My new education-policy blog

Shameless self-promotion alert:

I have a new blog at Forbes on education policy and education reform. My long introduction post is up this morning. In it, I offer a critique of the top-down reforms of Michelle Rhee and others, as well as a more broad swipe at the choice and accountability movement. Lots more to come.






131 replies
  1. 1
    BR says:

    I hope you identify yourself as a libertarian while writing those critiques – it’d be great to for once to have the opposite situation to “even the liberal New Republic…”

  2. 2
    va says:

    If I may ask, E.D., why education? How did you get into the subject?

  3. 3

    After having dealt with education policy in what I’d argue is the most dysfunctional district in Illinois, this is my insight into partisan politics and education.

    Both the Democrats and Republicans offer education policy prescriptions that hold their coalitions together.

    Republicans like vouchers because they are anti-union and will allow the schools to be segregated by income level. Also, they will allow the cost for education to be shifted from taxpayers to parents over time.

    The Democrats like more money for education because it keeps together their coalition of Blacks, immigrants, unions, education administrators and liberals.

  4. 4
    Zifnab says:

    Just remember to take off the BJ jumpsuit and put on the “Very Serious People” pants before writing. And if you see David Brooks at the Applebees salad bar, maybe try and dump salt in his Long Island Ice Tea for us.

  5. 5
    E.D. Kain says:

    @va: I come from a family of educators and it fascinates me.

  6. 6
    someguy says:

    I’m glad you highlighted the fact that public education is incredibly under-funded. People seem to forget that and cheer union busters like Michelle Rhee. Money *is* the silver bullet but nobody wants to admit it.

  7. 7
    Svensker says:

    Congrats! Roll s/b role, BTW.

    Let us know when you’ve got posts. A very interesting topic and a difficult one.

  8. 8
    E.D. Kain says:

    @Carl Nyberg: this is sort of the reasoning beyond everything all politicians do…

  9. 9

    Having seen how a district can be horribly mismanaged at the local level, I would like to see states implement a reward and punishment system for local control.

    For districts that exceed standards the districts would have flexibility to ignore state requirements they deem onerous or counterproductive.

    Districts that fail to meet state standards would have no local control. The school board would just be there to watch what the state education professionals are doing.

    At least in Illinois, local politicians exercise way too much influence on school districts, including hiring/firing and spending. Many poor performing districts would benefit by reducing the influence of the politicians.

  10. 10
    The Moar You Know says:

    I have a new blog at Forbes on education policy and education reform.

    Being married to a teacher has made me see this subject in a whole new light; to wit, if you are addressing “education reform” first and not “parenting reform”, you are not serious about improving education in this country.

    Fix the parents and you will fix 90% of what is wrong in the classrooms.

  11. 11
    E.D. Kain says:

    @Svensker: thanks, will do.

    @someguy: well there is still the trick of spending it wisely.

  12. 12
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @E.D. Kain: Well, McMegan comes from a family of academics* and look where that got her.**

    * I believe this was her claim, which means, of course, that its accuracy is dubious at best.

    ** No offense to E.D. Kain intended.

  13. 13

    @someguy:
    I disagree. Money is not the silver bullet.

    Getting kids from high functioning families with educated mothers is the silver bullet.

    Schools are where social problems become apparent.

    It’s an inter-related problem. There need to be dignified jobs that connect parents to the community and keep families in tact. The parents need to be educated and engaged. And there need to be schools designed to educate, not be holding pens managed by demoralized (and sometimes unqualified) adults.

  14. 14
    Bulworth says:

    Great post, E.D. I live in Maryland but work in DC, so I was able to follow the Michelle Rhee experiment somewhat. Fenty’s (and Rhee’s) loss in the primary surprised a lot of people (like the Washington Post editorial page) who thought Rhee was the greatest person ever born.

    I suppose the top-down reform model is based, at least in part, on the idea that the teacher’s unions are too big of an influence, so that any idea of cooperation doesn’t work. How influential and intransigent do you think the teacher unions are? What are the prospects for a more collaborative effort?

  15. 15

    @The Moar You Know:

    To beat back my own argument, I get a little annoyed at teachers in Proviso Township complaining that if the parents were doing their job, the teachers would be more successful.

    If you get to cherry pick your students sufficiently, it’s almost impossible to fail as an educator.

    The challenge is to do a reasonably good job with the students who walk in the door.

  16. 16
    Jamey: Bike Commuter of the Gods says:

    So, all it takes, in essence, is to be young-ish, willing to be spectacularly wrong from time to time–and to move the goalposts to defend a flawed position–and, of course, conservative-leaning, but ashamed to be associated with Conservatism, and, PRESTO!, you get a column in a major publication, despite only a superficial knowledge of the subject you’re professing expertise.

    Congrats, and all that, but, seriously, this cannot be good for the rational discussion of a vital and complex topic.

  17. 17
    Pococurante says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Fix the parents and you will fix 90% of what is wrong in the classrooms.

    More realistically, fix the school board and school management and you will fix 90% of what is wrong in the classroom.

    When I was in high school in the lates 1970s our principal was old school, quite willing to tell parents to go to hell rather than destroy a good teacher. When he was promoted to district supervisor he was replaced by a lady who was the epitome of all spinless school principals to this day.

  18. 18
    slag says:

    @Carl Nyberg:

    Getting kids from high functioning families with educated mothers is the silver bullet.

    So, the way to improve our educational system is for mothers to get more educated. That bullet is more magic than it is silver.

  19. 19

    @Carl Nyberg:

    Getting kids from high functioning families with educated mothers is the silver bullet.

    Hear, hear!

  20. 20
    Jamey: Bike Commuter of the Gods says:

    Edit no work. Amended posting below.

    So, all it takes, in essence, is to be young-ish, willing to be spectacularly wrong from time to time—and to move the goalposts to defend a flawed position—and, of course, conservative-leaning, but ashamed to be associated with Conservatism,a lover of small government, and, PRESTO!, you get a column in a major publication, despite only a superficial knowledge of the subject you’re professing expertise.

