America's Teaching Crisis

This article originally appeared in the summer 2007 issue of Democracy.

Also from ES | June 11, 2007

This article was written with Jason Kamras, a former teacher in the District of Columbia Public School system. He was also selected as the 55th National Teacher of the Year.

For too many students, American public education is failing. Class and race still play a significant and disturbing role in determining access to educational opportunity, and as a result large and unjust gaps in achievement and outcomes still divide American children. The 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress indicates that, by the time they are in the fourth grade, low-income children are roughly two-and-a-half times less likely to be meeting grade-level proficiency standards as compared to their more affluent peers. And studies from Education Week, the Harvard Civil Rights Project, and the Manhattan Institute all indicate that barely more than half of African-American and Hispanic students finish high school on time, while more than three-quarters of white students do. These disparities exist not because some children are inherently less capable than others, but because we have failed to create an educational system that provides even an approximation of equal opportunity to all children, regardless of background. These opportunity-crushing gaps tear at the fabric of America's social compact, especially as jobs requiring a strong mind rather than a strong back increasingly become the avenue for individual opportunity and national competitiveness.

There is no shortage of education-reform movements and proposals, some of them promising. Both Republicans and Democrats have embraced "standards-based reform," as embodied in President Bill Clinton's 1994 Improving America's Schools Act ..

Read the entire article in the summer 2007 issue of Democracy Journal.

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