we have -- we have got to adequately resource our K-12 education. It is in our national interest.

And then those who are responsible for actually executing have to guarantee, I think, that we are going to start to get the results that are expected, and that will, I think, feed back in. But I'm a great believer particularly in the importance of teachers in this regard, their professional development, their sense of well-being, in having children to have a broad experience, science and math and language, but also in the arts and the like. And it's going to cost money. We just have to make sure that the money that is spent is actually well-spent.

And one of the great things about being a part of this task force was realizing how many hardworking people there are in the educational reform movement who are trying very hard to make it better for our kids. And it's been a real pleasure to work with Joel, who is one of those -- one of those folks.

KLEIN: Thank you. It is mutual.

MORAN: Well, it's been a great conversation launching this report, which is a really great piece of work. Congratulations to the task force.

And Condoleezza Rice, Joel Klein, thank you very much.

KLEIN: Thank you, Terry. (Applause.)