    Congrats, and all that, but, seriously, this cannot be good for the rational discussion of a vital and complex topic

  21. 21
    cyntax says:

    @Carl Nyberg:

    Districts that fail to meet state standards would have no local control.

    But there’s the rub: what standards do we use, and how “standardized” should they be?

    Standards need to measure more than how well a student does on multiple choice tests. Or at least that’s the case if we value things like critical thinking, creativity and civic engagement. Before we can “punish” school boards, we have to agree on what kind education we value and what we want education to do.

  22. 22
    Joel says:

    Damn, Kain, you’re really moving on up in the world.

  23. 23
    Sentient Puddle says:

    May the Force be with you on this one. Education looks to me like the issue that is damned near impossible to figure out. But as others have said, congrats, and do keep us informed of what you’ve got going. I’ll definitely be interested in following.

  24. 24
    Silver says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    She’s also an IT expert who can’t work a calculator.

    Not to mention her long and storied history as a kitchen appliance curator. I do believe the lovely and talented Mr. Levenson mentioned that a couple of days ago.

  25. 25
    E.D. Kain says:

    @Jamey: Bike Commuter of the Gods: have you been away for a while? Also, did you read my post?

  26. 26
    slag says:

    @cyntax:

    Before we can “punish” school boards, we have to agree on what kind education we value and what we want education to do.

    Ahhh…the hardest nut to crack. We’d all be better off if we started focusing a little more attention on the kind of education the wealthiest among us are getting as well. The folks on Wall Street may be “well educated”, but they’re still, almost to a person, a bunch if freeloading douchebags with institutionally-reinforced delusions of grandeur. That’s not the kind of educational system this country needs.

  27. 27
    eldorado says:

    is bob somersby aware of this development?

  28. 28
    eric says:

    until we decide what the “purpose” of an education is, we will never have a sound education policy. If one sees education as a means to the end of gainful employment, that demands one set of standards; if you see education as mere running out the clock until a child’s 18th birthday, then another set; if you see education as foundational for human and societal growth, that will demand another. Within the third, there will need to be consensus on the values that imbue the educational curriculum. One can think of Newman’s Idea of the University as a prototype for a idea-centric (or teleological) educational model. In the end, we have a mish-mash of all three forms.

  29. 29
    Joel says:

    @Carl Nyberg: I think this feeds right into Yglesias’ (good) pet project, which is decreasing the influence of politicians by replacing appointees with civil servants whose advancement is presumably based on merit. Not that will ever happen, and even if it does, promotions will probably be highly politicized (as they are in the judiciary) but it’s better than the system we have.

    As for standards, I understand the desire for local districts to control certain elements of their education, for example the literature that their kids read in school. I’m fine with that. However, aspects of education grounded in facts, like math, science, and history, should be held to the rigorous standard of truth, as best we know it.

  30. 30
    E.D. Kain says:

    @Sentient Puddle: maybe the Force is the silver bullet…

  31. 31
    cyntax says:

    @slag:

    We’d all be better off if we started focusing a little more attention on the kind of education the wealthiest among us are getting as well.

    Financial Rape&Pillaging 101?

    Like you said, whatever it is, it ain’t in our best interest.

  32. 32
    R-Jud says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    if you are addressing “education reform” first and not “parenting reform”, you are not serious about improving education in this country. Fix the parents and you will fix 90% of what is wrong in the classrooms.

    Based on my experience, I would say it’s more important to get the parents jobs that pay a living wage for 40-45 hours of work.

    Kids who are regularly and adequately fed, have reliable electricity, and know exactly where they’ll be sleeping tonight generally come to school able to learn, regardless of whether their parents graduated high school or not.

    ETA: Also, what eric @ 28 said.

  33. 33
    sven says:

    ED, the direct link to your first post works great but your frontpage (at Forbes) isn’t showing any content. It may be my browser (Firefox) but nada…

    I also have a small request. I have been looking for a reliable estimate of what ‘free market’ reform groups are spending annually. If you run across this, please let us know!

  34. 34
    ThatPirateGuy says:

    @E.D. Kain:

    Can you do something about the font on that blog? It hurts my eyes.

    It is serif :( and bold :(

  35. 35
    slag says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Fix the parents and you will fix 90% of what is wrong in the classrooms.

    What if the problem with the parents is that they got a craptastic education?

  36. 36
    jon says:

    I love how evaluations of teachers always involve just one teacher over what is supposed to be one year. But it isn’t. Instead, a teacher is labeled wanting if his students come to him with incredible deficiencies, he fails half of them for not trying, the rest he gives various grades, and many of them never show up on a regular basis. But testing reveals he’s a failure? No, it’s his students who are failure. He could be the best teacher and the best evaluator in the world, but if his students don’t try, he’s a bad teacher?

    If we want to evaluate teachers, we need to test their students before they meet that teacher and after the class is done. Then the scores need to be matched to the grades the teacher gave the students. The D students that do D work show that the teacher was good. The A students that do C work raise questions. And the C students that test as an A suggest that maybe the test isn’t as hard as that teacher. And the students that are labeled as failing by that teacher? If they fail on the test, that doesn’t show the teacher is poor, does it?

    When my mom taught, she had students in high school who were reading at the 4th grade level. Was she a poor teacher if they went up two or three grades? Maybe she was if she was compared to someone who brought them up four or five grades. But what is really being evaluated here? Nothing, if the test is rigged to only show results and not the starting point.

  37. 37
    jon says:

    Correction: “his students who are failures.” The Click to Edit function isn’t working, which would just have to happen when I’m talking about education.

  38. 38
    Sly says:

    I disagree with respect to the notion that top-down reform is doomed to failure, but in all other aspects I generally agree.

    Top-down reforms work when it identifies the interested parties and seeks collaboration and compromise. Along these lines the first major school reform movement, which took place in early decades of the last century and was driven by people like John Dewey, achieved great levels of success in transforming education for the better.

