Selective Use of Data Avoids Real Issues in Improving Public Education for All Children
It seems the one thing we can all agree on when discussing how to improve public schooling for all our children is that we need data to guide our approach to personalizing teaching and learning in the classroom, so that we can ensure student success and support teacher effectiveness. Yet we persist in ignoring data that points to root causes that hamper the most talented school leaders in their work with children.
At a recent meeting on Capitol Hill, researcher Sean Reardon from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) shared data showing the only developed country in the world with a larger percentage of children living in poverty than the United States is Mexico. So the US is #2 in the developed world in children living in poverty (22 percent of our children live in poverty). Dr. Reardon also shared a graph that documented the gap in achievement in US students based on standardized test scores from the early 1970’s to the present. The achievement gap between white students and African American students has closed dramatically over the decades documented. However, alarmingly, the achievement gap between middle and upper middle class students and children living in poverty has widened even more dramatically. Further, the data indicates that most of the gap between high and low income students is present in preschool and doesn’t get much worse (or much better) as students progress through the system.
What is also shown in the data: The countries with the lowest percentage of children living in poverty – Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden – are also the countries with the highest achievement scores on international tests of student performance. So, it would seem to me that it doesn’t require a statistician to conclude, as another presenter at the same meeting, Peter Edelman (Professor of Law at Georgetown Law Center and Director of the Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy), asserted that to improve academic achievement for students in the US, we need a full scale attack on poverty.
What complicates a solution oriented approach to a full scale attack on poverty is the reality that public schooling is the “ultimate states right issue," according to David Sciarra, Executive Director of the Education Law Center in Newark, NJ, another panel presenter. With a wide disparity in states’ effectiveness in addressing the issue of equitability in access to a quality public education, the federal government needs to develop a coherent policy to address the problem.
In my view, instead of wasting valuable time and resources in a power struggle over national, state, or local governance and control around guaranteeing the quality public education all our children deserve, we should come together as a community of citizens who acknowledge a common value of the importance of equity and excellence in public schools, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because if we don’t, we’ll all pay the price. In the immortal words of Rodney King, revisited on the recent anniversary of the Los Angeles riots, “Can’t we all just get along?” Our nation’s future and our children’s future depend on us figuring it out and getting it right.
Image from Microsoft Office
Click here to browse dozens of Public School Insights interviews with extraordinary education advocates, including:
- Actress/Mathematician Danica McKellar on girls and math
- Best Selling Author Kenneth C. Davis on engaging with history
- Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Danielson on providing health care at school
The views expressed in this website's interviews do not necessarily represent those of the Learning First Alliance or its members.
Excellence is the Standard
At Pierce County High School in rural southeast Georgia, the graduation rate has gone up 31% in seven years. Teachers describe their collaboration as the unifying factor that drives the school’s improvement. Learn more...
- ISTE Connects
- Ed Prep Matters
- PTA's One Voice
- PDK Blog
- AACTE's President's Perspective
- The EDifier
- School Board News Today
- Legal Clips
- Learning Forward’s PD Watch
- NAESP's Principals' Office
- NASSP's Principal's Policy Blog
- The Principal Difference
- ASCA Scene
- Always Something
- NSPRA: Social School Public Relations
- Transforming Learning
- AASA's The Leading Edge
- AASA Connects (formerly AASA's School Street)
- NEA Today
- Angles on Education
- Lily's Blackboard
What Else We're Reading
- Advancing the Teaching Profession
- The Answer Sheet
- Edutopia's Blogs
- Politics K-12
- U.S. Department of Education Blog
- John Wilson Unleashed
- The Core Knowledge Blog
- This Week in Education
- Inside School Research
- Teacher Leadership Today
- On the Shoulders of Giants
- Teacher in a Strange Land
- Teach Moore
- The Tempered Radical
- The Educated Reporter
- Taking Note
- Character Education Partnership Blog
- Why I Teach