Academic journal article Education Next

Common Core and the War on Self-Deception: Learning the Truth about Schools Helps the School Reform Cause

Academic journal article Education Next

Common Core and the War on Self-Deception: Learning the Truth about Schools Helps the School Reform Cause

Article excerpt

"Think Globally, Act Locally" is a slogan around which the public should rally as much concerning education as environmental issues. Since the American school is in sad shape globally, one expects the pragmatic, Mr. Fixit American public to be actively engaged locally in school reform.

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We have just been told again, for the 15th time, that U.S. students rank below the industrialized w'orld average in both math and science and hardly above that average in literacy. Pew doubt that persistent low performance endangers our nation's prosperity (see "Underachieving in America," book reviews, Spring 2014). Clearly, it's time for local action to address a problem of global significance.

Yet at the local level, antireform forces are gaining strength. Both in New York City and in Boston, teachers union-financed candidates swept into the mayor's office in the closing months of 2013, and there is reason to believe similar events could happen elsewhere. But the enemy of school reform is as much self-deception as it is the organized opposition of those with vested interests. Members of the public see the school problem globally, but they deny the reality in front of their local noses.

When asked where the U.S. ranked relative to other countries in math, the average answer made by a nationally representative sample of Americans surveyed by Ednext was 19, a pretty good guess and barely higher than the official estimate offered by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which reported that the United States stood somewhere between 22 and 28.

But many people, even when they know the nation's schools are in trouble, give their local schools an exemption. Only 21 percent of Americans assign the nation's schools an "A" or a "B," while 49 percent hand out one of those higher grades to their own school, the Ednext poll shows.

Having accurate local information opens the door to reform. Conventional wisdom-the general knowledge circulating in informed circles-is probably quite accurate regarding global issues, about everything from the climate to car dealers, Congress, and schools in general. …

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