|Issues Challenging Education|
IMPROVING THE PERCEPTION OF PUBLIC EDUCATION
Amy Anderson email@example.com
Graduate Program in Educational Leadership
Does this sound like a desirable profession?
There is one thing missing from the description: today's teacher
must be willing to face the wrath of the American public on a
daily basis. The message is loud and clear: if students are not
learning, it is the fault of teachers and teacher training institutions.
Secretary of Education Richard Riley commented in a recent speech,
"... we need to stop dumbing down our children, and reach
up and set high expectations" (Riley, 1996). His comments
are directed to the general public, but the message is heard by
educators around the country. Comments like these from our political
leaders make an already difficult profession even tougher. A survey
of school personnel by The Horace Mann League listed the top ten
factors judged to be most detrimental to the success of public
schools (McKay, 1993).
The number one factor was, the negative perceptions about public
educators. These views have a tremendous impact on schools.
Defining the Issue
One of the greatest issues facing educators today is the public's criticism of America's public schools. The negative perception of public schools is leading to a decrease in public support evidenced in: demands to reduce funding, offer alternatives including vouchers to private schools, and provide national tests to guarantee that teaching and learning are taking place. The assumptions relating to the inadequacy of public schools tend to fall into three categories: ineffective teachers; poor return on fiscal expenditures; and declining student performance.
Ineffective Teachers. Criticisms about the teaching force revolve around the aptitude of teachers and the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs. The assumption is made that poor teachers are the result of poor training programs. The training programs are perceived as having low standards for acceptance, inadequate instruction, and limited application to practice. A common lament is "we aren't getting the best of the brightest in the teaching profession." While this statement bears some truth, it does not apply to the entire profession. The impact of these words often cause permanent scars in the hearts of great educators and in the minds of the general public.
Poor Return On Fiscal Expenditures. There is a perception that the money spent on education is not closely tied to positive student outcomes. People believe that public schools are ineffective despite being given a plethora of resources and funding. In addition, the private sector is perceived as being better at managing schools and educating children than the bureaucratic public sector.
Declining Student Aptitude. The perception of student failure is further entrenched in the public's mind each time they hear that student achievement is falling below average and young adults are ill-prepared to enter the nation's workforce. These perceptions cause many individuals in society to jump to one or both negative conclusions: 1) Teachers aren't teaching; and 2) Students aren't as bright as they used to be.
No issue emerges in isolation. The issue of the negative perception of public schools has a rich history and numerous forces impinging upon it. It is the combination of these past and present influences that has made the issue of the negative perception of public education a hot topic in the legislative halls as well as the focus of many "dinner-table conversations" in America's homes.
Background of the Issue
The reformation of public schools is not
a new topic. It seems as though public schools have received intense
scrutiny since their inception. Parents, professionals, students,
educators, and the media have long criticized the quality of education
delivered by America's public schools system. With the dawn of
the Information Age, it is now even easier to share information,
and criticisms, with a wide audience on any topic. A trait common
among people is a penchant for promulgating 'bad news', which
makes it even easier to believe that American public schools are
failing to educate our children. The old journalism adage "if
it doesn't bleed, it doesn't lead" often holds true, and
has fostered the impression that public schools are in critical
Problems in schools are a guaranteed headline,
but this is not new news. Criticisms of public schools have been
traced back to the 1800's with the Industrial Revolution when
schools began the process of centralization (Murphy & Beck,
1995). Many people felt centralization would be the downfall of
the educational system because it would eliminate professionalism.
Then in the early 1900's, political corruption
and the role of education made headlines. During this time, John
Dewey was fighting to maintain the integrity of professional decision
making by advocating that the heads of schools stay out of curricular
decisions (Murphy and Beck, 1995). Dewey stated: "The dictation
of the subject matter to be taught and the methods to be used
in teaching, mean nothing more or less than the deliberate restriction
of intelligence, the imprisoning of the spirit" (Dewey, 1903).
The 1920's heralded a movement to decentralize schools and the
concept of teachers' councils emerged as a way to empower local
decision makers. 'Democratic Administration' became the buzzwords
of the 1920's and 1930's (Murphy and Beck, 1995).
Public schools came under fire again when
the space race began in the 1950's. Americans suddenly turned
their attention toward global competition and pinned their hopes
for dominance on public schools. Success was measured in terms
of literacy rates, achievement test scores, high school graduation
rates, and the professionalization of teachers. When Americans
realized they were not first in every category, according to some
measurement instrument, panic ensued. Money poured into the educational
system, and with more funding came a move toward centralized control.
