Recently Gallup released some polling data concerning student engagement. They also offered some commentary to help explain what they call, "The School Cliff". I think anyone who has worked in education has observed this sad phenomenon. What is mainstream education willing to do about it?
Gallop suggests more project-based learning, alternate paths for student who are not college bound, and making high school more like elementary. I think thats pretty good advice.
One of the major obstacles to making those changes is the antiquated assessment methods that measure "student learning" and often affect teacher pay. Teachers receive mixed messages of changing teaching methods and raising test scores.
If we would seriously address the issue of student engagement many of the other factors such as socioeconomic status would be mitigated. Many of us throw caution to the wind and take the plunge into authentic learning and assessment and let the test scores fall where they may. However, we will never see widespread changes until we free teachers from the shackles of standardized test pressure.