The education deformers' chief lever in their attempt to privatize and de-unionize public education is the notion that public schools are "failing," somehow holding back the country and causing, in the words of Minneapolis Councilman Don Samuels, an "endless cycle of poverty and failure." But - and here's something you almost never hear in the traditional media - by the nation's most respected standards educational achievement of students in the U.S. has been steadily improving for decades, and the achievement gap between Blacks and Whites has been declining. In our fact-free education discourse this underlying reality just doesn't fit the school-are-bad teachers-at-fault narrative, so it is ignored.
The following charts are from the US Department of Education; they compare scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for students of various ages and grades, comparing Black and White achievement.
The first chart compares national achievement in mathematics at age nine, from 1978-2004. Over that time period White scores have gone up 10 percent and Black scores went up 17 percent. That means the achievement gap declined over the period by about 25 percent.
Next look at the same data for 13 year olds. The improvement is almost as good - Blacks increased their test scores by 14 percent, wiping out more than a third of the Black/White achievement gap nationwide:
There are similar gains in reading scores, as demonstrated in the next chart. Between 1980 and 2004 Black scores increased six percent, closing the achievement gap by a third, with two-thirds of the gains coming since 1999:
Now look at the data for Minnesota. Here you see startling test gains by both Blacks and Whites, and a 20 percent decrease in the Black/White math achievement gap for fourth graders over the years 1992-2007. Over the period the math scores of Black fourth graders increased 15 percent:
The gains are sustained by grade eight, where Black scores increased by 10 percent, while White scores increased by seven percent:
Test scores for reading also show positive results in Minnesota. The following chart shows reading scores for eight graders between the years 1998 and 2007. Blacks showed a six percent increase, while White scores more or less stagnated, resulting in about a 26 percent drop in the Black/White achievement gap:
One other point: Notice all the years of reading and math where student scores improved, where the overwhelming percentage of students were taught at regular public schools with unionized teachers. Those schools and teachers were obviously doing something right to get those results. Ask yourself whether the attacks on public schools and their teachers by today's education deform movement is due to something happening at those schools, or something happening in our Plutocratic political system.