Problems in public education in America

Public education’s biggest problem keeps getting worse

See larger version belowPublic education’s biggest problem just keeps getting worse.

No, it’s not “bad” teachers or “bad” students or “bad”
parents or “bad” principals.

A majority of students in public schools throughout the American South and West are low-income for the first time in at least four decades, according to a new study that details a demographic shift with broad implications for the country.

The analysis by the Southern Education Foundation, the nation’s oldest education philanthropy, is based on the number of students from preschool through 12th grade who were eligible for the federal free and reduced-price meals program in the 2010-11 school year. …

Children from those low-income families dominated classrooms in 13 states in the South and the four Western states with the largest populations in 2011, researchers found. A decade earlier, just four states reported poor children as a majority of the student population in their public schools. [see graph below]

Nationally, 22 percent of children in the richest country in the world (and in the history of the world) live at or below the federal poverty line — but that’s not the worst of it. Nearly half live in low-income families that struggle to meet basic needs, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

For years now, federal educational policy has largely ignored the issue of poverty, with too many school reformers arguing that citing the effects of living in poverty as a big obstacle to achievement in school is “an excuse.” Schools, they say, can overcome poverty, and further, students living in poverty in other countries do well on tests, don’t they? Well, the U.S. poverty rate is higher — and has been for many years — than in any industrialized country that participates in international tests, and people who are poor in America stay that way longer than anywhere else in the industrialized world, research shows.

In his new book, called “Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty, ” George Mason University Professor Paul C. Gorski writes that students from poor families continue, on average, to be subjected to what Jonathan Kozol called 20 years ago the “savage inequalities of schooling.” In the following passage (from which I have removed all sources he included), Gorski wrote about how the bromide that “education is the great equalizer” is not really true:

Education is the great equalizer. That’s what I heard growing up, the son of a mother from poor Appalachian stock and a father from middle class Detroit. If you work hard, do well in school, and follow the rules, you can be anything you want to be. It’s a fantastic idea. How remarkable it would be if only it were true …

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Whose idea was public education?

As early as 1789, Thomas Jefferson was espousing a need for free public education. Our FoundingFathers believed education was essential for the new democracy to grow and thrive. It wasn't until the 1840s when Horace Mann& Henry Barnard made it happen

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