Peter Gow argues that the one feature we commonly dismiss with an airy “by the way” is the one feature all the school systems we admire share---high regard for the teaching profession.
"If you have an entire nation that regards education--and learning--as respectable, as an end in itself and whose practitioners are doing something not just noble and worthy but truly valued (and compensated to reflect that), it's not a big surprise when students in that society perform well in school; they're doing what their whole society--from parents to peers to adults in all stations and walks of life--believes is important, something that really matters. No wonder so many other nations out-score the great mass of American students, living as ours do in a society where anti-intellectualism is a long understood cultural trend."
I bolded this quote because it implies that education reform can never be more than band-aid fads until the whole society reforms. It has been one of my recurring themes.
Our society does not really believe our kids can achieve (http://schoolcrossing.blogspot.com/2008/05/problem-of-gratuitous-self-esteem-in.html). In fact, our society, at its depths, disdains high achievers, no matter high much we say we want to raise achievement. Tamara Fisher has documented the lack of regard, nay ridicule, high achievers suffer from their classmates.
The US could create uniformly high quality schools for ALL children if we wanted to. But we do not want to. The US could nationalize the tax base (as Japan did), but we will not because wealthy parents complain that they will not finance the education of poor kids. There are a number of other steps we could take, but each one becomes a silly partisan political football in the US. It took decades for society to create the education system we have whether we like it or not. Society must find the will---and NOW.