BOSTON (Reuters) - A high school degree is no longer enough to secure the highest paying and most interesting jobs, said Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, who himself dropped out of Harvard University to build his computer company.
"Every student needs a meaningful credential beyond high school," said Gates, who spoke to the mostly African American audience of mixed ages at a National Urban League conference on education and employment.
"Higher education is crucial for jobs," he said, adding that education is an equalizer in society and is the key to getting urban America back to work and fighting poverty.
Gates said he believes college should be "for almost everyone," but that parents, teachers and entire communities need to help make those opportunities available.
Despite departing college in his junior year, Gates credited his own education, supportive parents and great teachers with his enviable and lucky outcome.
"Our public schools range from outstanding to outrageous and where a child's school is located on that spectrum is a matter of luck," he said.
"When it comes to education, we should replace luck with equity."
Getting the most effective teachers into the classrooms and using their best practices to help other teachers improve is critical to making that happen, he said.
Teacher improvement should include feedback from peers, student feedback, to some degree test scores, and even video analysis from the classroom, according to Gates.
Gates, who said there can be good schools in even the poorest neighborhoods, pointed to some charter schools forging a path with less money and better results.
"It's not about throwing money at the problem," said Gates.
"It's about the way the teachers are picked, it's about the way the teachers are encouraged, it's about the culture of the school, the high expectations," he said.
(Reporting by Lauren Keiper; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)