The No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 — which requires states to close the achievement gap between rich and poor students in exchange for more federal dollars — is the most far-reaching educational reform since the country embraced compulsory education in the early 20th century.
But it is unlikely to succeed unless Congress strengthens the law and puts a lot more money behind it when it moves to reauthorize No Child Left Behind later this year.
Gee, that's a shocker. All we need is to throw more money at the problem. Maybe we should just raise the funding level of all Title 1 schools to the Washington, D.C. level, $25,000 per student. Just look at the smashing results they're getting.
First of all, NCLB did not require states to close the achievement gap between rich and poor students "in exchange for more federal dollars." The deal under NCLB was that states would get to keep their existing ESEA funding only if they stopped wasting it and started using the money more effectively to "close the achievement gap." This is the reason why the Feds have a role in education in the first place. NCLB merely provided additional funding to effect the new accountability measures set forth in NCLB.
So do schools need more money to close the achievement gap? There certainly isn't any hard evidence to suggest that this is true and there are a few schools that achieve acceptable performance at existing levels, some for far below the typical funding level in most major cities.
The big news, however, is that the Times seems to be strongly behind NCLB:
This report reflects the growing and welcome consensus that No Child Left Behind, and the quest to improve public schooling for all children, are here to stay.
I read that as strong support for accountability measures, leaving the no-accountability nutter crowd increasingly marginalized. That's a good thing.
Do you know what's going to happen if we "throw more money at the problem" without very clear guidelines and expectations?
First thing is there's going to be more fraud. More waste. More friends and family hired at seemingly outrageous salaries to positions of no accountability. More administrators that never teach a single child. To use the words of Groundskeeper Willy, more crystal slop buckets.
The second thing is that very little of the "extra" money is going to be spent on things that directly benefit students. That is both because of thing one above, and because money will be spent on stuff like unproven curricula and motivational speakers and calculators for every student and trophy cases and who knows what else because after all there's all this money and if we don't spend it someone might want it back.
The third thing that will happen is some years down the road someone will say "We're spending $X per student! For that we could send them all to the Nobel Learning Academy campus across town and come out money ahead! Vouchers vouchers vouchers!"
Skinner: "Would the world judge me harshly if I threw away the key?"
Willie: "No. But the PTA would tear you a new arse."
Skinner: "Wise councel, William. But the potty talk adds nothing. "
Willie: "Aye sir, you bath-taking, underpants-wearing, lily-hugger."
Charter schools across the country have overcome myriad obstacles to create successful schools that have spawned innovation and transformed the American public school system. Fine out more. See Charter Schools Today: Stories of Inspiration, Struggle & Success, by award-winning journalist Joe Williams and published by The Center for Education Reform.
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