Accepted Assumptions that are Wrong: Our public schools are failing

In Current Events, Education on March 12, 2011 at 18:37

Our public schools serve millions of students each year and millions of those students graduate or advance to the designate grade level. Their success rate with students is much higher than the rate of successful mortgages, yet we don’t want to close all the mortgage brokers and make them public, do we.

By most measures, except for the high stakes testing measures that are used to punish schools and teachers, our schools do a decent job. Can schools do better? Yes. Are there students that are not learning the skills that might serve them later? Yes. But when you take a harder look at the reasons students drop out, it has less to do with the school than the economic circumstances of the children and a family that is unable to support the students with their schooling because of difficult financial and demographic circumstances. How many students in two parent upper middle class families in well off school districts need school “reform”?  A robust economy fuels student achievement; a sick economy hurts school achievement.

“…we should understand that student achievement — how much students actually learn in school — is less the cause of economic growth than its consequence. It is not student achievement that drives the economy but the economy that drives student achievement.” (link)

In “The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, And The Attack On America’s Public Schools”, Berliner and Biddle accurately take about the myth of the failing United States schools. Why does the United States lag behind other nations in standardized test scores? It because in the United States, unlike Japan, Germany and most other nations, we teach students until they are 18, we accept everyone in the high schools, but most nations select only the top students for high school. Of course we had a more homogeneous nations, a nation with fewer language good and less cultural diversity, and we only sent the top students to high school, the United States might be able to compete with these smaller nations with homogeneous populations. The fact that the U.S. ranks twenty-first in testing is not a cause for alarm, for we are more egalitarian and diverse. Besides, test scores are not the end all and be all in education.

Even if you accept tests as a way to compare countries, the United States with its challenges of diversity, multiple languages and a huge population, ranks in the middle of a survey of 24 nations.

What the numbers show
According to the TIMSS, the United States is not “dead last” (as journalist Charles Krauthammer so colorfully put it) but “dead-middle,” or a smidgen above. In 2003, overall, it scored higher than 13 countries and lower than 11 others. The countries beating us included Latvia, Hungary, and the Netherlands. The ones we beat included Norway, Iran, and Slovenia. It’s hard to see a pattern that correlates definitively to economic competitiveness here.

Every time we have an economic crisis, the schools are blamed. When the Soviets sent a rocket into space, we were lagging behind. When Japan and Germany started to thrive in the 70s, our educational system was failing us, not the managers of the car companies or other U.S. manufacturers. Now China and India have outpaced out GNP. It must be the schools that are to blame not the inevitable outcome of the world’s two most populace nations prospering. It’s time to stop blaming teachers and the schools and look for the real causes of our problems and work together for solutions.

Dropout rates 2009 in the US were 8%. (link)

Mortgage defaults were between 10-20% between 2001-07.
An analysis of subprime mortgages shows that within the first year of origination, approximately 10 percent of the mortgages originated between 2001 and 2005 were delinquent or in default, and approximately 20 percent of the mortgages originated in 2006 and 2007 were delinquent or in default. This rapid jump in default rates was among the first signs of the beginning crisis. (link)

So why were the heads of these lending organizations such as Bank of America given big bonuses for the financial disaster but teachers who not even the heads of the schools or district, get fired for an 8% drop out rate? It’s because of the arbitrary and capricious high stakes testing and the myth of the failing public schools.

Tex Shelters

Up Next: The Stock Market Myth

  1. I love this post to bits. None of this ever even crossed my mind which has been cruising on low-altitude really-dumb-mode.

    • Leeza,

      I had a psych teacher in high school who had a knack for dissecting the unquestioned assumptions of society, and if he is still alive, he might cringe or get a kick out of the fact that I took his lesson to heart.


      Tex Shelters

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