Despite several decades of reform, public education in the United States is criticized by some as not teaching all children effectively. Consistently poor test results and low graduation rates attest to this. As a result, many taxpayers criticize public schools and demand better results. At the same time, many Americans express a deep faith in the ability of public education to address the needs of the greater society.
There are five issues that cloud the public’s perception of the public schools and fuel criticism. While more than five issues could be identified by the public–who consistently rate the performance of schools as less than optimal–these are central issues found in schools across the country. Two of these issues are long-standing characteristics of the public education system: inequality of opportunity and the burden of bureaucracy. Two are highly debated, more recent movements that attempt to address these characteristics: achievement-based outcomes and school choice. The fifth issue concerns how these movements contribute to American public education reform.