A 2006 Fordham Foundation report summarized the nation’s education situation in a press release: “Half of American states ‘miss the bus’ on vital education goals.” The report found that only eight states had achieved what they called “even moderate success” over the past fifteen years in improving poor and minority students’ scores on reading, mathematics, and science. Fordham officials noted that non-needy white students scored a “not-so-shabby B” on the same rating scales. What is their conclusion? “Tough-minded education reforms tend to get results. Strong curricular content, real accountability and expanded parental choice can help raise the achievement of our neediest students.”
The 1983 publication, A Nation at Risk, informed the nation that our children are not learning enough in school, and our schools are not effective enough in educating our children. Subsequently, high schools have instituted school reforms emphasizing increased academic rigor. As a result, in 2004 more than half of high school graduates have taken an advanced science course; over one-third, an honors-level English course; and over one-third, a foreign language course. In spite of this improvement in rigor, the National Assessment of Educational Progress scores for high school graduates show no improvement since the early 1980s.
A Nation Accountable: Twenty-Five Years after a Nation at Risk, a report issued in April 2008 in an attempt to evaluate the changes in education, summed up the outcome of their efforts. “The [National Commission on Excellence in Education] was disturbed by the easy courses and ‘curricular smorgasbord’ available to high school students. Unfortunately, this has not changed greatly. Both easy courses and this smorgasbord still remain, with diluted content now hiding behind inflated course names.”
School districts are trying numerous ways to address the problems in the nation’s schools. One successful attempt to provide quality education is Charter Schools — publicly funded schools that run like private schools with accountability and performance standards. More and more education and policy experts are recommending school choice as a way to improve the education of the nation’s children. While rare just decades ago, millions of parents today can benefit from public policies that allow them to choose their children’s schools.
At some point, we will have to come to grips with the fact that a very large percentage of our students fail because of their home environment. They lack a father and mother who value, encourage, support, and reinforce their efforts to learn. Research and common sense agree: a married-couple, father-mother family is the very best home structure for children’s well-being and success in school and in life. For children to succeed somebody has to believe in them and expect the best from them. Good parenting provides the foundation for learning before children even begin their formal schooling.