David Steiner, Dean of the Hunter College School of Education and Founding Director of the CUNY Institute for Education Policy, has an interesting take on the resources that American public schools devote to athletics. From his Huffington Post piece that is, in part, a review of Amanda Ripley’s “The Smartest Kids in the World”:
To put the matter bluntly, if all U.S. schools applied the rigor and attention to their academic offerings that our high schools pay to their highest-profile sports programs, our students would come far closer to matching their demographic peers in high performing countries. (In one of her many arresting paragraphs, Ripley describes the physical education standards American students must meet to pass the Presidential Fitness Test. That test -- alone among all our assessments -- is in fact the most rigorous in the world).
The lesson for those who would reform American education is clear. We are right to work for higher standards and better teacher preparation; it's smart to realize that grit and self-discipline and determination matter alongside grades and test scores. But in the end, we simply have to do what we seem to find most difficult: teach demanding material well and not constantly underestimate our students' capacity to rise to the challenge. This means creating a teaching profession that draws in our best, and asking those teachers to teach a rigorous curriculum that progressively habituate our students to serious thinking, mastery of complex skills, and sustained study-habits. Ultimately, this is what it will take to build an effective progression from Pre-K to college and/or careers.