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.

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.

14 Replies to “Inconvenient Truth: America’s Public Schools Are Among Highest Achieving In The World”

  1. Our public schools are great, despite the gotp’s attempt to privatize and sell our kids education to some Koch bought entity inorder to further their anti-American agenda. Our kids need college to compete in the world economy. So instead of selling our kids out to Koch, lets provide a college education to EVERY AMERICAN!The gotp doesnt care about your kid, only to send them to fight a war to protect their beloved $$$.

  2. The TP/GOP knows the only way that they can gain votes. Is to have a educational system that they design to fail. The less educated voter are the one’s that keep the TP/GOP alive.

    This practice hurts America as a country but the TP/GOP cares not for country, for they practice numerous acts of “Domestic Terrorism” daily.

  3. Yes they bring people from poverty to world leading scientists ,doctor and engineers; thats it end of story Obama and Duncan better get their act together instead of butt kissing the media.

  4. They have already been closing charters here in Tennessee and we are a big lets go charter state. The corruption is massive, and the wrong people are making money on a totally unsupervised system

  5. Poverty in generation after generation accounts for most of a society’s pervasive ills: poor education, poor health, crime and neighbourhood breakdown. And it turns out that dealing with these ills is also the most costly — to all citizens. This is something that progressives instinctively understand and that regressives automatically deny.

  6. Regardless of the reasons, the US educational system is not nearly as successful as many other first world nation’s schools. the only segment of education that the US excels in is the university section. That has to do with great wealth of course. American universities attract students from all over the world. These universities have huge endowments, faculties representing every nation on earth and the largest libraries of any institution of higher learning in the world. However that doesn’t help the high schools or the primary schools. These institutions leave much to be desired and have a long way to go before they are competitive with the same schools in other countries.

  7. Having attended French, Spanish, British and US schools, I’m going to say that the quality of education as experienced by the average citizen is better in foreign countries. I don’t think that that’s a reflection on poverty so much as a wave of anti-intellectualism that seems to have infected the US, but more a lack of cohesive society. When schools were populated with people with a common sense of values, religion and politics, education can use those commonalities to it’s benefit. When you have a diverse school population, you don’t. That is what is reflected in ‘poor’ schools as opposed to ‘rich’ schools. It was evident in Britain, as the Eurozone brought in new cultures, and is evident in California for the same reason. BTW, I come from a family of teachers, and love different cultures. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in California when the Latino adult population overwhelms the established white population, and they are already 50% of our school system.

  8. Thank you for an excellent article. I would like to learn more about the comparison of US schools with other school systems around the world. You may be correct about the decisive influence of poverty, yet I have a strong personal impression that the US population is not as well educated on average as populations in high-achieving European countries. I may be wrong.

    You might want to know that I tried to go to your website, but received a message (originating from Google, maybe, since I’m using Chrome):

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    Please click here to submit this site for reassessment by SophosLabs.



  9. I can attest to how well Hispanic Children of Camden. NJ who are poor are doing better in Catholic Schools in one of the most Dangerous Cities and Poorest Cities with highest failing Public School System in New Jersey. They dont have school violence or a bullying problem when every student sees each other as son and daughters of the Most High God. The Constitution of Every State recognizes Almighty God so where does a theory of Evolution find its way to be constitutional and Intelligent Design or the Theory of Creation unconstitutional. The moral decay of America is coming from the Public Schools and the indoctrination to Atheism in the name of science. We are talking about impressionable young minds who will become our future leaders who will take an oath of office “So help me God” Children pledge a allegiance to a flag of a Nation under God. “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – John Adams

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