I don't believe the average citizen understands the grave implications of our failing current educational system.

In 1989, state governors and President George H.W. Bush convened and established national education goals to be accomplished by 2000:

• Students enter school healthy and ready to learn.

• 90 percent graduate from high school.

• Competency in academic disciplines.

• Rank first in the world in math and science achievement.

In 2010, none of these goals have been met. In the last two decades:

• More children live in poverty and lack health care.

• High school grad rate is less than 70 percent.

• Achievement differences between minorities and whites in reading and math is greater than in 1988.

• U.S performance on international tests has dropped. The United States ranks 35th in math and 29th in science out of the top 40 countries. These have even dropped since 2000, when "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) was introduced. Reading tests have also dropped during this period.

Other nations demand more advanced analysis than most U.S. tests. Students weigh and balance evidence, apply what they know to new problems, and explain and defend answers. Our NCLB has ineffective multiple-choice testing. We spend more money educating affluent children than poor children. NCLB tests and punishes poor performance in schools and children. The system has failed and should be discontinued.

What to do? Education of poor children is as important as education of the rich. We must guarantee all elements of educational investment in quality teachers and children. Children need adequate health care, housing and food. Adequately fund schools to pay quality educators and provide learning materials. Make standards, curriculums, assessments coordinated and focused on 21st century learning goals. Realize that competing in the world demands regaining the lead in education.

Richard A. Damon, M.D.