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Education reform: the problem with helping everyone reach 'average'

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The crisis in American education includes both our overall poor national performance and the miniscule numbers of US students achieving at the highest levels. Even our best students are less competitive. The problem with previous education reform efforts is that they have poured time, money, and resources into bringing all students up to proficiency – at the expense of our most gifted students. If we want the best educational performance, we have to target our brightest students, not ignore them in the fight to help everyone reach “average.”

Moving from paper to practice

We’ve been inundated with reams of reports, studies, and expert panels advising us how to fix this problem. During one week last fall, two government-convened panels released reports full of prescriptions for what the nation must due to reclaim its position as a leading innovator.

The reports by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and the National Science Board offer a plethora of recommendations including better teacher training, creating 1,000 new STEM-focused (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) schools, and holding schools accountable for the performance of high-achieving students.

Though they highlight crucial goals, unfortunately, these proposals carried no implementation plan. To prevent them from collecting dust on a shelf, we offer the following core recommendations:

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