A New York City Education Wake-Up Call

This week, NBC News is hosting its third annual Education Nation Summit in New York City–a three-day forum that brings together all the critical players in the debate about education reform in an effort to identify our most pressing challenges and to find solutions for increasing student performance across the country.

Editor’s Note: The New York Public Library is playing host to Education Nation. And it goes without saying: this summit is of utmost importance to any local parent with school-age children. To learn more, click here.

While NBC News and Education Nation provide a tremendous platform to focus our attention on the needs and challenges we face, we are all responsible for continuing the dialogue, beyond this once a year forum. In fact, the state of education in this country depends on it.

To give you just a glimpse of the current state of our education system, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conducted a study in 2011 that compared test performances across the world and the results were staggering. The study measured how students in 65 countries performed in reading, science, and math. The United States ranked 15th in reading, 23rdin science, and 31stin math. This should be a wake-up call to everyone.

What is perhaps most perplexing about these rankings is that as a country we spend about $806 billion annually on education, while global education leaders like South Korea spend about $60 billion. In fact, the United States spends more than five times as much on education than the country that spends the second most, Japan, which spends about $160 billion annually.

These are just two of the eye-opening statistics that vividly highlight the challenges we face as a nation.  Put frankly, the American education system is not functioning the way it should be. While this realization is alarming to me as an educator, it is perhaps even more troubling as a parent.

Given how bleak these statistics are and how severe the problem is, how is it possible that Education Nation is one of the only visible national forums for educators, policymakers, advocates, and business leaders to engage in a dialogue about education form?

A once-a-year summit is simply not enough.

Enhancing our education system isn’t simply vital for students and teachers–its vital for our country’s long-term economic output. Shouldn’t other major American companies be motivated to see student performance increase? Shouldn’t other major media outlets be working to raise greater awareness of the need for reform in our education system? Isn’t it in everyone’s best interest to develop the most educated and informed workforce in the world?

So as the three-day Education Nation summit takes place, I would urge other American companies to follow NBC’s lead and work toward restoring American’s role as the worldwide leader in education. There’s no reason for us to wait until next year before we bring educators, leaders in the reform movement, and policy makers together again to continue the dialogue.

Gabriella Rowe is the third generation Head of School of the family owned and operated Mandell School. After working as an investment banker and management consultant for 12 years, she returned to the Mandell School in 1999 and has been responsible for leading the School through its strategic expansion from one of New York City’s most highly sought after preschools into a pre-eminent early childhood through 8th grade school. Gabriella also serves on Community Board 7 which plays an important advisory role in New York City Municipal Government affairs. She has two sons and is an avid sports fan.