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Kim Marshall spent decades monitoring education in the United States, so we asked him how we’re doing.

For 50 years, Kim Marshall has been deeply involved in education in the United States.

Between 1969 and 2002, Marshall served as a teacher, policy advisor, speechwriter, director of curriculum, and a principal for Boston schools.

Once retiring from public education in 2002, Marshall started serving as a coach for principals, and he started writing the Marshall Memo. A weekly publication, well known in education circles, which he designed to keep educators in the know about current education research and best practices. 

“When I was a principal I did not have enough time to read,” said Marshall. “Once I got finished being a principal, out of exhaustion by the way. I decided that I now had time to read and that I should write summaries of the very best ideas from a wide variety of publications and send it to principals so they could get some of the best ideas from all around the world.”

Kim Marshall reading. Credit:

The State of Education?

Over the past 15+ years, Marshall has published over 700 memos and he’s had his fingers on the pulse of the education community.

So who better to ask about the state of education in the United States.

Overall, Marshall is upbeat about where we are.

He notes that surveys find that people are happy with their local schools, but they’re down on schools nationally.

“Generally the US is doing really well, but there are pockets of problems,” said Marshall. “They are mostly schools where you’re educating children coming from poverty. Children with other issues in their lives.

But Marshall says there are some “beat the odds schools” that fascinate him. He says he was inspired to become a principal when he started reading the research on how some schools and principals produced really great schools for students that were challenged.

When were we at our best?

Since Marshall has been involved in education from 1969 to 2019, we challenged him to state when education in the US was at its best.

“I think now we’ve done better and I think part of that was through some things that were controversial,” said Marshall.

He says the George W. Bush reforms had its flaws with testing and narrowing the curriculum.

“But I think one of the best things that came out of it was producing data broken down by race, by class, by different schools.”

Marshall says No Child Left Behind, allowed educators to shine a spotlight on those pockets of schools that are not performing well.

“The big picture is we’re getting better”, said Marshall.

To hear our full interview with Kim Marshall listen to Episode 89 of the Class Dismissed Podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.

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