From an editorial in the LA Times May 17, 2014. The editorial refers to the real problem in American education, the opportunity gap.
The same old thing educators have known for the past century: the problem is not with American schools or American teachers. The problem is with children who are poor. If we want to improve our educational system all we have to do is end child poverty. Noting that while middle-class students are not improving very much in test scores, affluent children have improved very much indeed, the editorial reports:
-- Strikingly, much of that income differential in test scores shows up among kids who are tested in the first months of kindergarten, before they've spent significant time in school. "It's preschool," Reardon said, along with "the out-of-school environment, that creates the gap." Affluent kids are far more likely to get a good preschool education and have parents who read to them and nurseries full of educational toys.
Other scholars found in 2006, that parents in the top one-fifth of households spent about $7,500 more each year on their children — on child care, tutors, after-school programs and athletics — than households in the bottom fifth. --
Of course, according to Republicans those children are poor because of teachers and especially teacher unions. I'm not sure exactly how they're supposed to prevent preschool children from being poor, but everything is certainly the teachers' fault. Ask any Republican.
The fact is, the American educational system is one of the better systems in the world, if you discount child poverty. Our affluent students are regularly are the top of the world in performance. How long do we ignore the facts? For as long as people will accept that smearing the teachers and blaming the unions will gain anything other than votes for Republican candidates.