Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

A McKinsey for Every Taste

vonzastrowc's picture

Today, esteemed education historian Diane Ravitch condemned the political misappropriation of the recent McKinsey Report on the economic costs of low educational achievement. Apparently, some have made the extraordinary claim that the report questions the link between achievement gaps and poverty:

At the press conference, according to the story in The New York Times, Chancellor Klein “said the study vindicated the idea that the root cause of test-score disparities was not poverty or family circumstances, but subpar teachers and principals.” This study offered Chancellor Klein the opportunity to argue yet again, as the Education Equality Project does, that schools alone can close the achievement gap, and that such things as poverty and social disadvantage are merely excuses for those unwilling to accept the challenge.

Actually, the report doesn’t say this.... The document says little about causes and cures, just lays out what it costs our society to have so many people who are poorly educated. It does say that low-income students are likely to get less experienced, less qualified teachers, and that schools in poor neighborhoods have less money for education than those in affluent districts. Anyone of any ideology or political persuasion should be unsettled by the wide disparities between students from different economic backgrounds.

Those who see the report as just another weapon to wield against supporters of the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education do us a real disservice. They make constructive discussion of the causes and effects of inequality all but impossible. They fuel a perverse debate that pits advocates for reforms within schools against advocates for reforms outside of schools.

Without a doubt, we need to address educational, social and economic inequities. They are closely intertwined.  For the present, Ravitch concludes, "the political use of the McKinsey study just serves to divert attention from the need to improve the lives of poor children and their families."