American students, as a whole, are smarter than they ever have been, based on the gold standard National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). This assessment began in 1971. Forty years later, our students are scoring as high, or higher in every category. Moreover, black students have made gains at a much faster rate than white students. The gap is closing. You can browse the executive summary HERE, or read the summary report HERE.
Make no mistake, we have a shameful achievement gap. We need to get better at teaching and educating as a whole society. We need to do this because it is the right thing to do. We need to do this because it will make our country stronger. We need to get better because all kids can and should get a world class education. However, we don't need to do this because somehow we are losing our competitive edge.
If you believed popular culture and the latest education deformers, you would think that no American education has gotten worse over the last forty years. You would have to think the achievement gap has increased. For example, Michelle Rhee and the A.L.E.C. aligned StudentsFirst released a despicable ad analogizing our education system with an obese, effeminate Olympic athlete. It was offensive on a myriad of levels. Just like the Olympics, the most obese nation in the world needs to improve its athleticism, but that doesn't mean we are not competitive. Heck, I am pretty sure we crushed the field.
The bottom line is that the education deformers narrative is divisive and dishonest. It is a misrepresentation of the real landscape. We need to be honest about our weaknesses, and address them aggressively. It is not helpful to distort the entire system, tear down all of public education, and savage teachers in order to address our gaps. We will never stop trying to help ALL students get smarter. We can never quit until ALL students achieve at high levels. Supporting education, teachers, and students as a whole community is the way to do it. Burning the entire village to save it is certainly bold. Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst, and A.L.E.C. are bold in this way. You can go with bold, or you can go with smart.