The Upsides of Misplaced Focus.

Writing at her blog, Dana Goldstein reminds would-be education reformers that most American schools actually serve their students pretty well:

This is, in part, the point Nick Lemann made in his New Yorker column on “the overblown crisis in American education.” It’s important to note that the major problem with American education is the problem of class and race inequality. As Linda Darling Hammond writes in The Flat World and Education, “students in the highest-achieving states and districts in the United States do as well as those in high-achieving nations elsewhere.” Indeed, American white, Asian, and multiracial children perform better than the OECD average in reading, science, math, and problem solving. It is black and Hispanic kids that are falling behind.

Insofar that America has a serious problem educating its children, it's because some of those children come from terribly disadvantaged backgrounds; of the more than 13 million children who live in poor families, close to two-thirds are African American and Hispanic. Our failure to educate those children has as much to do with the conditions of their lives as it does the quality of their schools.

That said, and at the risk of sounding a little cynical, it might be good that attention is focused on the school system as a whole, and not just those schools serving disadvantaged populations; Americans tend to be a lot less enthusiastic about reform efforts when the beneficiaries are black and brown.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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