Challenging the Myths about Our Public Schools

In 50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools:  The Real Crisis in Education, the authors challenge many of the assumptions about the quality of our educational system being espoused by the leaders our nation’s education reform movement:  “We cannot count the number of even our close acquaintances who recite warped opinions about our nation’s public schools … Many citizens’ conception of K–12 public education in the United States is more myth than reality.  It is essential that the truth replace the fiction (Berliner and Glass 2014, 3).”  One of these myths is that international test scores show that the United States has a second-rate education system.  The facts are that international test scores are poor indicators to use in ranking the quality of national education systems and are even worse in predicting future national prosperity. Historically, the United States has never fared well on international test comparisons of student achievement in math or science.  In 1964, we took eleventh place among twelve countries participating in the first major international study of student achievement in math.  One of the major reasons why we rank so low on international test scores is that our child poverty rate exceeds 20 percent—which is considerably higher than comparable countries.  In Finland, for example, the child poverty rate is less than 5 percent.  If we looked only at the students in the United States who attend schools where child poverty rates are under 10 percent, we would rank as the number one country in the world on international tests (Berliner and Glass 2014, 12–17).


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