Overall, the newly empowered Democrats are faced with a nettlesome dilemma when it comes to education reform: offer light dollops of economic relief to swing voters who have drifted from the GOP, or act to dramatically improve high schools, making college a real option for millions of working-class youths. The latter priority holds less appeal for many suburban moderates who already benefit from fine public schools.
High Schools aren't the problem so much as kids getting to high school without the skills necessary to succeed in high school. You can't succeed in high school if you get there reading at a fifth grade level and unable to manipulate fractions.
And, it isn't the "suburban moderates who already benefit from fine public schools" it's the fine public schools benefiting from the suburban moderates who on average tend to have kids who are smarter and better prepared than the average bear, and, therefore, easier to educate. The one great thing about NCLB is that we have all this disaggregated data on the performance of poor and minority kids showing that they're not performing any better in the "fine public schools" than they are in the decrepit inner city ones. It is the less visible rot that is the most harmful--the rot at the instructional level.
The equally prickly dilemma is that any serious attack on achievement gaps means a stronger federal role in raising the quality of high schools, widening the student pipeline into public universities.
Yeah, the Feds have done such a swell job so far improving the education outcomes of the poor. The ESEA did nothing to improve education and inserted a bunch of perverse incentives to boot. NCLB put some teeth into the ESEA, but improvement remains elusive so far.
But upcoming hearings over the federal school reforms are likely to get down and dirty, a dusty wrangling with the nation's governors who complain of Washington's micro-management of local schools.
Micr0-management? I don't think that word means what you think it means. NCLB permits states to define their own standards, define what it means to be proficient in those standards, and define the testing instruments to measure proficiency. Furthermore, schools are permitted to do whatever they want to achieve proficiency. This is micro-management? It's closer to the wild west if you ask me.
Three recent studies have detailed how "No Child" -- as implemented by the Bush administration -- has done little to narrow disparities in learning, despite bipartisan promises made five years ago. In California, achievement gaps between students from poor and better-off families have actually widened in middle schools since 2003, presaging an escalating count of high-school drop outs.
Is this a problem of NCLB or a problem of schools' response to NCLB, which has been tepid. NCLB basically gives schools enough freedom to do what they want to improve. In this sense schools have been given enough rope to lasso the calf or hang themselves. Most schools seem to be choosing the latter course.
Democrats must demonstrate to swing voters how a sustained attack on achievement gaps -- from spawning smaller, more engaging high schools to expanding preschools -- will yield a more productive workforce, fueling growth in middle-class jobs.
A trifecta of idiocy. Ask the Gates foundation how that small schools initiative worked out. Not so good. How do you make high schools more "engaging" to improve performance. That's what we need more of--vague bromides with no proven track record. And, speaking of a lack of a proven track record, how exactly is "expanding preschools" going to help, especially if we let those who are presently running the failed schools run the pre-schools?
The nation's literacy rate is now in decline, dragged down by youths who acquire few skills in mediocre high schools, who come to feel little stake in civil society.
Actually, the NAEP shows that the literacy rate has been flat, not declining. The problem is that it remains flat at a low level of literacy. Literacy depends on a combination of decoding skills and the acquisition of background knowledge and vocabulary. Both are the province of elementary and middle schools -- not high schools.
Middle-class Americans, worried about economic security and fairness, will applaud the Democratic pitch to restore six years of Republican cuts in student aid. But costly policy options that assist children of well-off parents to enter Ivy League universities will test the populist rhetoric of the Democrats. It will also reveal how the new Congress weighs expedient fixes against serious efforts to address inequality.
A cut to the growth rate is not the same as an actual cut. The Feds haven't made any cuts to anything substantial in a long time. It's not the lack of aid that's hindering college graduation, it's the lack of skills being acquired in K-12 that's doing the damage.
I'm still waiting to hear some "serious efforts to address inequality." None were set forth in this article.