Long ago, critics of school reform, like Richard Rothstein of The New York Times and the author of Class and Schools, cautioned idealistic education reformers (of whom I was one) that schools were only one part of realizing Horace Mann’s dream of an equal-opportunity society. Schools by themselves, he argued, could not, on average or at scale, equip impoverished children to achieve the levels of career and economic success enjoyed by the privileged classes. This, like the Coleman report many years before, constituted a direct challenge to the myth that schools, occupying a mere 20 percent of a child’s waking hours between kindergarten and grade 12, could function as the great equalizer in a society characterized by profound inequality in income, wealth and social capital.

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