There is a long running debate in education – particularly intense since the 1983 Nation At Risk report – about whether school quality has much to do with economic competitiveness. It’s a debate often characterized by stridency on both sides. For instance corporate leaders are often quick to castigate the quality of American schools during economic rough patches (remember the Japanese…) and rarely credit the schools when things are going well (remember the late 1990s…) though in reality the schools have not had a direct causal effect on either. On the other hand, too many self-anointed “defenders” of public schools latch onto the overheated rhetoric about competitiveness and the historical fallacies to argue there is no real problem here at all.
A terrific package of Education Week commentaries takes a look at this debate from the general perspective of little linkage (Gerald Bracey), lotta linkage (Eric Hanushek), and the times, they are a changing (Tony Carnavale).
For Eduwonk’s money it’s this third essay that really nails today’s challenge. In practice, however, we face two challenges. The first is addressing the enormous, and race/income correlated inequities in resources, teacher quality, curriculum, and standards that exist today. The second is the question of increasing rigor overall.
Update: Jay Mathews weighs in.