    There is no panacea, however, and that is what the accountability movement fails to see and the reason why it ultimately will fail to achieve results. You have this idea, which you think is great and which will solve every problem in the current system, and so any compromise or counter-claim is always suspect. Rhee, for instance, treated anyone who offered an idea or opinion that conflicted with her own as a pariah and ran a school system that taught tens of thousands of students like it was her own little pet project. It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that she was out on her ass so quickly.

    A top down approach could theoretically work if it was driven by the appropriate agent, and I think in todays cultural environment the best (or most institutionally convenient) agent would be the state university systems. The state university systems have as much to gain or lose in this process as anyone else, and represent at least a workable ideal: both parents and teachers want their kids/students to go to college. You can see this in the rise of importance of college acceptance rates in secondary schools; in many cases, they go so far as to advertise high acceptance rates to attract people to the school district.

    But getting a student into a post-secondary program and getting a student through a post-secondary program are two different things. Schools may advertise their acceptance rates, but in very few cases to they track post-secondary graduation rates. State university systems at least have some degree of technocratic expertise in discerning this important distinction, whereas the current major reform movements have clearly demonstrated that they do not.

  39. 39
    MonkeyBoy says:

    @jon:

    The Click to Edit function isn’t working

    Supposedly if you right-click the EDIT option and open editing in a new tab it does work. FYWP.

    EDIT: confirmed that right-clicking lets you edit.

  40. 40
    eric says:

    @R-Jud: Allow me to add, that until we address the insane costs of “higher” education, where one presumes that education qua education should matter more than mere utility, then we cannot address how early-childhood education should be designed…mr chicken, meet ms egg

  41. 41

    @Joel: As for standards, I understand the desire for local districts to control certain elements of their education, for example the literature that their kids read in school. I’m fine with that.

    I’m not. There are too many small-minded bigots out there and they have outsized power at the local level. The last thing that a school board ought to be concerning itself with is the goddamn reading lists. They ought to be focusing on making sure the students get the books and have reasonable class sizes–that sort of thing. They need to stay the hell out of the curriculum.

  42. 42
    nancydarling says:

    @eric: I agree. I am so tired of hearing about educating people for 21st century jobs and to be able to compete in the globalized markets. If we educate children to be well rounded, thinking humans, they will figure out where the jobs are and how to do them. Living in California for 42 years and seeing the damage done by Prop 13 and the cuts that were made was sad. Music was first to go. Granted, music is dear to my heart, but I think it is good for kids’ brains. It’s like learning another language, teaches you about fractions, etc., etc. George Carlin had a wonderful rant about how the powers that be want us to have just enough education to run the machines and fill out the paper work, but really don’t want us to be able to think critically.

  43. 43
    cyntax says:

    @eric:

    we cannot address how early-childhood education should be designed

    Actually I think we can address that by addressing what we want education to do.

    If education is only the means to a better paying job, then that construction supports shifting the financial burden onto the student and away from the society. If we take the view that the education of an individual also benefits the society that individual is a part of, then defraying the financial costs becomes something the society should do (to some extent or another).

  44. 44

    @nancydarling: That’s the biggest lesson I try to get across to my first and second-year college students–that when I teach writing, there’s no single “right” way to do it, though there are definitely wrong ways to go about it. I try to teach them the value of flexibility, and that if they know how to learn and adapt to a situation, they’ll be just fine.

  45. 45
    numbskull says:

    Did Rhee get caught lying on her CV about the only “accomplishment” that somewhat qualified her for and edumacational administrative position? To wit, didn’t she claim to take a bottom-percentile class to the near-top in only a couple of year? And when outsiders actually did the math, they found that her claims had to be false as the swing in test scores was mathematically impossible? Please refresh my memory if you know what the heck I’m talking about…

  46. 46
    Turgidson says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Ha! It’s remarkable. That insufferable twit could tell me the sky is blue and I’d have to look up for myself to verify before I believed it.

  47. 47
    Lee says:

    @sven:

    Same here no content :(

    Maybe his post was a little too socialist and Forbes took it down ;)

  48. 48
    Lee says:

    Same here no content :(

    Maybe his post was a little too left wing (FYWP filter) and Forbes took it down ;)

  49. 49
    eric says:

    @nancydarling: in many ways, if you have to defend the teaching of the humanities (and you do, since it brings in nearly zero research dollars), then you have already lost. In my view it has not helped that philosophy took the analytic turn in the 20th century in the US and “justified” a more scientific approach to the liberal arts. When I used to teach undergraduate philosophy, I used to give the students the test answers ahead of time, so they would listen better to the substance, as opposed to the information to be rotely deployed on the exam. It allowed me to address the ideas in historical context. In the end, I considered it a victory of they learned something, and was not ashamed to give out more As than Bs. (The next questions were short answers and not without substance.)

  50. 50
    Turgidson says:

    @jon:

    But testing reveals he’s a failure? No, it’s his students who are failures. He could be the best teacher and the best evaluator in the world, but if his students don’t try, he’s a bad teacher?

    Seriously. I was an example of that kind of student in jr. high and high school, to some extent. I showed up every day and all, but I considered homework and studying to be an unreasonble encroachment on my liberty (until the end of the term was nearing and I needed to bring my grades up to avoid punishment, anyway).

    It wasn’t the fault of the teachers I had that I didn’t learn that stuff as well as I should have. The fault was ALL mine. It’s one of those things I look back on now, thinking “if I could do that again…” because I went to excellent schools and had mostly good-to-great teachers. I just didn’t care. Too many school-age kids don’t care. That’s on the kids and their parents (my parents, in hindsight, should have come down much harder on me to get me to work harder).

  51. 51

    @cyntax:

    Districts that fail to meet state standards would have no local control.

    But there’s the rub: what standards do we use, and how “standardized” should they be?

    Standards need to measure more than how well a student does on multiple choice tests. Or at least that’s the case if we value things like critical thinking, creativity and civic engagement. Before we can “punish” school boards, we have to agree on what kind education we value and what we want education to do.