The 1960's bore witness to the concept
of "community control" as local communities tried to
reclaim their schools. Then A Nation At Risk, a national
report, was released in 1983 increasing the concern in America
that our educational system was not doing enough to keep our students
competitive. Publications such as the Sandia Report, which
refuted statements made in A Nation At Risk, were buried.
Once the Sandia Report was uncovered, it received limited
circulation and attention.
Today, people read that the achievement
of the children in the United States is lower than that of children
in other industrialized countries, that the SAT had to be re-centered
with the average score being lower, and that technology is growing
and our children do not understand how to use it. Americans fear
that their children will not be prepared to be competitive in
the 21st century. The public's distrust of schools, and their
willingness to believe the worst, has solidified into a perception
so negative that any attempt to shed light on the subject is dismissed
as educators' attempt to refute the 'facts'. In part, the negative
perceptions of public schools are so deeply entrenched in the
American psyche that educators doubt their own effectiveness and
believe the public schools are faltering.
Forces Driving the Issue
Every issue has forces driving it. Sometimes these forces are powerful enough to thrust the issue into the macro arena (Mazzoni, 1991). This arena is essentially the 'public eye'. Most issues, if important, will quickly garner support, call for action, and then quickly fade away. Never in history has one issue, the perceived decline of public education, had such staying power. What is driving this issue and maintaining its significance in the public eye?
Some generalizations have already been
made about human nature and our penchant for believing the worst
and its application to perceptions about public education. There
are other forces, however, that in conjunction with one another,
function to perpetuate disillusionment.
One significant force is how 'facts' are
selected for reporting and presented. Usually, there is a preconceived
purpose for their selection and release. Depending upon the purpose
of the organization disseminating the information, certain details
may be glossed over or go unmentioned. Often this leaves the public
with only half the story, unaware that there is more information
available. In education many 'facts' were released stating that
education is in dire need of improvement. In the past, disseminating
negative information was a strategy used to elicit more funds
for education. Many individuals would not like to admit they have
been duped or are statistically ignorant. (Berliner & Biddle,
1995). Not wanting to admit that they have been fooled, many policy
makers and members of the general public have a difficult time
believing the positive information about public schools. Therefore
the release of additional statistics, revealing that most of our
schools are doing a good job educating the nation's children,
is often viewed as propaganda.
Core values also play a role in undermining
positive perceptions of public schools. Most parents want the
best for their children. Many Americans believe that private schools
are able to deliver a better education to their children than
public schools. Almost 60% said that if they could afford it,
they would send their children to private schools (Berliner &
Biddle, 1995). Private schools are perceived to have a safer environment,
fewer students in the classroom and the school, better teachers,
and more resources. In addition, Americans hold a deep cynicism
toward anything that is controlled by the government. These values,
in conjunction with negative reports about public schools, work
together to deride public education.
Finally, fear plays a key role in affecting
individual perceptions. Many parents are afraid that their children
will not be well prepared to face the future, and the needs of
the future are unknown. Americans value preparedness and the ability
to compete on a global level, often using these ideals as measures
of success. As parents make predictions about what the future
holds for their children, they begin to wonder whether what their
children are learning is well married to what they will need to
know to compete in the 'real world'. This potential mismatch adds
to the perception that schools are not doing enough to educate
Social Issues as a Force
Societal forces are often ignored in discussions
of American public schools. Drugs, poverty, single parent families,
two parent working families, a turbulent economy, variations in
funding, an aging population, competition for resources, urbanization,
prejudice, social intolerance, and changing demands in the workforce,
all impinge upon our schools, and as a result, the schools reflect
the turmoil in society. Take
for example, the 1995 annual report by the Children's Defense
Fund that stated that in 1993 there were 15.7 million poor children
in the United States, the highest in 30 years (Children's Defense
Fund, 1994). The influence of such
powerful social forces is evidenced in students misbehaving (e.g.,
violent outbursts), making poor decisions (e.g., dropping out),
and searching for a familial group (e.g., joining a gang), to
cite a few examples.
None of these issues impinging upon education
can be cured by raising standards, increasing professionalism,
or requiring exit exams. Most people would not expect schools
to cure society's ills. Yet most people fail to see that schools
are a reflection of the society at large. What happens in the
community, affects the segment of the population that walks through
the school's doors on a daily basis. When
we speak of the public school's failures, the values and practices
of American society must be included since it is society and not
the schools which shape the health, familial, economic and social
conditions of those children educated in America's public schools.
