That's the bumper sticker description of "A Nation at Risk," the 1983 evaluation of student achievement, or not, in the common schools. The report spawned a lot of reforms, perhaps symbolic, perhaps not, and precious little improvement, "No Child Left Behind" (which means no child gets ahead) and "Common Core" notwithstanding.
But if the nation wishes to continue its comparative advantage in knowledge-intensive, advanced technology products, or to go to Mars, focussing on raising the performance of the low achievers, desirable though that might be, isn't sufficient.
Washington Post education pundit Jay Mathews gets it. “'There was absolutely no incentive to worry about the achievement of those who had already reached, or were likely to reach, that bar,' the report says. 'To put it bluntly, NCLB did some good for America’s struggling pupils, but for high achievers, it mostly hit the education pause button. . . . Those most victimized by this regime were high-achieving poor and minority students — kids who were dependent on the school system to cultivate their potential and accelerate their achievement.'”
The first step in recognizing that you have a problem is recognizing that you have a problem. Cultivate the talent!