    Have the liberals who decry standardized tests ever produced an alternative for measuring student achievement?

    Let’s get real. It’s just wishful thinking that kids that are failing standardized tests in reading and math are getting solid educations in civic involvement and the like.

  52. 52
    matryoshka says:

    @eric: Exactly right, Eric. This is the heart of the problem.

  53. 53
    MikeJ says:

    @Lee: Borked for me too. FFx 4b12.

  54. 54
    cyntax says:

    @numbskull:

    Since she didn’t generate the data that her claim was based on, it’s a little fuzzy as to whether she knew she was misrepresenting the results. But the gist of what you say is accurate: her students didn’t improve as dramatically as advertised.

    [link]

  55. 55
    cyntax says:

    @Carl Nyberg:

    Let’s get real. It’s just wishful thinking that kids that are failing standardized tests in reading and math are getting solid educations in civic involvement and the like.

    That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that standardized don’t measure anywhere near as much as people like to think; what they measure really well is someone’s ability to take standardized tests.

  56. 56
    slag says:

    We cannot constantly compare American schools to those in other nations – American culture is different from Asian culture or Northern European culture. The accountability movement has shifted the focus away from American ingenuity and creativity in favor of strict testing regimes in an attempt to compete with Japan and Finland. This is the wrong approach. As our nation grows in wealth and technology, American public education should be a reflection of these changes. American schools may have been founded along industrial lines, but accountability efforts only entrench this attitude. If anything, we should be looking for ways to make education more creative and diverse, and to make American students more well-rounded and independent. The current reforms achieve just the opposite.

    This is the point in the Forbes post that I find most compelling. I’d love to see every new school reform face the question: “Will this reform make American students more well-rounded and independent?”. But without some form of top-down governance, would anyone be there to ask that question?

  57. 57

    @Joel:

    I think this feeds right into Yglesias’ (good) pet project, which is decreasing the influence of politicians by replacing appointees with civil servants whose advancement is presumably based on merit.

    Eegads.

    I would not want a Republican governor of Illinois appointing education officials that could overrule district officials in districts that were getting good results.

    No how. No way.

    Republicans are hell bent in showing how government can be abused. Local control is better, except in circumstances where it’s clear local control is failing.

    The horrible thing in Illinois is that the state has the right under NCLB to take over dysfunctional districts. However they choose not to b/c they don’t want the responsibility. Thank you Pat Quinn.

  58. 58
    p.a. says:

    Nothing makes my eyes glaze over more than talk of education reform, but since my intellectual laziness and ignorance have never served to shut me up before, here goes.

    Has there ever been a time when there wasn’t concern about the US public education system? Is it really currently working any worse than it has historically? If results historically have been closely tied to socio-economic status, what exactly can we hope to accomplish by changing the education system and or its funding parameters if we first don’t defeat the war on the middle class?

    What actually works NOW? Are there a few identifiable characteristics that currently provide superior outcomes among populations generally considered ‘at risk’?If they are easily identifiable, what is preventing them from being popularized? Simply an unwillingness to spend money? If not, why are these positives so hard to identify?

    Since the ‘trouble with our education system’ has been a concern for more than a generation, and if the system is currently performing at a lower level than before, don’t we have to assume (barring instances of obvious bigotry) that the studies are asking the wrong questions?

  59. 59
    numbskull says:

    @cyntax: Thanks for the clarification.

    I agree that it’s somewhat mitigating in terms of lying versus plausible deniability. But, intent aside, she then appears to really have no particular success in the field she seeks to “reform”, correct?

    BTW, I don’t think she should be let off the hook about the CV claim. It’s the one item of accomplishment that placed her on the regional and national stage. She SHOULD have known those numbers backwards and forwards. Extraordinary claims require… and all that jazz.

  60. 60
    jon says:

    @MonkeyBoy: Thanks for the info! Good thing I don’t have a Mac, though I wonder why the screen goes grey when I use the left mouse button? I figured it just wanted to tease me. It would be like Tunch to set things up so the mouse gets teased.

  61. 61
    cyntax says:

    @numbskull:

    Those are all good points.

    In particular, one could ask what results she has to show at this point. And I think the answer would be very few.

  62. 62

    @R-Jud:

    Kids who are regularly and adequately fed, have reliable electricity, and know exactly where they’ll be sleeping tonight generally come to school able to learn, regardless of whether their parents graduated high school or not.

    Some of our parents are shits.

    When Gery Chico was running for mayor he talked about creating an after school program that would last late enough to get the kids an evening meal b/c they aren’t getting one at home.

    And I thought to myself, wait… these kids get breakfast and lunch at school and the parents aren’t providing an evening meal?

    Why are we letting these parents keep custody of their children? Seriously. If you don’t provide one meal a day to your kid (even while getting money from the government to feed your kid), why do we let you retain custody?

  63. 63
    matryoshka says:

    @Carl Nyberg: Yep. Teachers who teach AP classes generally get students who have succeeded since kindergarten and who have supportive families. As one such teacher said to me, “I could put my students in a Skinner box, and they’d still learn.” These teachers are often thought of as the “best” ones, but they do not face a fraction of the challenges a lesser mortal faces with a more crowded classroom full of kids who have not succeeded since elementary school (if then), who may or may not be present on any given day, and who might have other problems, such as homelessness, hunger, learning disabilities, behavior disorders, etc. School districts often assign these tougher customers to the newer teachers, and then wonder why so many leave the profession so quickly.

  64. 64
    slag says:

    @cyntax: Can essay tests be standardized? Or are standardized tests only multiple choice?

    I would always support more essay questions on standardized tests. As a kid, I hated them because they took so much more time than multiple choice. But as less of a kid now, I can see how much more value they had.

    My vote for a better metric would be more panel-judged essay tests.

    Of course such a maneuver would require us putting way more time and money into our educational system (gasp!). But I think it would also be likely to make American students more well-rounded and independent.

