Thursday, October 24, 2013

Report: American Education Isn't Mediocre—It's Deeply Unequal

1. Report: American Education Isn't Mediocre—It's Deeply Unequal. (2013 October 24) The Atlantic.

2. Category of problem: Education

3. Level of problem: National level

4. The article concerns: A recent state-by-state study revealing that, in comparison to international students, American students in certain states (such as Massachusetts and Vermont) were performing at a highly competitive level. The study alternatively revealed, however, that students in certain states (such as Alabama and Mississippi) were performing at much lower rates than international students and their counterparts in other states.

5. Why this is important: As the title of the article suggests, the study reveals an astonishing gap in the quality of education within the states, as opposed to merely overseas. Naturally, this inequality will deeply disadvantage not only geographically defined demographics, but other corresponding demographics as well (as defined by the demographic content of each state). For example, southern states tend to have less effective education systems; southern states also have higher proportions of African-Americans. This results in a disadvantage for African-Americans.

6. My views on this issue/policy: I hope that policymakers will recognize that this revelation is an important opportunity for school board officials and other government officials to observe the differences between effective and ineffective educational practices, as well as explore how a state's unique identity and environment affects the quality of education within the state.

Education is possibly the most important stepping stone to wealth and success (of not only individuals but nations), and studies such as this seem to further underline the existence of ingrained disadvantages for individuals of certain demographics. For reference, the highest performing states were Vermont and Massachusetts, and the lowest performing states were Mississippi and Alabama.

I visited the US Census Bureau and observed the following statistics:

1. Vermont: 
11.3% below the poverty line
4.6% non-white
$53, 422 household income

2. Massachusetts:
10.7% below the poverty line
16.3% non-white
$65, 981 household income

3. Mississippi:
21.6% below the poverty line
40.1% non-white
$38, 718 household income

4. Alabama: 
17.6% below the poverty line
30.0% non-white
$42, 934 household income

These statistics in conjunction with the study from the article show a strong correlation between poverty level, minority population, income and level of education. The two implications of this are (1) impoverished and minority individuals are subject to less effective education systems and thus experience a societal disadvantage, and (2) effective education is key to improving American living standards, and ineffective education perpetuates poverty.

The federal government (as opposed to the state governments) need to address education so that standards of education become more equalized among all states, thus preventing the perpetuation of the poverty cycle among individuals and particular demographics.

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