What Is Wrong with Basic Education in the United States

One does not have to spend hours on Facebook and various blogs in order to chance upon an image that tries to summarize what is wrong with education. One of the most popular ones I have seen suggests that schools currently kills creativity:

Above copied from The ThornBlog
The above even pokes at "No Child Left Behind". One thing that the cartoon sorely misses which the slogan "No Child Left Behind" does not is the real problem basic education in the United States faces. The real problem is equity. There is a huge achievement gap. And the recently released field test data from Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium demonstrate this problem quite clearly. 

The following are results for third grade English Language Arts and Math exams. These are taken from a representative sample out of four million students in the United States.

Grade 3 English Language Arts

Grade 3 Mathematics

Above graphs drawn from data provided by 
Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium
In both graphs, the following define the achievement levels:

In other words, level 3 is deemed performing at grade level. In the above graphs, it is pretty clear that children are being left behind right at the starting gate. These are third grade scores and yet, the gaps are already very wide. Black, Hispanic, English Language Learners, Students with Disabilities, and Poor Children are being left behind. And it gets worse. At 11th grade, less than 10 percent of either students with disabilities or those labeled as English Language learners reach level 3 or higher. in either English Language Arts or Mathematics. These numbers compare miserably with the general population where about a third reaches proficient level in math and about 40 percent in English. At least in third grade, almost 20 percent of students in an individualized education program reach the proficient level. The gap basically widens with additional years of basic education. This is the real problem. And we cannot possibly solve problems in basic education if we do not face the real problems.