High standards are important, but what is needed to achieve these
standards carries a high price tag: time to learn, a safe place
to study, and a caring adult with a mastery of the material to
facilitate their learning processes.
The 'Silver Bullet' as
People are searching for
a 'cure' for the ills of education. Often what has worked in one
district gets promoted in other districts and other states. The
promoters of these innovations frequently fail to recognize each
community's unique attributes and needs. The result becomes a
piecemeal attempt to implement an innovation that is expensive,
both financially and emotionally. Unfortunately, these silver
bullets seem to change every two to three years. This is not enough
time to make a comprehensive change work. Usually it takes five
years for the 'kinks' to be worked out and for people to become
comfortable with an innovation. Site-based management and the
standards movement have been selected as examples because these
are two innovations are considered to be hot topics today. Unfortunately
they also have the potential to succumb to the 'Silver Bullet
Site-Based Management as a Force. Teaching today is filled with many new challenges. The site based management movement creates school/community groups that manage the school. This management team provides input from parents, students, community members and educators. Their work is welcome in schools where resources are limited. But not all schools are receptive to the SBM concept. There are many districts where teachers, parents, and the state's board of education are pushing for SBM, but the leaders of the school refuse to implement SBM in its intended form. As a result, the decision making process, in these districts, often becomes a sham, and SBM is abandoned after only two or three years of implementation. The failure to implement an initiative that is supposed to improve schools signals to the American public that educators aren't capable of being a part of the solution.
The Standards Movement as a Force.
A common criticism of public schools is that American students
do not fare favorably on international test comparisons, especially
when compared with their Asian counterparts. For instance, it
was widely publicized that in the Second Assessment of Educational
Progress, US students ranked 14th of 15 nations in
math and 13th of 15 nations in science. However, Gerald
Bracey (1995) addresses this criticism. He notes that Korean children,
who scored first, answered only 18 percent more items correctly
in math and 11 percent more correct in science. Elementary and
secondary students attend after school "cram schools"
until 10:00 p.m. and attend school on Sundays. Parents spend between
20 and 30 percent of their income on these after school programs.
Children begin studying for college at age 4. They are often sleep-deprived,
causing them to act in "uncivil ways" in class. Bracey
notes that for a few percentage points, Korean as well as Japanese
children are denied many of the natural joys of their youth (Bracey,
1995). This information is not widely publicized and when it is,
many American s have a difficult time believing it is true.
The negative publicity about poor student
achievement has developed into a call to raise the standards for
teachers and students. For example, reforms include national student
examinations and more rigorous teacher certification and high
school graduation standards. With the focus on raising standards
and developing new ones, policy makers and the general public
have forgotten to look at what is working. Often, imposed standards
create a "teach to the test" mentality. The untestable
richness and texture that makes academic studies so interesting
is often forfeited in favor of increasing test scores.
Fiscal Issues as a Force
Prominent leaders in our country are telling
the American public
that we are spending too much on education. Reports to the contrary
rarely surface to reach a wide audience. For example, of industrialized
nations, 13 of 16 nations spent a higher percent of per capita
income on primary and secondary education than the United States
(Bracey, 1995). In 1988, America's per pupil expenditures ranked
ninth among sixteen industrialized countries, "spending fourteen
percent less than Germany, thirty percent less than Japan and
fifty-one percent less than Switzerland" (Astuto et al, p.
18). Such data stands in direct opposition to any assertion that
a plethora of resources have been "lavished" upon public
schools, yet the public is unaware of these statistics.
When increases in educational
funding have been reported, the public is usually uninformed about
how the money is being allocated. For instance, approximately
60 percent of the nominal increase in expenditures since the early
1980's was not utilized to acquire additional educational resources,
but rather to merely keep pace with inflation (Murnane, 1991).
A second category of expenditure increases occurred when PL 94-142,
the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, was enacted. The
law required districts to locate, identify, assess and serve students
with disabilities residing in the school district. Prior to the
passage of this law, many of these children were not in the public
schools. The implementation of PL 94-142 has absorbed 30 percent
of the increased educational funding. A third little known spending
category in education is free and reduced lunch. Today, 35% of
all students receive reduced price or free meals, programs which
ring in at over 6 billion dollars a year out of the public schools'
pocket (Rothstein, 1995).
