American public education does a much better job than many of its conservative critics claim. The idea that present-day schools represent a huge decline from previous decades is a myth; overall student achievement has improved and is improving still. At the same time, public schools are plagued by a number of major shortcomings, most rooted in the underlying structure and history of the system, which has always been unusually local in character, funding, and governance.
Local control means that poor students receive far fewer resources than their wealthy peers and that every district makes its own decisions about what students need to learn. Because schools are government-supported and free to attend, they generally have little competition or external accountability. Historically, this has led schools in environments lacking strong economic, social, and political institutions (the District of Columbia's public schools are an infamous example) to collapse into total dysfunction. Well-off students generally do okay in this system, because their schools have more resources and whatever they don't get from their teachers is made up for at home. Low-income and minority students, by contrast--the children whom Democrats should be ideologically and politically most interested in serving--tend to fare far worse. In many distressed communities, drop-out and illiteracy rates are sky-high.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
And now something completely different...
Kevin Carey at the American Prospect pens an insightful piece on how the Dems have squandered Education as a political issue. Along the way, he offers a concise primer on the issues of American education and the sorry condition of the political argument. I strongly recommend you check it out. This stood out to me:
Posted by Hebisner at 17:45