U.S. Education Reform and National Security

The claim that our nation’s schools too often fail to educate enough students to high levels of achievement is a bit of a broken record. The “U.S. Education Reform and National Security” report by the Council on Foreign Relations puts a new spin on that tune. The report details why a poor public education system is a threat to U.S. national security and the actual and potential impact our schools have on our nation’s future.

The report finds five major threats an inadequate K-12 education system poses to national security:

  • Threats to economic growth and competitiveness – Today, only about 75 percent of Americans graduate from high school. With only semi-skilled citizens, the fully developed workforce is not consistently renewing and expanding itself, leaving the U.S. quality talent pool stagnant or declining while other countries’ work forces are progressing.
  • Threats to U.S. physical safety- About 75 percent of young Americans are not qualified to join the military because they dropped out of high school, are obese or have other physical constraints, or have criminal records. Of those eligible to apply to the military, 30 percent fail the Armed Services Aptitude Battery, a test that anticipates a person’s service success based on verbal, math, science, and technical skill.
  • Threats to intellectual property- Sensitive U.S. documents are constantly under attack from foreign hackers. There are not enough technologically qualified candidates to help protect the data systems from these hackers.
  • Threats to U.S. global awareness- The Government Accountability Office released a report documenting the discrepancy in foreign languages among military officers. These cross-cultural skills are necessary to interact with local communities and anticipate challenges. In Afghanistan, 33 of 45 officers in language-designated positions did not meet the State Department’s language requirements. In Iraq, 8 of 14 officers did not have the requirements.
  • Threats to U.S. unity and cohesion- For the first time, Americans think it is unlikely the youth today will have a better life than their parents. The widening socioeconomic achievement gap is a trend that makes the American Dream more out of reach and breeds fear and isolation.


So what is our country, or state, to do? The report offers three major recommendations. Here’s how they stack up against current education policies in Ohio:


Report Recommendations

Actions in Ohio

1. Implement educational expectations in subjects vital to protecting national security. 1. Ohio is transitioning to the Common Core State Standards in math and English Language Arts and revising its standards across the board to raise rigor and expectation.
2.Make structural changes to provide   students with good choices. 2. Teach For America will launch its first Ohio corps next school year, our voucher programs have been expanded dramatically in the past year, the state is ratcheting up performance requirements on all public schools, and local efforts like Mayor Jackson’s plan for Cleveland are helping to support high-performing schools regardless of type.
3. Launch a “national security readiness audit” to hold schools and policymakers accountable for results and to raise public awareness. 3. Ohio has put in place a series of new accountability provisions to better hold educators and schools accountable for improving student academic performance.

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