Another major allocation issue adding to
frustration with public education is the perception that money
spent on public education does not improve student achievement
(Berliner, 1995; Odden & Massy, 1992; Coleman, 1966). Researchers
concluded that despite the substantial increase in funding for
K-12 over the last 40 years, few indicators of student achievement
or educational quality have increased at the same rate of funding
(Coleman, 1966; Odden and Massy, 1992). The blame is often placed
on disproportionate increases in administrator and staff pools
relative to teachers (Coleman, 1966, p.78). These expenditures
are viewed as wasteful and symptomatic of a bureaucracy gone out-of-control.
A little known facts is that many researchers have found serious
flaws that may have affected the results of these studies.
The Issue's Prospects
There are many influences fueling a potential
resolution of this issue. Positive statistics do exist regarding
the effectiveness of America's public schools. Educators are beginning
to speak out about the criticisms they are receiving from the
general public and from policy makers. Poll results indicate a
willingness on the general public's part to consider mediating
factors affecting public education. More and more people are receiving
an education beyond high school. The inequities in the schools
are becoming more pronounced and the public recognizes this is
not the fault of the teachers. These windows of opportunity will
be explored further to detail the potential for improving the
public's perception of America's education system.
Awareness of Inequity
Decision makers know that the ability to
equalize 'rich' and 'poor' in order to enhance the quality of
education across the nation lies in how resources for schools
are acquired. In most states, school funding levels depend on
the real estate values of the community. As a result, schools
in wealthier communities may receive up to twice as much funding
in order to educate their students than schools from poorer ghetto
Jonathan Kozol, in his book Savage Inequalities
describes many of the difficulties that students from poor communities
face while attending school. This book helped to open the public's
eyes about the problems facing our poorer school districts. The
American public is becoming aware that distribution of funds is
one root cause of the difference in quality in the public schools.
While the public may not be sure about how to mobilize forces
to change this system, grassroots efforts are starting. Many policy
makers and key decision makers are aware of the discrepancies
in resource distribution, and there are many forces that keep
them from making changes to the system. As these grassroots forces
become stronger, their advocacy has the potential to influence
the decision making processes.
Positive Poll Results
One key force for the policy maker's inertia
is that they believe the American public is unwilling to spend
more on education. Several recent polls contradict these policy
makers' assumptions. Elam in 1995 found that the general public
agrees with education professionals on the number-one problem
for local schools being inadequate funding.
Other survey results indicate that
the public may actually favor increases in teacher salaries, increases
in taxes to fund free preschool programs and child-care centers,
and would like the public schools to provide health and social
services to students (Elam, 1995; Henderson, 1993; Maniloff and
Clark, 1993). PDK/Gallup polls indicate that many people do not
believe they are throwing money away on education. Rather, they
believe that differences in funding from state to state and district
to district are largely responsible for the uneven quality of
public education in America. They want more done to improve the
quality of public schools in poorer states and communities. If
these poll results become more widely circulated, they have the
potential to place pressure on policy makers to reshape their
thinking about the funding of public education.
Additional Indicators of Public School
There are other positive indicators in
existence that may dispel the negative impression of public schools
in America's eyes. Berliner and Biddle (1995) note that we have
two to three times as many people enrolled in college than other
countries and of these students, 25%
will receive a bachelor's degree, the highest percentage in the
world (Berliner & Biddle, 1995; Astuto et al, 1993). Furthermore,
of the people between the ages of 25 and 64, 84 percent of Americans
have attained a secondary education compared to 70 percent in
Japan, 68 percent in the United Kingdom and 52 percent in France
(National Center for Education Statistics, 1993a).
In addition, over
40% of all research articles in the world are published by US
authors. The US leads all nations in the number of Nobel Prize
winners. America surpasses
its competitors, Japan and West Germany, in engineering and science
performance. Of the new scientists in the United States, 35 percent
are women compared to 10 percent in Japan (Rothstein, 1995). The
influence of additional indicators demonstrating America's intellectual
strength in comparison to other nations, outside of standardized
test results, are hard to refute if widely published. These results
have the potential to reduce fears that America is losing its
competitive edge without promoting complacency.
