She also challenges the claim by economists, and taken up by influential writers such as Malcolm Gladwell and Nicholas Kristof, that if only students were exposed to excellent teachers for three to five years in a row, the achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students would be overcome. It is true that some math teachers have been able to make up as much as 33 percent of the lag for some students in a single year—whence the economists’ extrapolation to the three-to-five-year figure.Not, of course, that one can assume either Gladwell or Kristof knows what an extrapolation is. I generally recommend the article -- a review of Diane Ravitch's [a.k.a. Dan Ravage] new book on how school choice has failed -- as it is sporadically sensible and has a lot of interesting factoids. E.g. here's Richard Hofstadter on child nature (on which see also Grobstein):
I would however part ways with both Hearse and Ravage when they rhapsodize about the "neighborhood school" as a pillar of the community. (I also find Hearse's whining about international league tables a little tiresome. Bloody awful, isn't it, that other countries educate their kids?) Most of the real problems with the school system have to do with schools for the poor; these tend to be in areas where there isn't a meaningful sense of community -- whose residents are in any case largely transient -- and the approach of the successful, no-excuses sort of inner-city schools has been to give kids an alternative social anchor from their "communities." Beyond that I don't think K-12 education can be sensibly addressed in isolation from the Big Sort -- it's a good thing to get middle-class kids into the public school system as their parents function as watchdogs, but it's not sufficient because it doesn't deal with the districts where most parents are too illiterate and/or busy to find out what their kids are learning at school.
To believe that Dewey’s synthesis was successful required a certain credulity about the pre-established harmony between child nature and democratic culture which not everyone could share. It seemed…that one would have to give up either the emphasis on child nature or the emphasis on educating for democracy.
Another bit of information that I think is crucial to this entire picture is this study (I'm quoting from an email I wrote a while ago):
[...] there's Richard Elmore's paper on high-performing schools. What Elmore found was that high-performing inner-city schools were different from both suburban schools and crap inner-city schools, which were rather like each other. In suburban schools, the instructors assumed (correctly) that parents would play the primary role in the education of students, and were hands-off; in crap inner-city schools, the instructors (incorrectly) made the same assumption, and let the kids smoke crack in class; in good inner-city schools, instructors realized that they had to make up for the lack of useful parenting, and put a huge amount of work into making sure the students were kept engaged.