Everyone knows that our public school system is a mess, far worse than it’s ever been. Teachers’ unions, more than any other factor, stand in the way of making progress toward a brighter future, where graduation rates are up, test scores stop falling, and we restore our education system to its former greatness. If we only convert the current public schools into charter schools, we can achieve this goal.
Everyone knows this.
Everyone is wrong.
Despite being underfunded, undervalued and vilified, America’s teachers are by any measure doing a better job today than they ever have before. Graduation rates are up. Test scores are, too. American students graduate from high school with better education than they ever have in our nation’s history.
You probably haven’t heard this. You’ve heard about failing schools and burnt-out teachers. You’ve heard Michelle Rhee tout her experience in Washington, D.C., arguing that college students with no education training make better teachers than 20-year veterans. You’ve heard that teachers are just greedy and don’t care about whether kids succeed or fail.
With the Chicago teachers’ union striking for the first time in a quarter-century, these stories — told by Democrats and Republicans alike — are circulating once again. Indeed, so pernicious are the tales that you probably doubt everything I’ve written so far. We all know our schools are failing us. We hear this tale every day.
The numbers tell a different tale.
Our Succeeding Schools
A high school diploma is considered the minimal education needed for success in our country, and not enough students are receiving them. The high school graduation rate is abysmal, and we need to do something — anything — to shore it up.
Does that sound familiar? It should. We hear, over and over again, how a quarter of high school students drop out, and how this is a crisis of epic proportions.
No, it’s not good when a student drops out of high school without graduating — but that’s happening less than at any time in recorded history. Moreover, the students who drop out rarely stay dropped out — most go on to earn a G.E.D., the equivalent of a high school diploma.
In 2009, 86.7 percent of Americans over 25 years old held high school diplomas. That was the highest rate in U.S. history, up from 80.2 percent in 1997, up from 73.9 percent in 1985. Moreover, 88.6 percent of people aged 25 to 29 were high school graduates, also a record.
Image Credit: Robert Couse-Baker
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