But there it is, on the home page of the United Kingdom's Department of Education: "As of 1 April 2012, there are 1776 academies open in England."
Academies, as you might expect, mean something different in Britain than in the United States. They are, approximately, what we would call charter schools. And there are 1,776 of them largely because of the energy and determination of British Education Secretary Michael Gove.
Britain, like America, has gotten pretty dismal results for years from its (in their terminology) state schools. (British public schools are expensive boarding schools; they include Eton, which produced David Cameron and 12 other prime ministers, and Fettes, its Scottish equivalent, which graduated former Prime Minister Tony Blair.)
This is a problem that has been recognized by all three British political parties. Blair's New Labor tried to instill more accountability with extensive testing, much like George W. Bush's bipartisan No Child Left Behind law.
But many tests got dumbed down, and the results have been disappointing. Education in both nations has been dominated by what Reagan Education Secretary William Bennett called "the Blob," the combined forces of university education schools and teachers unions, which have a bias against rigorous learning and testing.
The Blob wants students to have lots of self-esteem and deems it oppressive to demand that they learn to read or do multiplication tables.
As a result, British and American students think highly of themselves but do much worse in reading and math than their counterparts in countries like Singapore and South Korea.
Gove argues that this is "a huge crime." "Traditional subjects taught in a rigorous fashion," he says, "help poor children graduate to the middle class." In contrast, "inequality is generated by poor schools."
Gove is an example of upward mobility through good education. His parents, who didn't graduate from high school, scrimped and saved from his father's income as a fish merchant to send him to an all-boys, fee-paying school in Aberdeen, Scotland.
One of his teachers suggested he apply to Oxford. He got in and became president of the Oxford Union, the well-known debating society. That led to jobs in journalism and then to Conservative Party politics. He was elected to Parliament in 2005, and in his first term became shadow secretary of education.
When the 2010 general election resulted in Conservatives falling short of a majority, Cameron was prepared with a list of policies with which the party was in agreement with the Liberal Democrats.
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