Maybe it’s a good time to take a break from our nation’s looming political Götterdämmerung
and talk about a long-term issue: Education. Most education policy takes place at the state or local levels. But, the federal government provides about 10% of K-12 funding and a lot of guidance and incentives. Ron suggested we talk about two of the big recent federal efforts to improve our schools, President Bush’ 2002 No Child Left law, and President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative.
Fortunately, we have several teachers in our group, including Aaron and Rich. Rich (our old conservative friend) is a local middle school science teacher and Aaron is a high school social studies teacher. I asked Aaron to open this week’s meeting by explaining a little about the major education issues of the day. Aaron told me these include:
- NCLB and other high-stakes testing
- Charter schools
- Vouchers for private schools, including religious schools
- Teacher tenure/seniority, pay and incentive structures
- Closing the racial and class achievement gaps.
Below are some links that give background on these topics.
(The only thing I can add is that I don’t know much about education policy, but I’ve learned a few things:
- U.S. education as a whole is not as lousy as critics frequently charge. Compared to
other rich countries, we are in the middle.
- The main reason for our overall mediocrity is that we have so many poor children and do such a bad job educating them. There’s only so much the school system itself can do about this problem. The bigger issues are the poor kids’ family circumstances, such as low-income, lack of support for working class parents, parental inattentiveness, etc.
- Education policy is subject to trends and fads, sure. And, the public may believe in a silver bullet – one, single “fix” to the system. Everyone involved in education, however, knows that, although a silver bullet doesn’t exist, each reform effort teaches more about what works and what doesn’t.)
LINKS BY ISSUE –
- Four paths in front of us on education reform. From Education Week.
NCLB and TESTING
- Summary of what NCLB does, in bullet form.
- Obama wants to rewrite the law to address criticisms of it.
- High stakes testing is leading to lots of cheating – by administrators and teachers.
RACE TO THE TOP
- Unclear how much they improve education – but sometimes they do.
- Vouchers are falling out of favor as evidence of their ineffectiveness comes in.
- Longer article on pros and cons of vouchers.
TEACHER INCENTIVES & SENIORITY
- Issue basics.
- FYI: Republicans tend to focus on the need to get rid of bad teachers; Democrats on the need to attract and retain good teachers.