  65. 65
    Corner Stone says:

    @Carl Nyberg:

    I disagree. Money is not the silver bullet.

    And I disagree. Of course money is the silver bullet.
    Take an underperforming school. Provide two hot meals a day for every child, after school activities/organizations and safe transport to and from home/school.
    Then tell us what happens to performance.

  66. 66

    @cyntax:
    How hard is it to design a logic and reasoning test?

    How hard is it to design a test of basic life skills problem solving?

    I kinda think that we’ve had relatively one-dimensional tests of students b/c that’s what the adults want.

    We don’t want to know how utterly clueless poor kids are in America.

  67. 67
    slag says:

    @Carl Nyberg:

    Let’s get real. It’s just wishful thinking that kids that are failing standardized tests in reading and math are getting solid educations in civic involvement and the like.

    Let’s get real. It’s just wishful thinking that kids who are excelling at standardized tests in reading and math are getting solid educations in civic involvement and the like.

  68. 68
    cyntax says:

    @slag:

    Essay questions are better than multiple choice when it comes to evaluating students’ ability to read and write critically.

    But part of the problem with standardized testing is that it takes one day out of 40 weeks and makes that the event on which funding and everything else hinges. How accurate is one day compared to the 40 weeks (with its on-going assessment) that the student spends in class? Given our current penchant for high stakes testing, what we find that means in the classroom is that teachers teach to the test, and they’re under tremendous pressure to do so both from the parents and the administration.

  69. 69
    slag says:

    @Carl Nyberg:

    We don’t want to know how utterly clueless poor kids are in America.

    We don’t want to know how utterly clueless rich kids are in America.

    Yes. This is getting entertaining. But also kind of annoying when I think of what a waste of time it is. So, I’ll stop now.

  70. 70
    Mike Kay (Peacemaker) says:

    BREAKING NEWS

    Charlie Sheen’s publicist just quit!

  71. 71

    @Corner Stone:
    Can money provide the things you describe? Chicago Public Schools spends lots of money, as do other districts, like Proviso. And they fail to provide safe transport to and from school.

    Show me the data. There are plenty of districts who feed children. Do they get good results?

    If you think poor people want to get their kids quality educations, you should spend more time with poor people. Most of them do not want to do anything that takes them outside their comfort zone.

    And being the kind of parents that make sure their kids get educated takes them outside their comfort zone.

    You can read this as blaming poor people. But it’s better to read it as a real world constraint.

    How do we deliver a quality education with parents that have a narrow comfort zone? How do we get the parents to change their behavior? Expand their comfort zone?

  72. 72
    cyntax says:

    @Carl Nyberg:

    I kinda think that we’ve had relatively one-dimensional tests of students b/c that’s what the adults want.
    __
    We don’t want to know how utterly clueless poor kids are in America.

    Well you’re right. And you’re particularly right to single out socio-economic status. Affluent school districts do well on standardized tests and preparing for those tests causes a minimum of disruption to the curriculum in those districts. So the teachers can concentrate on creating enriching experiences for their students while in poor districts, the teachers end up spending much of the semester teaching to the test. And of course this raises the question of how ethical standardized tests are when funding is obviously not “standardized” across school districts.

  73. 73

    @slag: You are probably right.

    A test that tested critical thinking skills would probably discriminate against the children of rich Republicans.

    But this doesn’t refute my point that we don’t have better tests because adults in the system don’t want American schools to have better tests.

  74. 74
    gex says:

    @slag: Well rounded, independent Americans don’t vote for tax cuts for the top 1% endlessly. And that is why our educational system doesn’t promote that type of thinking.

  75. 75
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @eric:

    until we decide what the “purpose” of an education is, we will never have a sound education policy

    Neil Postman, in his The End of Education, said basically “If you give a student a sufficiently powerful ‘why’ to learn, they’ll learn pretty much regardless of any ‘how’ they’re taught.” And that we do a crappy job on the ‘why’….

    We don’t have a good ‘why’ in this country.

    ‘Jobs’ is only one part of one answer… and hard to do with a straight face in the present economy. But in a country where you are what you own, and what you do, and what you own depends on what you do….

  76. 76
    MattR says:

    @slag: The problem with essays on standardized tests is that the grading is too subjective. They did a study of the SAT essays and found that longer essays received higher scores that shorter essays, regardless of the quality of the writing.

  77. 77

    @slag: Can essay tests be standardized?

    Companies have tried, but the problem is that you have to get people to grade them, and there are few more soul-crushing things in this world that grading even 20 essays in a single day, much less the numbers you’d be talking about here. Another problem is that in high schools, there’s no way a teacher can even really begin to teach students how to write effectively (assuming they’re able to themselves) when they’re dealing with at a minimum, 125 students a day. I have problems really helping my students and I deal with just under a hundred in a semester, and they’re (theoretically) adults who I only see twice a week. You couldn’t pay me enough to be a high school writing teacher.

  78. 78
    slag says:

    @Carl Nyberg: Yes. But how do we get better adults? Do we grow them in our cabbage patch? Or do we try to give them a better education? As should be obvious by now, this broad scale chicken-egg issue can only reasonably be dealt with in the details.

  79. 79

    @MattR: I remember that piece. One guy picked up the essay, weighed it in his hand, and said “that feels like a 3.” Turned to the grade sheet and sure enough-he’d called it.

  80. 80
    Ash Can says:

    @Carl Nyberg: I wouldn’t have worried quite so much about our previous GOP governors, who were old-school Republicans who took their jobs seriously and were willing to actually govern. (The exception to that, of course, was George Ryan, but he was far more interested in shaking contractors down than actively attacking the public school system.) However, this time around we came way too close to having Governor Tom Brady, who, I’m now realizing, would have been a carbon copy of Scott Walker. Granted, the pols from Chicago would have busted his chops, but he still could have made Illinois way too Koch-friendly, including doing god-knows-what to the public school system. The Koch governors are showing that Republicans have become actively destructive in places where they didn’t really used to be. I’m only now realizing how big a bullet Illinois dodged when we re-elected Pat Quinn.

