America’s schools are among the most unequal in the industrialized world in terms of both inputs and outcomes. Inequalities in spending, class sizes, textbooks, computers, facilities, curriculum offerings, and access to qualified teachers contribute to disparate achievement by race and class, which increasingly feeds the “school-to-prison pipeline”—a function of many young people’s lack of adequate skills for joining the labor market. This creates an enormous drain on national resources, which, in turn, reduces the capacity to invest in education, social services, and employment. To reverse this situation, the nation must create a coherent system that can provide well-trained teachers in all communities so that all children can be skillfully taught and ultimately successful in a knowledge-based economy. This article describes the kind of preparation and policy system needed to achieve this goal.
A new book, Global Education Reform: How Privatization and Public Investment Influence Education Outcomes, provides a powerful analysis of these different ends of an ideological spectrum – from market-based experiments to strong state investments in public education.