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Friday, August 18, 2017

American Schools are Improving! Don't let them tell you differently

I distinctly remember each of my back to school teacher convocations in late August.  Tanned and relaxed teachers shambling into the local high school auditorium, coffees in hand, eagerly seeking out their colleagues to sit with. Soon their minds were transitioning from the lake, beach or mountains to their classroom.  Invited speakers shared words of encouragement and inspired the audience through images, stories and tone.  Our district's administrators were very skilled at pairing the year's mission with the positive aspects of being a teacher. I appreciated that.  All too often, the news and politicians retch how poorly our schools perform, both parties rarely do the research to make those claims.  They just regurgitate platitudes spewed by people with alternative motives.
Contemporary American educators have accomplished more, with a more diverse student population, than any previous generation (DuFour, 2016) According to Washington Post columnist Paul Farhi, – high school completion rates, college graduation, overall performance on standardized tests – America's educational attainment has never been higher (2012).  He goes on to describe how the media is partially responsible for putting out the wrong message.  The term failing schools was used 544 times a month in newspapers and wire stories in 2012.  If you go back 20 years, that term only appeared 13 times.  Perceptions are absolutely influenced and fabricated by what the media perpetuates. Stop knocking us!  We're moving in the right direction.

In DuFour's ( A Guide to Action for PLCs book (2016), they share the following statistics:

  • We now have the highest high school graduation rates in American history, and the rates have improved for every sub group of students.
  • More high school students are succeeding in rigorous college-level work than ever before in our history.
  • The scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have improved steadily since that test was first administered in the 1970s (Ravitch, 2014)
  • American students score int he top ten in the world and considerably above the international mean on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) exams
  • Since 2009, parent satisfaction with their local schools has been among the highest ever recorded in the more than four decades since Phi Delta Kappan and the Gallup Poll began conducting the survey.
  • One in five American schools has more than 75 percent of their students living in poverty.  When American schools with low poverty are compared to the highest performing countries in the world with similar poverty rates, American students outperform their international peers (Shyamalan, 2013).
  • American students consistently rate their teachers among the highest in the world on such qualities as fairness and willingness to provide them extra support (DuFour, 2015)
There are so many wonderful teachers doing wonderful things in the classroom.  Help them and others remember that and to keep working toward getting better and better.

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