In this section of Outliers, Gladwell is talking about the fact that public education in the United States WORKS (255-260).
The public education system is actually quite effective. In our education system, Johnny and Jill can learn to read, if they are in school.
Based on fairly rigorous research by Karl Alexander, Gladwell says the real problem is our summer vacations. Over summer vacation wealthy students learn a lot. Students in poverty learn almost nothing. Over five years of summer vacation, they don’t even learn enough to raise their reading level a percent. Rich students raise their by 52% over the same amount of time.
I do not believe the answer is to reapportion wealth. But if we are seriously interested in equal opportunity in the United States, then we need to have summer school, at least for the lower SES students–not as a punishment but as a way of enabling them to keep up with the wealthier children.