09/27/2010 08:16 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Education Nation Summit Gives No Hall Passes For U.S. School Failures

NBC News' nationally broadcast Education Nation is underway at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, bringing together concerned citizens from President Obama to John Legend to confront our country's educational crisis.

All this week, the event will host national leaders, parents, teachers and students who will discuss challenges and opportunities in the American education system, with its focal point being a two-day summit on Monday and Tuesday.

On Sunday, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams moderated a "Teacher Town Hall," which engaged teachers both in-person and online from across the country in a discussion of what's working - and what isn't - in our country's classrooms.

President Obama appeared on NBC's Today show Monday, kicking off the conference by expressing his concerns about America's failing school systems:

"Historically, when we first set up the public school systems across the country, we were leaps and bounds ahead of the vast majority of countries around the world," Obama said. "That just is not true anymore. They have caught up and, in some cases, they're surpassing us, especially in math and science. It happened over decades.

"There are a lot of contributing factors. But part of the challenge, I think, for the entire country is to understand that how well we do economically, whether jobs are created here, high-end jobs to support families and support the future of the American people, is going to depend on whether or not we can do something about these schools."

The summit attempts to jump start that effort to understand. Its 12 panel discussions pose questions both savvy and severe, including "How can the politics of education put students first?" and "Is education the civil rights issue of our time?"

Watch an interview with General Colin and Alma Powell on ending the "drop-out crisis" at Rockefeller Plaza.


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