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Good Enough Is Not Good Enough

No one ever flew high by aiming low.

That’s a timely message, given the results of ETS’s sixth annual survey of Americans’ views in key issues in public education. It’s also a message that needs to be part of every discussion of education reform and workplace readiness.

Americans simply are not convinced that their education system is working hard enough to ensure long-term American competitiveness.

For example, only 11 percent believe academic expectations are set high and that high school students are being significantly challenged.

On college preparation, only 45 percent of Americans say high schools are doing at least well enough, while 49 percent say they’re coming up short or falling behind. Meanwhile, 58 percent say schools aren’t giving students the skills they need for workplace success.

This is not the profile of a high-performing public education system that equips young people to compete against the world’s best.

The survey, “Keeping Our Edge: Americans Speak on Education and Competitiveness,” was conducted for ETS by the bipartisan research team of Democrat Peter D. Hart and Republican David Winston. We conduct opinion research to learn what Americans think about education, and to inform the policy debate with reliable, objective data.

This year, we focused on education and workplace readiness because of growing concern over whether the United States can maintain its edge in an increasingly competitive global economy.

In particular, we found that Americans believe that if math and science instruction aren’t improved soon, we stand to lose far more than our “edge.” We may lose control of our economic future.

But we also found cause for optimism. There is, after all, broad recognition of the challenges and risks we face — and there’s pent-up demand for reform.

For example, 81 percent of the public supports requiring students to pass statewide graduation tests to ensure they’re mastering core subjects before they get a high school diploma. Even most high school students support this idea.

Perhaps most importantly, we detected a hunger for strong leadership on these issues. That’s a real opening in this election year. And it’s a real opportunity for progress in education reform.

At ETS, we’re working on our part. We’re listening to educators, parents and policymakers. We’re learning from sound research. And we’re leading the effort to achieve both informed public policy and informed educational practice.

For more information on the survey, visit us at