Certain educational rights should be universal, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Friday.
While speaking at the 2015 National Parent Teacher Association Convention and Expo in Charlotte, North Carolina, Duncan detailed a handful of rights he said all parents should be able to demand from their children's schools. The rights, which span preschool through college, include free quality preschool, affordable quality college and high, challenging standards in a well-resourced school.
The three rights "must belong to every family in America -- and I hope you'll demand that your leaders in elected or appointed offices deliver on them," Duncan said during his speech. "They come together as a set of rights that students must have at three pivotal stages of their life, to prepare them for success in college and careers and as engaged, productive citizens."
The rights Duncan outlined are a far cry from what parents can currently expect. Currently, only 40 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in publicly funded preschool programs, according to a 2015 analysis from the U.S. Department of Education.
In elementary and secondary schools, parents should be able to expect high quality standards and assessments that provide valuable metrics for their children's performance, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Education issued to coincide with Duncan's remarks. In this vein, the release alludes to --but does not name -- the Common Core State Standards, a set of education benchmarks that has been adopted in a majority of states. The Common Core is intended to make sure students are being held to rigorous standards and that students across states can be measured against each other accurately.
"This year, more than 40 states are moving forward with high academic standards and next-generation assessments that can better help teachers and parents understand what students are learning," said the press release.
Not every parent will agree with Duncan on this point. The standards are controversial and thousands of parents around the country have chosen to opt their kids out of standardized tests associated with the Common Core.
Finally, the call for parents to expect quality, affordable college for their kids comes as college costs have skyrocketed. College tuition and fees have grown 1,120 percent since record-keeping began in 1978, according to a 2012 report from Bloomberg.
"Today, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require education and training beyond a high school diploma. A generation ago, America led the world in college attainment of young adults; now, we rank twelfth," the press release said.
The set of rights is designed to empower parents to get involved in their kids' educations. Research shows that students with more involved parents are more likely to get better grades and attend school regularly, regardless of their family's income or background.
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