demographics. The Bureau of the Census estimates that if recent demographic trends continue, Asians, non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians together will approach 50 percent of the population by the year 2050 (Council of Economic Advisers, 1998). These changes are likely to place even more than the usual strain on the challenge of "maintaining a humane, harmonious pluralistic society" (Miller, 1995:xiii), making it increasingly important that justice seems to be done and that we as a society take seriously failures to remedy the race-based inequities of the past.
Schools face limits in breaking the nexus between student background characteristics and student achievement. Achievement is influenced not only by the resources provided by the school but also by the resources devoted by the family. Family resources vary widely from child to child, even more than school resources do. Miller (1995), following James Coleman and others, has borrowed the concept of capital from economics to describe the different forms of education-relevant resources possessed by families, schools, and other societal institutions that can be invested in children. Human capital is largely acquired via formal schooling. Social, health, financial, and polity capital are largely the product of broader institutional arrangements and societal conditions. These institutional arrangements and societal conditions constitute an educational opportunity structure; they "heavily influence the ability of groups to acquire and use education-relevant resources to improve their educational performance, both absolutely and relative to other groups over time" (Miller, 1995:96).
Disparities (which are correlated with racial/ethnic and socioeconomic status) in the access of children and their families to various kinds of education-relevant resources and capital mean that goal 2 cannot reasonably be achieved by schools alone. Too often in the past, "millennial thinking about schooling has . . . been a favored solution to social and economic problems. . . . [T]he utopian tradition of social reform through schooling has often diverted attention from more costly, politically controversial, and difficult societal reforms" (Tyack and Cuban, 1995:2–3). The fact that this committee, in following its charge, focuses its attention on schools does not diminish our view that it is imperative that society acknowledge the limited role of schools in addressing these larger social and economic problems.
At the same time, we wish to avoid the danger of using these larger problems as an excuse for schools to tolerate large differences in the academic achievement of children that are related to characteristics such as race or income. Kenneth Clark warned of this kind of danger over a quarter of a century ago, when he argued that a book like Inequality (Jencks et al., 1972) did a disservice to children from minority and poverty backgrounds because, in stressing the impotence of schools in the face of societal problems, it enabled school officials to shift their responsibility to the society at large (Clark, 1973).
We argue in this report that schools can make a difference and, to give ourselves a manageable task, we accept that the main focus of our investigation