Issues Challenging Education CLOUDS AND SUN


Amy Anderson
Rick Evans
Rich Kozak
Blair Peterson

Graduate Program in Educational Leadership
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


College graduate with academic major (master's degree preferred). Excellent communication/leadership skills required. Challenging opportunity to serve 150 clients daily on a tight schedule, developing up to five different products each day to meet individual needs, while adhering to multiple product specifications. Adaptability helpful, since suppliers cannot always deliver goods on time, incumbent must arrange for own support services, and customers rarely know what they want. Ideal candidate will enjoy working in isolation from colleagues. This diversified position allows employee to exercise typing, clerical, law enforcement, and social work skills between assignments and after hours. Typical work week: 50 hours. Special nature of the work precludes amenities such as telephones or computers, but work has many intrinsic rewards. Starting salary $24,661, rising to $36,495 after only 15 years (Report of the national commission on teaching & America's future, 1996, P. 26).

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.

Issue Context

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 condition.

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?

Intra-Individual Forces

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 our children.

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 a Force

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 Syndrome'.

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 areas.

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 Success

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 have improved.

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.

Positive Implications

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.

Negative Implications

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.

Consistency Issues. 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.

Influence Issues. 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.

Financial Issues. 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 schools?

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 for them?

Quality issues. 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.

Equity Issues. 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.

Recommendation 1: 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.

Recommendation 2: 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.

Recommendation 3: 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 schools.

Recommendation 4: 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.

Recommendation 5: 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 abandoning them.


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