... teachers have been under vicious and sustained attack by right-wing conservatives, religious fundamentalists, and centrist democrats since the beginning of the 1980s.
Right-wing fundamentalists and corporate ideologues are not just waging a war against the rights of unions, workers, students, women, the disabled, low-income groups and poor minorities, but also against those public spheres that provide a vocabulary for connecting values, desires, identities, social relations and institutions to the discourse of social responsibility, ethics, and democracy, if not thinking itself.
Research shows that US teachers are doing a bang-up job. Poverty is what's holding back children's education here.
Stanford University scholar Linda Darling-Hammond explains the connection.
First of all, the United States has more children living in poverty, by a long shot, than any other industrialized nation. Right now about one in four children are living in poverty. In most other industrialized nations we’re talking about well under 10 percent, because there’s so many more supports for housing, healthcare, employment, and so on.
With that very high poverty rate, our average scores on international tests look a little above the average in reading, about at the average in science and somewhat below the average in math, and a lot has been made out of that in the United States. But in fact, students in American schools where fewer than 10 percent of the students live in poverty actually are number one in the world in reading. Students in schools with up to 25 percent of kids living in poverty would rank number three in the world in reading, and even schools with as many as 50 percent of kids in poverty scored well above the averages in the OECD nations – which is mostly the European and some Asian nations. Our teachers are doing something very right in terms of educating kids to high levels in much more challenging circumstances than children face in other countries.
The place where we really see the negative affects are in the growing number of schools with concentrated poverty, where more than 75 percent of children are poor. And there -- the children in those schools score at levels that are near those of developing countries, with all the challenges that they face. [emphasis mine]
For those of you who have trouble imagining that 25% of US children live in poverty, here's a video which shows how public perception of US wealth inequality differs drastically from reality.