The Achievement Gap

Bill Michaelson's picture

There is a beautiful school in Gladstone, New Jersey that gives children an educational experience of discovery and learning that epitomizes what most parents would probably give their own children if they could afford the price. Someone has publicly posted a YouTube video that proudly showcases the school and some children. It's wonderful! I don't object to parents paying $30,000 per year to send their children to private school. But I sure would like to see our public schools offer the same pedagogy, even if it needs to be offered in less posh surroundings. They do not, and the reason relates to leadership.

Perhaps our political leadership doesn't see all our children through the same lens. That is why we have evolved to a system where our public school management is driven by standardized tests with increasing pressure year after year, while the children of the elite typically attend schools that are not obsessively focused on test preparation. YouTube offers a window into the insipid, embarrassing and sometimes degrading practices that educators have resorted to in their desperate striving for higher scores on standardized tests.

Just watch the video clip promoting the Willow School overlaid with a few snippets of the awful nonsense and even abuse that is representative of what is happening in schools around our nation. The transitions are jarring and they are meant to be, because the reality is jarring. This is not about bad schools. This is the inevitable result of bad policy. You see educational malpractice in the myriad test prep activities and other junk that can be found on the Web such as this and this. You can see it in the classroom of a Success Academy charter school as reported by the New York Times.

We have not achieved what we should for all our children.