NBC's Education Nation summit focused on areas of need and proven strategies.
NBC's Education Nation summit wrapped up Tuesday after two days of discussion and debate on ways to improve the nation's education system.
On the final day of the summit panelists tackled the tough subjects of school reform, No Child Left Behind and the urgent need to make sure U.S.. Students can compete in a global economy.
Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker says you can't have a leading democracy with a lagging education system.
"Right now if you don't have a high school degree in this economy you are chaining yourself, not to mediocrity but really to economic failure," Booker said.
That sense of urgency was echoed by former First Lady Laura Bush, who says schools, teachers and parents need to be active in creating change so every student has the same opportunity to succeed.
"50% of African American and Hispanic kids do not graduate in four years, they don't graduate on time. And that is just unacceptable," she pointed out.
U.S Education Secretary Arne Duncan estimates 80 percent of schools nationwide will not meet the set standards next year.
"We want to be a much better partner with states and actually get the Federal government out of the way of creativity and innovation," Duncan pledged.
Despite all the hurdles, teachers say they feel empowered to return to the classroom with new tools and a new sense of purpose.
"It's not the tools I have or the technology, it's the ability to connect with them as people and their parents," said John Mahoney.
"There are days you go up and down. This has been inspirational few days but I am honestly inspired by my kids every day," added Susan Keyock.
Inspired, and driven to help students make the grade.