Inconvenient Truth: America’s Public Schools Are Among Highest Achieving In The World

If something is inconvenient, it causes someone trouble or creates difficulties that annoy them and worse, could interfere with their lust for wealth and power. This is particularly the case if verified or indisputable facts destroy an assertion or idea held by profit-driven cretins selling something founded on lies and misinformation. For the past two decades, at least, so-called “education reformers” in the Republican privatization movement, and recently the Obama Administration Education Department, have criticized the American public school system as an abject failure. Obviously, there is huge money driving the “education reform” movement’s drive to shift public school funding to the technology industry, religious private schools, and particularly the grossly underperforming corporate-run charter schools. There is also a concerted effort on both sides of the political spectrum to destroy teacher unions and disabuse the overwhelming majority of women teachers of the idea they deserve a semi-living wage and secure retirement.

Any educator is well aware that there are issues out of their control in attempting to teach every student that enters their classroom, and now another damning study reveals that it is not poorly-qualified teachers, union representation, or tenure hampering achievement; it is poverty borne of America’s existential problem of income inequality. In fact, according to yet another study, America’s wealthiest traditional public schools that are unionized with tenured teachers are among the world’s highest achieving schools. If, as privatization “reformers” in Republican, corporate, and Obama Education Department claim that America’s public schools are dire failures, then America’s wealthy public schools with unionized teachers, and tenure, would be failing and not at the “top of the international charts.”

What that means is that it is not unionization, tenure, or inadequate teachers, but “high poverty” that is the crux of low academic and test score achievement on several levels. In fact, in the U.S. Department of Education study that the Administration’s Education Secretary, or President Obama, failed to read because it is inconvenient, it reveals that “about one in five public schools was considered high poverty” as of 2011; up from one in eight just ten years ago.” In a previous Education Department study, it found that “most high-poverty public schools receive much less than their fair share of state and local funding leaving students in poor schools with far fewer resources than schools attended by their wealthier peers.” It is noteworthy, that the teachers at both wealthy and poor schools have exactly the same education level, teacher training, union representation, achievement standards, testing, and curriculum, and yet it is glaringly obvious the only difference is funding and crushing poverty regarded as the primary “out-of-school” factors affecting student achievement.

A 2011 comprehensive study conducted by Stanford University documented a new concept labeled “the income achievement gap” that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the “biggest determining and predictive factor in student educational achievement is family income.” Not unionization, not tenure, and definitely not inadequate or unqualified teachers; unqualified teachers work in private religious and corporate charter schools which is why they typically underperform traditional public schools whether they are wealthy or poor. Out-of-school factors are obviously part and parcel of poverty, and after decades of social scientific research, non-school factors such as family income, parental education, neighborhood environment, healthcare, housing stability, and food insecurity count “for twice as much influence” in under-achievement as in-school factors. It is noteworthy that school privatization advocates have tried in vain to refute the several well-documented studies, but that is the problem with inconvenient truths; they are annoying and might disrupt the vaunted “education reformers” well-laid plans to privatize public schools, but they are still the truth.

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One education scholar, Richard Rothstein, described decades of research results that prove  “two-thirds of the variation in achievement among schools is due to the family characteristics of their students;” the other third is inadequate funding for schools in poorer neighborhoods. Not teacher inadequacy, not tenure, not unionization and definitely not a lack of god in schools, not enough underperforming corporate charter schools, not enough Bill Gates’ software, Google tablets, or profit-driven testing; everything the education reform movement is desperately pushing on America.

Despite the overwhelming evidence, and years of peer-reviewed research, the self-serving “education reform” movement continues demeaning the public school system, teachers, unions, and teacher tenure as why turning over education to privatization and religion is the key to a high-achieving student population and academic success. It is why Republican-led states are shifting public school money to private religious and corporate charter schools with impunity and what appears to be the blessings of the Obama Administration’s Department of Education with privatization and anti-union advocate Arne Duncan in charge. In fact, as long as public education funding continues flowing to huge technology companies, corporate charter and private religious schools, the corporate-owned mainstream media will continue cheering privatization and demeaning public schools; particularly unionized teachers where women make up over 70% of the workforce.

None of the research exposing America’s education problem is founded in poverty and income inequality is secret, but it is apparently damn inconvenient for the so-called “education reform” movement in Republican and religious circles as well as the Obama Education Department. One never hears Education Secretary Arne Duncan assailing the “overwhelming wave of evidence revealing the so-called education crisis” is founded in poverty and income inequality, but he does assail teacher tenure, poor test scores, and unqualified teachers. It is telling that throughout Wisconsin Governor  Scott Walker’s assault on teachers’ ability to bargain collectively, neither Arne Duncan nor President Obama met with, or supported, the teachers being stripped of their union or bargaining rights because it is contrary to their “education reform” bona fides founded in ardent support for underperforming corporate charter and private religious schools.

It is time for President Obama and, more importantly, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, to take time to read their own Education Department study and admit publicly that this poverty-driven “education crisis” has nothing to do with failing public schools, bad teachers, union representation, or tenure and everything to do with the real problem destroying America; devastating poverty borne of America’s love affair with income inequality, privatization, and corporate profits.

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