For Schools, Long Road To a Level Playing Field

The New York Times, Business Day, Wednesday, May 31, 2014

For Schools, Long Road To a Level Playing Field, by Eduardo Porter

Economic Scene

“In the American national mythology, there are few more revered ideas than the belief in education’s power to provide every child a shot at success and to overcome entrenched inequality…By the early 20th century, young Americans were much more educated than their peers in almost every European country.

That is, of course, no longer the case.  Every few years, the United States faces the ritual humiliation of seeing how its educational standards trail those of most other industrial countries.  The most recent came in 2012 when tests performed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on 15 year-olds found the United States in 26th place among 34 countries in math, 17th place in reading and 21st place in science.

But perhaps even more disturbing, the report highlighted another trend:  the persistent gulf in the test results between the rich and the poor…But the truth noted the O.E.C.D., is that ‘socioeconomic disadvantage translates more directly into poor education in the United States than is the case in many other countries.’  One of O.E.C.D’s core recommendations: ‘Stop channeling disadvantaged students into a lower-quality education.’…

Addressing the vast disparities between students’ abilities will not be easy…”

Some examples cited are  “a model that blends live and virtual teaching to tailor education to students’ abilities and interests, designing classes based on the ease and speed with which each student works… And it may help (to) move the American system from one focused on basic skills and minimum standards to one seeking to develop higher-order thinking skills, giving teachers and principals much more discretion to experiment with different ways of achieving these goals.

In addition, teacher training institutions need to be upgraded to “prepare teachers to teach what the state expects students to learn,” attracting better qualified students to teach; higher salaries for teachers.”

This long article about inequality in education and possible solutions supports the headline, leveling the playing field for students.

 The idiom leveling the playing field is used in business, the military and many sports.  It is difficult to have a fair game, whether sports, war or business, if the playing field is uneven or tilted one way or another. Of course, the idiom or metaphor comes from field sports.

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