So frequently I hear that the American education system is failing or falling behind that of other industrialized nations. In studies that rank the top 30 or 50 nations in the world, our high school student, in particular, are performing well below the level of their foreign counterparts. In a recent Thomas Friedman blog, he echoed this sentiment by citing a recent McKinsey report on the economic impact of the achievement gap. Although the report projected a bleak outlook for the nation unless immediate steps are taken, there was a brief note of optimism in the final words. Specifically, the report eluded to the unwavering ability of Americans to overcome adversity and adapt to challenges. Examples included the United States pioneering of a free public education for all citizens in the early 19th century, which led to tremendous economic growth.
My personal reaction to this--we are not a nation that is falling behind, but one that is struggling to adapt to our most recent challenge. Addressing the achievement gap in all its forms--racial, economic, etc.--is an enormous obstacle that can be overcome. Presently, several states have shown dramatic improvements with regards to this ongoing problem; however, for the nation as a whole to see persistent and measurable improvements, every state must change.