Gerald Bracey, one of the smartest, not to mention frankest, voices in the discussion of American education reform, lines up nine myths about public education and flattens them.

It’s all good stuff that should be front and center in the debate but my favorites are these:

2. Schools alone can close the achievement gap. This is codified in the disaster known as No Child Left Behind. Most of the differences come from family and community variables and many out-of-school factors, especially summer loss. Some studies have found that poor children enter school behind their middle class peers, learn as much during the year and then lose it over the summer. They fall farther and farther behind and schools are blamed. Middle class and affluent kids do not show summer loss.

8. Test scores are related to economic competitiveness. We do well on international comparisons of reading, pretty good on one international comparison of math and science, and not so good on another math/science comparison. But these comparisons are based on the countries’ average scores and average scores don’t mean much.

The bottom line of Bracey’s essay is that there will be little improvement of public schools until we accept the fact that education is not something that exists in isolation, and that it must be considered in the overall context of American society.