  81. 81
    Svensker says:

    @slag:

    Two words: Jobs.

  82. 82
    Brick Oven Bill says:

    When race is taken into account, it becomes apparent that the United States outperforms all other countries save Finland in student test scores.

  83. 83
    Karmakin says:

    Very good post E.D. Much better than I expected, actually, and I don’t mean that as a personal slight.

    What I mean by that, is generally, even among people I usually agree with I see a lot of people who think that education somehow is the fix for the structural economic issues that are going on, like poverty, inequality, etc. It’s absurdly common. Almost every talk about education revolves around “global competition”. It’s as if you can create more educated workers then magically they can compete with someone who due to local inflation is happy to work for 1/4th the salary.

    They think that there’s a ton of good, well-paying jobs out there that if there was the educated workers for, would simply start doing stuff. And to be honest?

    I don’t blame them.

    That was, by and large their experience. In Western nations, as our educational base has expanded, that often happened. There was a shortage of education. One had multiple job offers, and they’d take the one that they liked the best. But over the last 20 years, things have started to cross the tipping point. There’s no longer a shortage. We’re getting into a bit of a glut actually. So we have educated kids getting out of college and into what should be uneducated jobs. To the point where again, employers are able to demand quite a bit of overeducation (for whatever reason) for employment.

    I really don’t think that most of these people have bad intentions. I think that some probably do. I don’t think that most of them realize that yes, increasing the educational base will make Western nations more competitive…because it’ll lower wages. Simply doesn’t enter their mind for a second. I think some probably do realize this. (For example, I think that the Gates foundation does run under the assumption that the educated class is overcompensated)

    Now there are definitely social issues with a lack education. But to be honest, that’s probably due to cultural, and not structural, or even economic issues. And fixing those problems requires an entirely different strategy. And to be honest, I suspect that those social problems will actually decline over time on their own. There are structural issues in the US in particular, with local funding of schools that should be resolved, as well as putting sports over arts and other intellectual pursuits.

    But at the end of the day, education is NOT the fix for the economic woes. And we’re better off if we see it as a social and a cultural issue, and not an economic one.

  84. 84
    Davis X. Machina says:

    (For example, I think that the Gates foundation does run under the assumption that the educated class is overcompensated)

    Well, color me surprised. Mr Gates owns a software company. Xenophanes the pre-Socratic used to say that if horses and cattle had hands, and could make statues of their gods, lo and behold their gods would have hooves and horns….

  85. 85
    slag says:

    @MattR: College admissions include essay questions. Judged by a panel that has been normed. There’s a good case to be made for the value of such a process. And at the very least, including more of that in K-12 schools would promote consistency within the system. You want to go to college, you’re going to have to do well on essay tests.

    That said, as Incertus points out, offering more essays would necessitate many more resources for schools.

  86. 86
    Karmakin says:

    @Davis X. Machina: Gates was more of a business tycoon than a software developer, really. Microsoft was always big on increasing temp worker visas in order to lower wages.

  87. 87
    slag says:

    @Svensker: A lot of people on Wall Street have jobs. Sadly, our educational system has still drastically failed them.

  88. 88

    @slag: I can only imagine how bad it is in an average high school classroom, since I wind up with the students who were good enough to make it into college–an average state school, that is. Not a flagship, but not a community college either. I used to look at the writing they did in their first semester and would get angry. Now I’ve been at it long enough that I figure the teachers are doing the best they can under the circumstances, and I’m glad when I get a student who’s mostly prepared.

  89. 89
    MattR says:

    @slag: You have a point about college adminssions essays, but I don’t think it works when you scale them to the number of students who would be taking a standardized test. And yes, some large colleges might get tens of thousands of essays, but I dont think they are being critiqued to quite the same degree as a standardized test would. Maybe at smaller, more “elite” colleges that might take place, but that college will most likely also have a much smaller panel looking at the essays (and all panelists might end up evaluating the essays for the group of candidates that are “on the fence”).

    That said, I do think that essay questions have their uses. And good writing is definitely a skill that should be taught and encouraged. I just don’t think they are that effective when judging millions of students.

  90. 90
    R-Jud says:

    @Carl Nyberg:

    Some of our parents are shits.

    Yep, I’m well aware. I taught at State and 51st for a while.

    However, taking away custody from useless parents isn’t much of a fix, either. Children who were wards of the state were hands-down the least receptive of all of them, in my experience.

  91. 91

    @slag:
    How to get better adults?

    Maybe E.D. Kain can tackle this.

  92. 92
    Elia says:

    Great work, E.D.

    I’ve got to admit I’m a little pissed — the more I read about Rhee the less impressed I am. But I saw her give an interview and saw Waiting for Superman etc. and I was pretty sympathetic (though never rah-rah about hating unions). Anyway, I just feel like I was duped. I guess it happens to all of us at one point or another, but it’s still aggravating.

  93. 93
    slag says:

    @MattR:

    That said, I do think that essay questions have their uses. And good writing is definitely a skill that should be taught and encouraged. I just don’t think they are that effective when judging millions of students.

    First, in my experience, essay questions can test more than just writing ability. They can test ability to form (not just recognize) a logical argument, detailed subject knowledge, and ability to extrapolate.

    And I guess I don’t understand why, if they can be effective in helping us judge one student, they can’t be effective at helping us judge a million.

    That said, the point of the argument on behalf of essays was to assert that there are other ways to assess student ability beyond the multiple choice test. And personally, I think we use multiple choice tests less for their supposed objectivity and more for their cheapness and convenience.

  94. 94

    @R-Jud:
    Where did the children go when taken away from their parents?

    The people who take foster kids for money… not good in many cases.

    I think we should have institutions that specializing in housing these children where the parents could visit on weekends if they are doing the things they are supposed to do, like making an appointment and showing up sober.