Diversity in the Educated Population
More and more people are
seeking additional education beyond high school. Lemken (1996)
notes the frequently cited decline in Scholastic Aptitude Test
scores is due to the fact that there are increased number of students
who take the test, therefore depressing mean scores. The original
SAT score standards were normed on 10,654 white, northeastern
students planning to attend Ivy League colleges. These demographics
are in stark contrast to the population of students taking the
SAT today. Twenty-nine percent of students taking the test today
are from families with a family income of $30,000 or under. Today,
more minority and lower-middle class students are prepared to
take the test than at any other point in history. Although the
overall scores have declined, the scores of minority students
In addition, the number of students taking Advanced Placement tests today is in excess of 463,000 compared to 98,000 in 1978 (Lemken, 1996, p. 5). Also, whereas only 29 percent of American students took algebra II and geometry in 1982, over 50 percent were taking them in 1992. Furthermore, from 1980-1991, the percentage of African-American and Hispanics attending college has climbed dramatically (Rothstein, 1995). The improved performance and widespread participation by diverse groups of students in the ranks of public school success stories is a sign of progress, not failure.
In light of this information,
the prospects for the success of public education is positive.
It will be an uphill battle, though. Public perception is very
negative. There is some justification to the concern. Policy makers
have many forces impinging upon them to maintain the status
quo, not to mention the numerous decisions they are responsible
for, outside the realm of education. Professional educators have
not been their own best advocate. Yet the fact that public education
has reached the macro arena should be viewed positively. Energy
does not need to be spent making the issue a public concern. Energy
can instead be spent taking a critical look at the problems and
the successes, and then developing solid, equitable solutions.
Implications for Public Education
Public education in America is under attack.
Not only is public education being asked to improve, many are
calling for it to be disbanded. No institution can endure and
survive while under constant attack for a sustained period of
time. Unless it can defend itself adequately, this institution,
created over 200 years ago, to preserve and protect democracy,
may be lost.
Many people believe that public education
should be decentralized and turned completely over to local community
control, or over to a professional management company. It is believed
that total local control and privatization will aid in the termination
of inadequate administrators and teachers. Competition for students
is viewed as a positive force that will foster attempts to improve
the quality of educational programs; and competition for well
trained, highly educated teachers is viewed as an additional benefit.
The public also likes the idea that content can be determined
by local interest. The 'bottom line' could be positively influenced
because there might be less paperwork, fewer mandates, and fewer
restrictions on how money should be spent. Wasteful expenditures
might be stopped because local budget authorities will have more
control over how and where the money is spent. Finally, parents
and community members can have a greater influence on the decisions
in the school.
Many of these ideas can be implemented
creatively under the current structure of public education. This
conflict has raised the consciousness of educators, policy makers
and American citizens. People are publicly defining what education
means to and for them. The public is stating their expectations
and making demands. This open forum is healthy for creating a
new vision of what public education should become. However, many
of these ideas, if implemented in a completely decentralized or
privatized manner could do more harm than good.
The negative aspects that must be considered
include issues of consistency in public education across our nation;
issues of power and influence at a local, state and national level;
issues of funding that may create more disparity or place an additional
hardship on families already struggling to survive; issues of
quality, which were the original impetus for change; and issues
of equity, which are an inherent principle of public education.
Content can be determined by local interest, but this creates
problems in consistency. What happens to families that must move
into or out of a district and across states? Will their children's
educational program suffer? Will there be more retentions? In
a highly mobile society, this is already a problem and our school
districts are relatively consistent, at least within state boundaries.
Variable certification requirements for
teachers and administrators is also a problem for individuals
who move across state lines. Will this become a problem for inter-district
transfers within state boundaries? Competition and demand for
well trained, highly educated teachers may increase, as long as
the pay is commensurate. If the salaries and benefits are not
perceived as greater, we may see astronomical attrition rates.
Inadequate administrators and teachers may not be terminated easily
because they are members of the community, which would be involved
in the decision making process. Less paperwork, fewer mandates,
and fewer restrictions on how money should be spent, could be
a positive end result, but it could also lead to even more power
for the special interest groups who often influence the allocation
of resources. More inequality, not less, may be the end result.
Parents and community members can have a greater influence on
the decisions in the school, but we must question their professional
expertise and wisdom in areas where they lack detailed information
and education. Wasteful expenditures will be stopped because local
budget authorities will have more control over how and where the
money is spent, but the ability to negotiate large contracts at
a reduced price may be the sacrifice.
There are larger social implications to privatization. The average
cost of educating a general education student in the public school
in 1988 was $2,500 per year. The average cost of sending a child
to a private school was $5000 a year (Murphy & Beck, 1995).
Are parents in a financial position to pay for private school?
If they aren't, do these children receive an education? Will decentralization
or privatization create a system of elitism far greater than the
current inequities, in existence with the current system of public
In addition to educating students without
special needs, consider that the current average cost of educating
a child with a disability is $17,600 (Bracey, 1995).
