At the same time, the research also suggests that policymakers must continue to push for higher, more challenging standards. Many states have been trying to ratchet up the rigor of their education systems by adopting new academic standards known as the Common Core. This is clearly a step in the right direction.
Still, far more attention needs to be given to implementation so that these higher expectations actually penetrate into schools and classrooms. One recent study found that 73 percent of teachers believe they're ready for the new standards. That figure should concern many since it suggests that teachers are overly confident about their ability to deliver.
Schools are notoriously hard to change, to be sure, and for decades, our education system has remained resistant to real reform. But there's good reason to hope, and when states and districts focus on creating lasting change, they can show results. Over the past 30 years, for instance, the math scores of African-American elementary school students have jumped by roughly three grade levels.
We need to do much more, though, and in the end, it seems that some of the answers about how to improve our nation's school system might reside with those who will benefit the most—the students themselves.