It's funny because this morning as I listened to the City Council briefing with the Superintendent, there was a thread from Jean Godden to Sally Bagshaw to Kshama Sawant about girls and math and science education.
Then Sally Clark chimed in saying that she hadn't really followed math and science in school but now she goes in and sees what's being offered and wishes she could go to school now.
I can't tell you how many times over the years that I thought the same exact thing. I had good teachers when I went to school but there was nowhere near the effort to be culturally competent, help all students (no matter their challenge) and this outreach to girls (and that "you go, girl" attitude).
I have to agree with several of Professor Schneider's major premises like "People think schools are in decline because they hear it all the time." And you have to wonder why that is, how in every single state, all public education is in decline. Almost as if it was part of a plan.
There's also the fact that so many people like their school but not public education (or their district) as a whole. It parallels how people feel about their congressman and Congress.
This is key:
First, they serve far more kids than they ever did before. Kids living in poverty – they're really expensive to educate, and they now get, not an equal education, I would never claim that, but we at least pay lip service to it. We're at least trying. Average per-pupil expenditures aren't where they need to be, but they at least are higher in large urban districts than in other places.
Special education kids, they're really expensive to educate, and prior to 1975, it was like, your kid has special needs? Too bad, keep him or her at home. And those kids have a right to a public school education now. That's amazing. That's a major step forward. English language learners, super expensive to educate and we're getting closer to that. I'm not saying the system is perfect, but we're doing better.
All the evidence points in the direction that we have a fairer and more effective system that is probably more focused on student achievement than it once was.
One of the most frequently cited pieces of information in these conversations is, we're just getting crushed in these international comparisons. People don't know a whole lot about it, but it is a nice piece of evidence that confirms this thing they already believe because they've heard it so many times.
There are a lot of people in policy positions and in political leadership who believe that, and I don't think they're being disingenuous. I think PISA is a big part of that. They say, oh my God, we finished 29th or whatever — we didn't finish first on whatever it is. We need to be first. It excites people who don't know what's on the PISA, or why some countries would be doing better.
This tells us that on one narrow snapshot, kids in Shanghai, which happens to be a very affluent city in a country that promotes testing far more than we do, happen to score better on a narrow range of questions than our kids. I'm not sure what the usefulness of any of that stuff really is.
And, as Diane Ravich points out, the U.S. has NEVER scored near the top even as our country ascended to the top of the world in space exploration and wealth. Some of that has to do with who we choose to educate and who other countries do (or don't) test.