On Monday, Secretary Duncan helped kick off the “Innovation Economy Conference,” a day-and-a-half-long event featuring forums that examined ways in which American policymakers, businesses, and public citizens can drive the long-term growth of the U.S. economy. The event was sponsored by the Aspen Institute; the Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) production, “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer;” Intel Corporation; and the publication, “Democracy: A Journal of Ideas.” More than 400 educators, scientists, legislators, business leaders, and policy experts attended the kick-off discussion with Secretary Duncan and Gwen Ifill, moderator and managing editor of “Washington Week” and senior correspondent for PBS’ “NewsHour.”
During the discussion, Secretary Duncan noted that there are islands of excellence in American education, but that we need systems of excellence so that our nation’s students can remain competitive in the global economy. The secretary explained that improving teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) would help put U.S. students on par with their counterparts in other top-performing countries. “Ensuring our children are excelling in the STEM fields is essential for our nation’s prosperity, security, health, and quality of life,” Secretary Duncan stated. He added, “We won’t have an innovative economy if we don’t lead the world in these fields.”
Secretary Duncan cited increasing the number of Americans who attain higher education as another key aspect of ensuring America’s success in the global economy. The President has set a national goal that by the year 2020 America will lead the world with the greatest number of young people who earn college degrees. Secretary Duncan noted in order to reach that goal, we must increase the roughly 40 percent of 25-34 year-olds currently graduating from college to 60 percent.
The secretary also stressed that educational innovation should not be confused with simply generating more ideas or inventions. Instead, Secretary Duncan urged all education stakeholders—from teachers to policymakers to business leaders—to develop new solutions that improve outcomes for students.