Wednesday, June 19, 2013

american political science: schooling ourselves in an unequal america

NYTimes | Averages can be misleading. The familiar, one-dimensional story told about American education is that it was once the best system in the world but that now it’s headed down the drain, with piles of money thrown down after it.

The truth is that there are two very different education stories in America. The children of the wealthiest 10 percent or so do receive some of the best education in the world, and the quality keeps getting better. For most everyone else, this is not the case. America’s average standing in global education rankings has tumbled not because everyone is falling, but because of the country’s deep, still-widening achievement gap between socioeconomic groups.

And while America does spend plenty on education, it funnels a disproportionate share into educating wealthier students, worsening that gap. The majority of other advanced countries do things differently, at least at the K-12 level, tilting resources in favor of poorer students.

Historically, the role of the federal government, which takes a back seat to the states in education, has been to try to close achievement gaps, but they have continued to widen. Several changes in federal education policy under President Obama have actually increased the flow of scarce federal dollars toward those students who need it less, reinforcing inequities and further weakening overall educational performance. Reversing America’s slide in international education rankings will require turning that record on its head.

America’s relative fall in educational attainment is striking in several dimensions. American baby boomers ages 55 to 64 rank first in their age group in high school completion and third in college completion after Israel and Canada. But jump ahead 30 years to millennials ages 25 to 34, and the United States slips to 10th in high school completion and 13th in college completion. America is one of only a handful of countries whose work force today has no more years of schooling than those who are retiring do.

On international tests, American students consistently score in the middle of the pack among advanced countries, but America underperforms most on two measures — preschool enrollment and college on-time completion. Nearly all 4-year-olds in Japan, France, Britain and Germany are enrolled in preschool, compared with 69 percent in the United States. And although the United States is relatively good at getting high school graduates into college, it is horrible at getting them to graduate on time with a college degree. With more than half of those who start college failing to earn a degree, the United States has the highest college dropout rate in the developed world.

On average, money is not the problem. Given the country’s relative wealth, per-pupil spending on elementary and high school is roughly on track with other advanced countries. At the college level, the United States spends lavishly, far more than any other country.

The problem is that the United States is not spending its education dollars effectively. At every point along the education track, from preschool to college, resources are skewed to wealthier students.


umbrarchist said...

Personally, I think we are in a very bizarre situation.

These tablet computers that are now selling for less than $200 can do things that the best teachers could not 50 years ago no matter how rich the parents were.

But if these devices were properly implemented throughout society how many brainy kids with poor parents would blow away not so brainy kids with wealthy parents? Does this society need new strategies to make sure the lower classes stay down?

After looking through a the Sci-Fi works of Project Gutenberg and many non-SF works I have to wonder why this country did not have a National Recommended Reading List decades ago. But does any nation in the world have one? We live in a world based on the spread of mostly bad information. Looking back I have no doubt that reading science fiction by people like Clarke, Asimov and Heinlein affected the way I look at reality. And they were not your average White men.

When do Black Americans discuss what education is without using NORMAL palefaces as a standard reference?

Should we create a Black Pan-African Reading List? And include technology!

Black Man's Burden (1961) by Mack Reynolds

The Montessori Method, (1912) by Maria Montessori

And that is 100 years old.

CNu said...

lol, Bro. Umbra, when you gonna stop making prescriptions and instead start making it happen?

Put together the reading list (links to the content would be superb) and I will guarantee you that it gets pushed out into the locality where I hold a little sway.

Everything else is merely conversation....,

umbrarchist said...

CNu said...

Kewl!!! I'll get on this. Ironic aside, the largest text book publisher in the world made us a weebly demo site.

umbrarchist said...

I ran into problems because it looked like it would not hold entire works as I added more, but I am not sure that was the problem.

CNu said...

While I'm professionally agnostic, I'm personally biased in favor of the samsung ativ smartpc devices, check'em out, and a fully accessorized thinkpad2 by lenovo is a thing of beauty in its litttle bento box aesthetic.