    And not having more children.

    If you don’t care for your first child, you don’t get to have another one unless you are paying your bills for the first child.

  95. 95
    slag says:

    @Carl Nyberg: Maybe you can tackle it since it was your solution.

  96. 96

    @slag: You’re absolutely right. Unfortunately–and I know this because I went to grad school with people who graded them for SAT–that’s not the criteria they were graded on, and given the number of essays they had to plow through and the limited time they had to do it, there’s no possible way they could have done it. Essay testing on a large scale is doable, and might even be beneficial, if we’re willing to spend the money to do it right, which is about as likely as me taking the bronze in rhythmic gymnastics in the next Olympics.

  97. 97
    Corner Stone says:

    @Carl Nyberg: So you’re insane then?

  98. 98
    slag says:

    @Brian S (formerly Incertus):

    Essay testing on a large scale is doable, and might even be beneficial, if we’re willing to spend the money to do it right, which is about as likely as me taking the bronze in rhythmic gymnastics in the next Olympics.

    Well, let’s just hope that excellence in rhythmic gymnastics doesn’t end up as a criterion in Carl Nyberg’s burgeoning eugenics program.

  99. 99

    BTW, based on reading the Illinois high school test results, it seems education policy is still a racial problem.

    If the district White + Asian number is greater than (about) 80% and the district spends more money than an average district, the test scores were good.

    If the district White + Asian number is less than (about) 20% and the district spends less than average, the test scores invariably sucked.

    As a parent, the logical choice is to get a modest home in an affluent community (meaning committed to school spending) that has a large percentage of White + Asian students.

    Unfortunately, we’ve created a system that rewards families who move away from Blacks and to a lesser extent Latinos. Schools with high percentages of Latinos with low percentages of Black performed pretty well is some cases, like Elmwood Park HS.

  100. 100
    Ryan says:

    @slag:

    A big reason that essay questions aren’t useful on statewide exams is the people reading them. The people who are hired to grade them (at least in my experiences in GA, MD, and DC) are paid about 8 bucks an hour and are barely trained.

    In MD and DC, they adjusted what they wanted from essays to be easier to grade. Of course, this completely changed the idea of an essay, which nullified the entire test.

  101. 101
    bliprob says:

    E.D. — this article blows. From the title’s straw man argument (there’s nobody claiming there happens to be a silver bullet for education reform) down it’s classic nothingburger. The solution to our test scores dropping relative to other nations is… to stop comparing our scores to other nations? Seriously? And this is your primary topic at the new blog?

  102. 102
    HyperIon says:

    @Turgidson wrote:

    Too many school-age kids don’t care.

    I think the same is true for a lot of high-school grads who get pushed/drift into college the next year. Leaving aside their academic prep, many are NOT ready emotionally for an intellectual experience. An alcohol-and-sex experience, yes, but for that, why not just skip the tuition paying and lecture attending?

    I am a 100% product of public schools. I don’t think my teachers were exceptional in any special way. Some were good, some were bad. But classroom discipline was never a problem and the over-whelming majority of kids were willing and able to focus on learning.

    Now it seems like one has to spend lots of time figuring out how to convince many kids it’s actually worth their time to pay attention. And some seem not to be able to pay attention. I’m glad I lived before ADD. (yeah, i know it’s always been around but the number of fidgeting kids seems to have gone up A LOT.)

  103. 103
    R-Jud says:

    @Carl Nyberg:

    I think we should have institutions that specializing [sic] in housing these children where the parents could visit on weekends if they are doing the things they are supposed to do, like making an appointment and showing up sober.

    Whoa. I am not even going to go into the paternalism (or the costs) of what you propose there, but I will say that by and large, that’s kind of how foster homes already work, I think. The parents still have visitation rights with their kids. (Front-pager Kay would probably be able to tell you more, or at least tell you how they roll in Ohio.)

    Sadly, even the nicest foster home can be all too temporary. That’s the problem, you see: lack of stability in living conditions.

    There are always going to be a not-inconsiderable number of shitty parents at any income level, and a not-inconsiderable number of kids who don’t get what they need and become a drag on society in adulthood.

    But from where I sit, in the majority of cases, most of these low-income parents who are struggling to raise their kids just need a decent job that lets them have a few more hours a day to parent.

    (Edited for blockquote fail.)

  104. 104
    Jesse Ewiak says:

    To be blunt, for the most part, education in the US isn’t broken. It could be improved and things in 2011 at the average school district are probably worse than they were in 2005 because of budget cutbacks.

    However, if you truly want to help those at the bottom – cut child poverty rates in half and you’ll see a lot more improvement from that than all the union busting, merit pay, and standardized tests in the universe.

  105. 105
    middlewest says:

    Right now on Reddit there is a post requesting questions for an interview with Michelle Rhee. It might be fun to join in.

  106. 106
    MikeJ says:

    @bliprob:

    it’s classic nothingburger.

    Especially for those of us who who get a template and no article.

  107. 107
    Arclite says:

    @someguy:

    I’m glad you highlighted the fact that public education is incredibly under-funded. People seem to forget that and cheer union busters like Michelle Rhee. Money is the silver bullet but nobody wants to admit it.

    THIS. I grew up in Waterford, CT, and the city has a 3 reactor nuke plant. It provides massive property taxes to the city of 20,000. Our high school had a huge auditorium, Olympic swimming pool, and an expensive rubber track (25 years ago, before they were common). We had new text books and good teachers from good universities. Graduates in my class went to Harvard, Yale, MIT, Tufts, Brown, Dartmouth, and many other top rank schools. More than half went on to college. This story is only anecdotal, but the money made a difference in education quality and kept the local intelligentsia from sending their kids to private school, raising the overall quality of students in the school. And the money spent returned results.

  108. 108
    Arclite says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Fix the parents and you will fix 90% of what is wrong in the classrooms.

