To create conditions for community wellbeing we must look back – at continuing, historic influences – and forward – to the major forces that shape current and future priorities. The Visualizing Wellbeing series explores the state of wellbeing in the United States through a collection of data visualizations. Each week we will explore one vital condition that comprise our framework for community wellbeing, developed in partnership through the Well Being Legacy Initiative.
Lifelong Learning is about a good education for all. An education that ensures young people, regardless of background or ability, can succeed, and have the opportunities to reach their full potential. An education that launches them into meaningful careers in which they can continue learning and growing.
From birth, we are developing and learning. Supportive learning environments from early childhood set children on a path that maximizes their capacity to learn, and positively shapes their social and behavioral development. Exposure to high quality education that is supportive and adaptive to students’ needs is requisite for all students to reach important educational milestones. A solid preK-12 education launches young people into productive futures wherein they may pursue higher education, trades, ongoing and community-based education and advance their lives and livelihoods through the power of learning.
Education is an engine of social mobility with implications for health and well-being that extend across the life-course. Higher income, better health, and increased opportunity tracks with higher levels of education. Disparities in access to education and educational attainment persist, and are perpetuated across generations.
More students are graduating high school, and a greater proportion of Millennials are entering the workforce with college degrees than previous generations. Despite gains in recent decades, gaps persist in educational achievement that disadvantage students from low income backgrounds and communities of color. These so-called “achievement gaps” start early, and continue to widen. The following visualizations explore indicators of educational achievement – from early learning and school readiness to high school graduation.
Investment in Our Students
In the United States a large proportion of funding for public K-12 education is provided through local taxes, generating gross disparities in education funding between well and less well-off communities. While states and the federal government have increased contributions to offset this regressive effect, many states decreased their education spending during the Great Recession and continue to operate with inadequate funding levels, depriving students of their best educations. The following visualizations explore indicators of investment in our students – per pupil expenditures and classroom size.