After a half-a-century of school reform, a majority of Americans consider the public schools as worse today than when they attended school. Those reforms missed the mark because they were not focused on the backgrounds of the students’ parents–by far the most important indicator of students’ progress in school. The importance of parents was documented by the Coleman Report more than 50 years ago.
School reform must be continued but re-directed to over-come the power of low parental socio-economic status. The best way to improve the schools is to create a better, fairer economy providing parents with good jobs and decent wages. In the meantime, good pre-school, after-school, and other aids are needed to help students from low income families.
Teacher quality, although not as influential as the parents’ backgrounds, is the second most significant indicator of student success. Teachers, like parents, have not been the focus of the attention their importance deserves. In particular, teachers should be fairly paid, and their verbal and cognitive skills improved.