Education Reform: Why Federal Policies Keep Failing?

Dear Commons Community,

Helen Ladd, a professor of public policy and economics at Duke, and Edward B. Fiske, a former education editor of the New York Times, have an op-ed piece today, that criticizes federal education policy and why it is doomed to continue to fail unless the socio-economic condition of poor children is addressed.   Citing the historic Coleman Report in 1966 as well as new research by Sean F. Reardon of Stanford University, they assert that the achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families over the last 50 years far exceeds the gap between white and black students.  Essentially, school-based reforms as required by No Child Left Behind and its progeny, Race to the Top, can go only so far and will not do anything to solve the effects of poverty on low-student achievement.

They cite the Finnish system, with its famously high-performing schools, as providing food and free health care for students;  where developmental needs are addressed early and where counseling services are abundant.

They also rightfully comment on charter schools where the the evidence does not support the view that the few success stories can be scaled up to address the needs of large populations of disadvantaged students.

Their conclusion:

“The Occupy movement has catalyzed rising anxiety over income inequality; we desperately need a similar reminder of the relationship between economic advantage and student performance.”






  1. Those guys over in Netherlands generally understand what it truly means to have a democracy; but there’s little chance that we in America ever reach those lofty heights. Being a melting pot with so many different people, the adherence to their parents’ and grandparents’ nationalities consistently seem to strong to implement truly liberal and democratic principles in place. Frankly, most higher-ups economically simply don’t want the lower classes to have these things, because then the workforce disparity will disappear, and the income gap will diminish. I hope I’m wrong.