CAL: Our data says: If public schools are truly failing, then private schools are in even more trouble. But I’m not convinced that’s the case when you look at a lot of the longitudinal data and even some of the international data. There are reasons to think our typical and our best public schools are doing a pretty great job—it’s just the national averages are often dragged down by the fact that we have a lot of schools with poor-performing students who happen to also be poor. That we have such large socio-economic polarization in this country that students at the bottom are kind of skewing the overall sense of how we are doing. But there are reasons to think that over time, top scores have stabilized or even improved despite the additional challenges that are being pushed on the public schools.
STL: I would add that the NAEP data over the past couple of decades have shown remarkable improvement in U.S. students’ scores. So you know yes, public schools have challenges and have problems, but I would say that they really have shown themselves to be effective at implementing new forms of instruction and improving student achievement. And they do that with incredible demands on them to reach such a broad range of students.