Education isn’t broken. Dr. Richard Consider DuFour’s made this case magnificently In Praise of American Educators (2015). Dr. DuFour reports that:
- High school graduation rates are at an all-time high.
- More students are taking AP courses and a greater rate of students are passing AP tests.
- Student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) assessments have steadily improved the past several decades.
- While 10% of parents report that public schools are failing and 18% give public schools grades of A or B, only 1% of parents report that their oldest child’s school is failing and 75% give this local school a grade or A or B, the best grades for local schools in the poll’s history.
- Nearly 90% of students’ agree that student-teacher relations are positive, a percentage well above the average of industrialized nations within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
- Speaking of OECD, when controlling on student poverty, students from the United States would rank first in the world on the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA); when including students living in poverty (and the US has the highest percentage of students living in poverty among industrialized nations), the US scores in the middle of the pack, or just below. (I do not mean suggest our services and supports for students living in poverty have been adequate; they most definitely haven’t and we must do better as educators serving all students and as a society eliminating poverty).
These successes have occurred as the number and percent of students living in poverty and speaking a language other than English at home have grown at significant rates.
While a crisis does not exist, we can and must improve. It’s not simply the characteristics of the students we serve that are changing; the world for which we are preparing students is changing as well. Consider these facts:
- The percentage of jobs that requires postsecondary education has increased by 2.3 times in the past 50 years, and a college degree is increasingly necessary for access to middle class.
- Workers who do not graduate from high school, or who graduate unready for college or a skilled career, will be limited to service, sales, and office support jobs – jobs that pay low salaries and that are in decline (Carnevale, Smith, & Strohl, 2010; 2013).
The futures for which we are preparing students has changed and continue to change and education is increasingly represents the differentiator (Bendor, Bordoff, & Furman, 2007)
- Classes are increasingly fixed: Children born into the lower class are ten times more likely to live in the lower class as adults than are children born into the upper class
- Children born into the upper class are 14 times more likely to earn a postsecondary degree than children born into the lower class (Greenstone, Looney, Patashnik, & Yu, 2013; Edsall, 2012).
In a rapidly changing, increasingly global world, we must commit to continuous improvement and to a reflection upon on or current practices. The status quo is simply not an option, even in the (currently) highest performing schools.
And, we must constantly learn from the feedback our students are providing – to the evidence of success that we are gathering. For teachers and students, future learning must always be informed by evidence. And as evidence gathering tools are increasingly requiring students to justify, to explain, and to reason, the evidence may reveal that we were doing well when the rigor and depth of knowledge demands were more modest, but that there is understandable shifts to be made as our expectations shift.
These truths do not mean that education is broken. We must simply continue to evolve and improve. That’s what professions do, and education is the most important profession in the world.