(NBC News) NBC's fourth annual Education Nation Summit is under way in New York City.
It's bringing together more than 300 of the country's education leaders to talk about critical factors impacting students' chances for success.
When you compare the U.S. to developed countries, It doesn't rank in the top 10 for math, science or reading and educators say that's a problem.
Inside one of the largest libraries in the country students are weighing in on the rigor it takes to compete not just with their neighbors down the road but with peers overseas.
Eric Kvam studied in South Korea.
"School is something they take very seriously all they do is study from 8-8," said Kvam.
Kim Pate had a similar experience in Finland.
"Students were much more dedicated and focused on their school work," Pate said.
Just over a 3rd of u-s 8th graders are proficient in math and reading.
And, even less in science, geography and history.
"The situation should be seen and talked about as a national crisis but its not," said educator Jeff Duncan Andrade or California.
Nationwide, teachers are increasing expectations in the classroom through the common core.
But that's presenting its own set of challenges.
"I'm dealing with children who do not, they come sometimes a little deficient with the vocabulary and the critical thinking skills and problem solving but yet I'm asked to teach rigor" third grade teacher Keisha Douglas said.
After more than 30 years in the classroom, Terri Vest says what those students need most is a supportive community.
"I go in and say we're here to learn and we all learn together," Vest said.
It's that opportunity for connection that many students at the summit say they value most.
The focus on improving education nation is helping.
The nation's graduation rate is the highest it's been in 40 years.
But what's clear from this summit, the U.S. education system still has a long way to go.
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