Common Core combatants likely agree on few things, but there is one point on which they do -- America's public schools are failing and have been for many years. As a result, generation after generation of America's children have graduated from high school ill-prepared for careers and thereby denied opportunities their parents and grandparents took for granted. This is especially true for minority students in America's inner cities, but it applies as well to shockingly high numbers of suburban students attending “good” schools. Doubters need look no further than the results of the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress for 12th graders.

On reading, only 38 percent of the students tested in the 13 participating states achieved the “proficient” level of competence. That’s only a little higher than one-third of the graduating seniors. The situation is little better in those suburban schools that too many parents think are different. Only 47 percent of the Asian/Pacific islander and white students achieved proficiency, meaning more than half of them got high school diplomas for failed educations.

This national disgrace cannot continue. Teachers unions are the biggest obstacles to genuine reform.

But as bad as those figures are, the reading achievement scores for American Indian/Alaska native, Hispanic and black students are simply unbelievable. Only 26 percent of the American Indian/Alaska native students scored at the proficient level, while 23 percent of Hispanics made it and 16 percent of blacks. Think about this for just one moment — How many of these kids could become doctors who heal the sick, lawyers who defend the oppressed and entrepreneurs who create jobs that support millions of families? How many of them won’t because they went to lousy public schools?

It’s the same sad story regarding math scores, only worse. The overall score for all students was 26 percent who achieved proficiency. That’s only one of every four. So three-fourths of America’s public school graduates in 2013 walked away without being able to do basic math operations required to be employable, even in low-paying positions.

For Asian and white students, the figures are 47 percent and 33 percent, respectively. Even among the most successful of American high school graduates, anywhere from two-thirds to one-half of them lack math proficiency. Does this explain why students in 29 nations outperformed U.S. 15-year-olds on international math proficiency tests last year?

The math scores for the minority kids are even worse. Only 12 percent of the American Indian/Alaska natives and Hispanics scored at a proficient level, while seven percent of the black students reached proficiency. Those numbers are the starting point for understanding why so many inner city youths end up on welfare, in jail or dead. Inner city kids who escape failing public schools to attend charter and private schools and then score significantly higher than national averages prove that low NAEP scores aren't inevitable.

This national disgrace cannot continue. Teachers unions are the biggest obstacles to genuine reform. Their monopoly must be broken so great teachers can be rewarded and bad ones fired. That means school choice must become available to all students, not just a lucky few.