And that’s still a tragedy. Joe Nocera in a recent column wrote this about U.S. education:
Students in other countries now regularly outperform American students. We are truly in the midst of an education crisis — one that won’t be solved until we completely rethink the way we offer public education. For starters, teachers and school administrators need to start working together instead of fighting each other. What the strike in Chicago mainly illustrates is how far we are from that goal.
Actually, that’s not true. As I’ve pointed out many times before (Intelligent Designer, this gets tiresome), U.S. students in schools where twenty five percent or more of the student body is lower income do horribly. Schools that have ten to twenty five percent lower-income students are very competitive, and schools with less than ten percent are excellent (before you think this seems like an unfair comparison, keep in mind that each of these sectors by itself is larger than most every OECD country).
I point this out not to engage in rightwing exceptionalist blather, but because we are failing to identify the problems correctly:
1) Poverty. Even in Massachusetts, which has one of the best educational systems in the world, poverty is highly correlated with educational performance (and that correlation increases when you look at science scores).
2) Some states have severe crises. What goes missing in the entire discussion about student performance is that states vary widely. The Alabama–Massachusetts gap among any socioeconomic group of whites is as wide as the black-white gap within Massachusetts. And that gap is equal to the effects of poverty. Yet this is never mentioned.
I suppose I could add the ‘pundit-reality gap’ too.
This is not ‘making excuses’, although it’s not like poor students get a fair shot at funding (and arguably they need more funding). But you really shouldn’t take anyone seriously who doesn’t correctly identify our educational problems and disparities.