[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/03/25/group.of.eight.education/art.school.bus.gi.jpg caption="Ferguson writes that there are still large achievement gaps across races in American schools."]
Ronald F. Ferguson
Special to CNN
Raising the quality of teaching and learning in American schools is a priority. It receives a great deal of attention in our national discourse and should receive more.
Test scores and graduation rates are improving faster in other nations than in the United States and this threatens our quality of life in a competitive world.
In addition, achievement gaps between racial groups in the United States remain large. The social and political vitality of the nation may depend on closing these racial gaps. Blacks and Hispanics are doing better than in the past compared to whites, but still not nearly good enough.
Making schools better should be only one part of our national strategy. Life at home has been a relatively neglected topic and needs to come out of the shadows.
Especially in churches, neighborhood organizations, families and informal social networks, helping parents do their best needs to be as big a priority as achieving excellent schools.
This goes beyond public policies.
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