What will happen to these children
who desperately need services? Without an agency mandating and
overseeing their education, will local districts continue to provide
Competition for students may hinder the quality of educational
programs because effort, time, and thought are being spent on
recruitment rather than program development and instruction. Program
development may become highly dependent upon local expertise with
no infrastructure to coordinate an exchange of information. Variability
in standards and certification requirements may make it difficult
to attract and recruit highly skilled teachers nationwide, pockets
of excellence will become even more entrenched in the social fabric.
Many people do not realize that education is not a right granted
in the US constitution. It is a privilege granted in state constitutions.
What are the implications of this for children receiving an education,
let alone a quality education? There is the potential for not
only an elitist system of education being created, but also the
potential for the re-segregation of our schools. Is this what
we want for America?
Preparation for Dealing with the Issue Effectively
From all of this gloom and doom it is important
to focus on future strategies to combat the criticism of public
education. With education being a hot political issue, now is
the time. Educators will admit that there are problems in schools.
Despite the problems, we must become advocates for the fact that
there are many students receiving a quality education from first
rate teachers. Two important issues must be addressed: 1) The
focus must shift from blaming educators to looking at the root
causes and the decision making process; and 2) Changes must be
made to improve the system.
Educators need to promote themselves and educate the American
public about the real truth.
This is not to say that there are improvements
that need to be made. Schools reflect society in general and our
public schools need support. Educators alone cannot accomplish
all that needs to be done. It will take a combined effort from
all stakeholders. The initial impetus will need to come from within.
We need to clean up our own house first. Public educators need
to regain confidence in what they are teaching, how they are teaching,
and how they are helping young people grow" (McKay, 1993). Acquiring
self-efficacy is an important first step. Educators will not be
able to mount a successful campaign unless they strongly believe
in what they are doing.
Educators must become politically savvy.
Spreading the word on successes and educating
the public on changes will not be an easy task. It is a role that
educators have not been comfortable with in the past. Yet most
educators know where the real problems and successes are. They
must learn to effectively share this information with politicians
and exercise their collective influence to guide the future of
their field. Hill, Guthrie, and Pierce call for a renewed vision
of school that emphasizes the importance of local community. A
school that truly serves the needs of individual students. In
doing this local communities will develop a trust in their schools.
"To fulfill this trust, schools must be strong organizations
capable of purposive action" (Guthrie, 1988). By being action
oriented educators will be responsible for directing policy instead
of accepting policy from outside influences. This process is important
to restoring faith in America's public schools.
More positive publicity must come from people outside the field
of education who believe in America's public schools.
Chris Whittle founder of The Edison Project
stated, "For the most part, school administrators and staff
are hard-working and dedicated people whose compensation is not
commensurate with their talents" (Whittle, 1997). This
is coming from a successful business person who initially planned
to reinvent schooling by creating a national network of for-profit
Accurate data must be widely reported and circulated that reflects
an accurate picture of how American public schools are performing,
without ulterior motives influencing the reports.
As an example, polls routinely show that
Americans feel that their own local schools are doing reasonably
well. This opinion does not transfer over to public schools in
general. A new Gallup Poll finds that, parents with children in
school are more satisfied than other members of the public with
the performance of American schools, both public and private
(Hill, Guthrie, & Pierce, 1996). As
we have mentioned throughout this analysis, statistics show that
public schools overall are preparing more students now than ever
before for higher education.
It must be widely recognized that public schools are still the
most viable means through which we can best meet the needs of
those students least served in American society and schools.
A discussion of the triumphs
of America's public schools would be incomplete without acknowledging
the following point: Not all children are being served by public
schools. The needs of disadvantaged and minority children continue
to be neglected by society and the public schools in many respects.
While many of these children are performing at higher levels than
ever before, the fact remains that these children remain at the
bottom of the economic and educational ladder.
Educators cannot expect those
outside the field of education to defend the public schools in
the face of misinformation and false accusations. Instead, educators
must speak as one voice in defending the public school system,
in celebrating its strengths and in demanding that public schools
be given adequate resources to meet the needs of all, not just
some of America's youth. After all, considering the fact that
well-funded schools perform well and inadequately funded schools
often perform poorly, the following straightforward statement
bears truth: "The public school system is mostly on the right
track and the best way to improve its results, especially for
minority and less advantaged children is to pour more money into
it" (Rothstein, 1995, p. 89).
Thus, by fully focusing on and supporting America's public schools
educators, policy makers, business persons and the American public
will be able to converge their energy on celebrating the successes
and improving public schools for all students instead of
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