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Joel Klein Claims "K-12 Isn't Working" -- But the Facts Prove Him Dead Wrong

Despite dramatic improvements in educational achievement over 30 years, reformers insist on the rhetoric of America's "failing schools." Here's why they're wrong.

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Of course, like any institution, public education should be improved. We should be able to do much better. But some, perhaps many of the things American schools have been doing have turned out to be quite successful. By making a blanket charge of failure and proposing to overturn the entire enterprise, whether in favor of tablet-based instruction, charter schools, short-term teachers, or private school vouchers, the reformers may well be destroying much of what has worked in favor of untested fads.


1.  An earlier posted version of this blog incorrectly asserted that “The only scientifically credible study of class size reduction, an experiment conducted in Tennessee 20 years ago, found that smaller classes were of particular benefit to disadvantaged children in the early grades, but without similar benefits for middle class and older children.” As Leonie Haimson, an advocate of class size reduction, reminded me, the Tennessee experiment did not include children older than grade 3, so did not find that there were not similar benefits for older children. As the corrected version of the blog states, there have been no comparable studies of class size reduction for older children, and it is possible that older children also benefit from smaller classes. Joel Klein’s statement that class size reduction has not worked remains without evidentiary support.

Richard Rothstein is a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute and senior fellow at the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at U.C. Berkeley. Contact Richard Rothstein at