The idea that our public schools are failing is a manufactured myth meant to create a sense of crisis that justifies corporate reformers demanding that our public schools as we have known them be dismantled and privatized. For those of you who have uncritically absorbed the corporate media narrative that our public schools are failing, then you should read this post on Diane Ravitch's blog:
U.S. schools with less than 10% free/reduced – score=556 [1st in the world]
Finland – ranked 4th in the world
U.S. schools with less than 10% free/reduced – score=559 [1st in the world]
Finland – ranked 5th in the world
U.S. schools with less than 10% free/reduced – score=540 [5th in the world]
FInland – ranked 11th in the world
The problem is poverty, not failing schools or incompetent teachers. The writer makes an interesting analogy later in the same post:
The reports continue to be all about our failing or “mediocre” schools and incompetent teachers. I like the simple observation made by researchers in the past – if the argument is to be made that U.S. public schools and teachers are failing, then we have huddled all of our incompetent teachers and principals in our urban and rural schools, for they are the ones that struggle or “fail” – this is evidenced in the PISA data I provided and appears at every turn when outcomes are disaggregated based upon child poverty. Or are our urban and rural schools and teachers “failing” or “struggling” any more than our urban or rural police forces? Response times are higher in urban and rural areas (for different reasons), and crime rates are higher in our urban areas, so does this mean that our urban and rural police officers are failures? Can you imagine police unions if we were to erase officer tenure, step ladder structure for pay increases, LIFO, and bust their unions – and then demonize them because they can’t seem to solve the crime problems of our urban areas? Can anyone say value-added modeling for police officers estimating their effects on crime rates during their beat? The difference between police officers and teachers, specifically in this analogy, is that we [teachers] are push-overs, ah-hem, I mean caretakers.
You can't solve a problem unless you understand its causes. The best indicator of academic achievement is zip code. If you took the teachers in an affluent school district and swapped them out with the teachers in a poor school district, do you think they would get better results with the poor kids they'd be teaching? Do you think the kids in the affluent district would begin to fail?
Teachers aren't to blame, and neither are the kids. It's the larger society that is to blame, and insofar as that larger society accepts the Neoliberal conventional wisdom that markets and privatization will solve everything, it is just making things worse.
Read the entire post. He does some interesting comparisons between public schools, Catholic and Lutheran Schools, and Conservative Christian Schools.