The “Crisis” of American Education

Please read and widely circulate: Flunking the Test  | American Journalism Review..

This takes on the U.S. media and how it has reported the “crisis” in education.

It makes the point that by some valid measures, education in the US has never been better, that “failing schools” and the “reform movement” are the rhetoric that journalists covering education get sucked into when they don’t take the time to understand all the nuance and complexity surrounding effective schooling.

What this means is that the people of the US (including the people who make the policy) have a certain perception of the state of schooling in America that might not be accurate. And they want to point the finger at teachers, widely scapegoated for all perceived failures of the system. What’s most ignored is what the research shows is the biggest predictor of struggling students: poverty.

This article also reminds that the perception of US schools has always been that they are in crisis–our current rhetoric is nothing new (though the “reform” measures being put in place to addressed the perceived crisis are new).

I’m not saying that there aren’t some problems with our system–there are. And we of course need to work on those and always always look for ways to serve our students as best as we possibly can. But maybe we need to be more focused on seeing the system clearly–seeing the places where it is successful and figuring out what makes it work in those places rather than throwing more top-down, measure and punish reform efforts, “solutions” built by people who are not educators.

How to tell an accurate picture of what goes on in American classrooms? I think there are movements afoot to try to accomplish that. This article makes the point that educator reporters often do not have access to the classrooms in the communities where they work, so they “report” on education in a way parallel to a sports reporter writing about a sporting event that s/he didn’t attend. You have to rely on what other people are saying about the classroom.

And the talking heads aren’t saying much that is accurate, leaving the American people with the perception that our schools are failing and need to be fixed by testing, charter schools, and teacher accountability.

Let’s tell some better stories about our schools, shall we? Maybe that’s how we need to fight back: tell our own stories.



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One Response to The “Crisis” of American Education

  1. Andy Spears says:

    Thank you for this! It is encouraging to see people talk about the success and the wins of our school system. I am frustrated at times by the barrage of stories about how bad our schools are or what a bad job teachers are doing. That if we just punitively evaluated and fired more teachers, schools would be better. Or, even worse, the idea that America’s teachers are overpaid (they are significantly underpaid). Reformers are winning the war because they have mastered messaging. I’m a reformer, too. But the reform I want is meaningful, bold investment in our schools – from clean, safe buildings (no portables) to incredibly well-paid and supported teachers.

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