August 25, 2014

Back to School: More Education Money Hasn't Improved Results

Summary

For millions of children across the country, August signals the traditional culmination of summer break and the start of the academic year. As the final days of August bleed into September, students trade swimsuits for school uniforms and flock toward the bus stop, swapping stories of summer vacation along the way. August is a month that has held its post as gatekeeper of summer and school year in America for more than a century.

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For millions of children across the country, August signals the traditional culmination of summer break and the start of the academic year. As the final days of August bleed into September, students trade swimsuits for school uniforms and flock toward the bus stop, swapping stories of summer vacation along the way. August is a month that has held its post as gatekeeper of summer and school year in America for more than a century. By the early 1900s, summer break was already well established in the cyclical routines of children and teachers. Each year, herds of American students headed back to class, just as their 21st century counterparts will this month.

On some level, those two groups of students are not so different. There is something in that first-day-of-school excitement with its carefully packed lunch boxes and freshly sharpened pencils that persists across time. In other ways, the groups are completely dissimilar; the contents of their lunches have undoubtedly changed, and many of today’s students have exchanged their pencils for iPads. But perhaps more striking than the transformations in the students themselves are the structural differences that define the education system surrounding them.

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