The discussion of education in the U.S. typically is very weird: it’s one of the few areas where advocates routinely claim how poorly they’re doing. Some of that is an attempt to gain additional funding and support, but a lot of it seems to be propaganda that has taken on a life of its own (and, with the rise of the for-profit school industry, there is also a financial incentive in some quarters). Consider this snippet from a Boston Phoenix editorial reviewing Governor Deval Patrick’s accomplishments:
The sweeping education-reform act Patrick shepherded through the legislature is a real accomplishment. It is a practical investment in the future that gives communities and school administrators most of the tools they need to repair an underperforming educational system.
Massachusetts’ collegiate system is underperforming (although it has some pretty stiff competition). But K-12 education?
I’ve been through this before, but, given the zombie-like beliefs about the U.S. educational system, it’s worth reviewing. If Massachusetts were a foreign country, it would, hands down, perform better than any European country, and as well or a close second (even better, in some cases) than East Asian countries. Year in and year out, Massachusetts’ performance on the NAEP is stellar, particularly when one accounts for childhood poverty (while the state, on average, is wealthy, there are pockets of serious poverty). In fact, Massachusetts does a better job than would be expected given the amount of childhood poverty.
If you want to argue that Patrick’s educational program will make the schools better, that’s fine (I’m not sure I agree though). But to claim that they’re underperforming is just flat out wrong.