The goal the Bush Foundation established for increasing educational achievement is ambitious: By 2020, we will increase by 50 percent the number of students in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, from pre-kindergarten through college, who are on track to earn a degree after high school, and eliminate disparities among diverse student groups.
Focusing on education is critically important to the future of our communities and the vibrancy of our local economies. We cannot compete in the national or global economy by falling behind in educational achievement. According to data from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, only about 25 percent of students in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota earn a degree after high school.
In addition, the disparities in educational achievement across different ethnic groups and income levels are significant. For example, in 2009, less than 37 percent of fourth-grade children in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota were proficient in reading at the fourth-grade level, and the proficiency percentages were significantly lower for students in minority groups (as low as 11 percent for Indian children in South Dakota and 17 percent for all non-white fourth-graders in the three states).
Opportunities to improve educational achievement begin with preschool readiness and continue through the K-12 years and the preparation of students to pursue college or a vocational degree after high school. Measures in each of these critical stages show that we’re falling short. Only 50 percent of children in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota are ready for kindergarten, and while 78 percent graduate from high school, only 25 percent go on to earn an advanced degree. As with reading proficiency, disparities exist in each of these categories for minority students.
Focus on Teachers
While many factors play a role in educational success, the Bush Foundation has chosen to focus on teachers because evidence proves that effective teaching can make a bigger difference than any other in-school variable.