President-elect Barack Obama and his aides are signaling that education might take a back seat to other issues in the first few months of his administration. He ranked it fifth among his priorities, and if it is being downplayed, that’s a mistake, writes New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. "We can’t meaningfully address poverty or grow the economy as long as urban schools are failing. Mr. Obama talks boldly about starting new high-tech green industries, but where will the workers come from unless students reliably learn science and math?" Kristof writes. "The United States is the only country in the industrialized world where children are less likely to graduate from high school than their parents were, according to a new study by the Education Trust, an advocacy group based in Washington. The most effective anti-poverty program we could devise for the long run would have less to do with income redistribution than with ensuring that poor kids get a first-rate education, from preschool on. One recent study found that if American students did as well as those in several Asian countries in math and science, our economy would grow 20 percent faster…"

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