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January 08, 2013


I am totally committed to improving opportunities for poor children to attend better schools, and to fundamentally changing the unequal educational opportunities in our ghettos; but as I've written on numerous occasions, superior ghetto schools will not solve America's problems. Perhaps we should prioritize turning around the bottom quintile of schools, or the bottom quintile of neighbourhoods; but that can only form a part of a more comprehensive national strategy to ensure our continuing competitiveness in the 21st century; and America's strategy should only form a portion of a more comprehensive strategy to create a better world.

"This is true, but as Matt Yglesias writes, most of Rhee's favored policies are too new to be conclusively judged; the proof will be in the pudding a decade from now, when we can track what effect, if any, school choice and test-score based accountability policies have had on gold-standard NAEP test scores over time."

This is a good response to the criticism that Rhee gives the highest grades to low-performing states, but it can't answer for states like Vermont and Massachusetts, which Rhee grades poorly despite their being among the highest-scoring on national tests.

Implicit in Rhee's criticism of these states, given her organization's name, is that those states' policies don't put "students first"—and given that those states she gives poor grades are those that have kept the traditional public education system in place, it would suggest that at the very least, Rhee misunderstands the problems with education.

In other words, in states like Massachusetts and Vermont, their education policies *have* been given time to work—and the evidence shows that despite having never implemented Rhee's proposed policy changes, they are among the best in the nation. I think that is a much more damning indictment of Rhee's policy proposals than low-performing states that get high grades from Rhee.

Dana, you have so many good ideas about public education, why not take it to another level, and start working on some tasks that will actually improve all the schools in the long run. After 30 years in public education, I have come to realize that there is no improvement possible under our state-run system. We have to eventually change to a national one, like the rest of the world, or we will always be stuck in the mediocre status quo.
Answer me this: Why is it that we do not call any of our government or college programs "departments of public education," like we call them "public health" or "public safety"? Isn't it because everyone knows, deep down, that public education in this country doesn't work? The states are supposed to be in charge of it, but they cannot do the job. Their graduates move away too often to make it reasonable for them to ever educate anyone above an average level. The people who pay for the education in any one state are not getting a full benefit from this support, so they will never fund excellent schools. A national system would solve this, and allow the system to improve.
So, fine, you say, but no one will ever do away with state control of public ed. I don't believe that. Stranger things have happened. Anyway, it is time to try. I have more arguments at nationalpubliceducation.com.

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