I'm going to come back to work on this piece, believe me. What's got me provoked is the idea that the nation's education problem can be fixed by investing resources (excellent teachers, money), in our lowest schools.
I agree that this would be the remedy.
However, I don't think we can get there from here. There needs to be an intermediary step, and that step needs to be a recognition of why we are invested in poor education in the first place. We can say we want it to improve, but our actions, as evaluated by our persistant results, reflect a much stronger will to keep it low. Somewhere, there's an incentive to maintain poor education, otherwise, we'd have continued the upward march.
In counseling, when you meet someone who knows what "the answer" is, yet doesn't pursue it as a solution to their dilemma, you start asking what function "the wrong answer" has in their personal system---what are the incentives, and most times the very real needs, being realized through a less than adequate, and often destructive, course of action? This makes me ask what the hidden incentive is in maintaining poor results in the area of education.
The conclusion I come to is that if you educate everyone rather poorly, the only people who can make up the difference, through tutoring, parental involvement, and enrichment activities --are those who already have means. Everyone else is stuck with what the public schools offer, nothing more.
This guarantees that those in power stay in power, and that those who do not have the means but are nevertheless able to vault into power, will be very few and probably not well-equipped enough to compete over the long haul. Poor education is about guaranteeing the place of the haves, and making sure the have-nots do not get a voice.
Take a look at the places where poor education rules and then take a look at the history of power in those places. I think you'll find an enduring history of high disparity between haves and have nots and maybe some history of conquest, as well--an enduring gap between the wealthy/powerful and the poor/not powerful that is almost impervious to narrowing, without the contribution of a quality education.