    Okay, but this can partly be addressed by having mandatory classes IN HIGH SCHOOL on parenting, child development, child rearing, and relationships. Right now, people are left to figure this stuff out on their own (usually poorly), unless they are one of the fraction of a percent of the population that major in one of the aforementioned subjects. Given how much science has revealed on these subjects over the past several decades, isn’t it time to add these things to our curriculum so we can have a more successful society?

  109. 109
    Svensker says:

    @Arclite:

    This story is only anecdotal, but the money made a difference in education quality and kept the local intelligentsia from sending their kids to private school, raising the overall quality of students in the school. And the money spent returned results.

    Anecdotal right back atcha: In NJ, Hoboken and Paterson school districts both have enormous budgets. When we lived in Hoboken, the schools were 3rd from worst in the state (the mayor was PROUD that it wasn’t 1st worst, no kidding). Almost all of the teachers were mob relatives whose kids all went to the Catholic schools and the mobster teachers despised the black and hispanic kids they were teaching, again, I kid you not. A friend worked as a substitute there and the stories she would tell… The schools had huge budgets, but it all went for corruption.

    Paterson also has a huge budget, families are almost all very low income, black and hispanic, and immigrants. A friend taught in the system for 20 years and her stories of the corruption that went on were also hair-raising. This time not mafiosi but two other (competing) groups who funneled money to family members and cronies. Meanwhile, the kids — who were struggling against huge odds anyway — got shit. It just makes you want to cry.

    So, yes, money is really important. But somehow you have to make sure it’s going to help the kids, not line some asshole’s pockets.

  110. 110
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Svensker:

    I think it kinda goes without saying that throwing more money at schools only works if the money actually goes to the school and not administrators and their cronies.

  111. 111
    Arclite says:

    @Svensker: Right, money alone cannot produce good results. But trying to improve the system with much less money is much less likely, IMO. I wonder if there is a study correlating test results and student satisfaction with amount spent per student? I’m sure there must be many. Anyone know any good ones?

    The Waterford model doesn’t have typical inner city problems either: it’s solidly middle class, mostly heterogeneous white (although our token Chinese guy was valedictorian), and some of the student’s parents worked at nearby high tech companies like Pfizer and General Dynamics, or Connecticut College (one town over in New London), so there’s a fairly high baseline education level of the parents. But without the money to produce a high quality school, I’m sure the good results would have been much less likely.

  112. 112
    Bostondreams says:

    @p.a.:

    Has there ever been a time when there wasn’t concern about the US public education system? Is it really currently working any worse than it has historically?

    In a word: no. The has ALWAYS been concern over the education system in America, going all the way back to the Puritans and their Mass Ed Law of 1642 (which threatened to take kids away from parents if they continued to do a bad job educating them) and the Old Deluder Satan Act of 1647, which established some sort of school based on community size, since, dangit, parents weren’t doing the job.
    Part of the problem we have is that we simply cannot agree on the point of school and the role it should play. Even founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Rush had contrasting ideas. Jefferson advocated for schools that would allow for dissent and creativity. Rush argued that schools needed to create ‘republican machines’ that would recognize their first duty was to country above all else except God, and that they would always think alike on issues of the day, a sort of light fascism.
    One thing to remember: we have only had public schools as we think of them today for about 160 years, and honestly, the form (if not the function) has barely changed from that original factory model of Horace Mann and his peers, certainly a problem we must consider. And our schools overall have NEVER been number one, have NEVER been the best in the world. Since 1964 (the earliest date for which we have data), the US has always been near the middle or bottom of the rankings internationally. But can we admit that? No. We have this imaginary idea of our schools as having been these perfect little institutions at some point in our glorious history.

  113. 113
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Svensker:

    But somehow you have to make sure it’s going to help the kids, not line some asshole’s pockets.

    Well, no shit.

  114. 114
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Arclite:

    Right, money alone cannot produce good results. But trying to improve the system with much less money is much less likely, IMO.

    Providing less money to a massively corrupt system will not magically make it less corrupt. They’ll just have a lesser amount of money to steal. You need to actually fix the corruption problem rather than deciding to just let those kids drown for the sin of living in a mobbed-up state.

  115. 115
    Phoebe says:

    @Bostondreams: Yeah! Ahem.

  116. 116
    Arclite says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Providing less money to a massively corrupt system will not magically make it less corrupt.

    True, but corrupt school systems are not the norm. I think for normal school systems which are struggling to improve, money can go a long way in improving the system by improving the quality of teachers, providing more recent and better textbooks and equipment, creating campus improvements, improving school pride, etc. etc.

  117. 117
    Jamey: Bike Commuter of the Gods says:

    @E.D. Kain: No, I’ve been here–and read your posts elsewhere. Which is how I came to see you as someone who mostly wants to be seen as “reasonable” in the first place.

    You should feel free to call anyone’s bluff, but, really, I’d rather wait for you to wade into specifics (“positive ideas”) in subsequent columns before I amend my judgment.

    But all this still leaves me wondering why you’re writing about edumacation in Forbes? Or more to the point (and forgive me this question, please), why Forbes turned to you; having an abiding interest in a subject is not the same as mastery.

  118. 118
    Chris says:

    I’m commenting here because I’m not a member over there. You write, “American public education is inherently democratic and decentralized, and no amount of dictatorial reform efforts will change that. It’s also about more than simply teaching kids how to take tests in reading and math.”

    I wish that statement were true, but it seems demonstrably false, more and more every year. My local school board and superintendent see their jobs as implementing No Child Left Behind. If I complain about some feature of my kids’ school — like its emphasis on teaching the kids to be quiet and obedient, or its draconian cutbacks in recess and lunchtime (lunch is less than fifteen minutes long), or its disregard of any quality that can’t be assessed on a standardized test — I’m basically told that I should complain to Obama and the 535 members of Congress. I don’t see anything democratic or decentralized about it, and it is entirely focused on raising short-term reading and math scores.

    Anyway, I know you’re not advocating any of that; I just think you may be underestimating how much those values have taken hold. I wish you well with the new blog, and will be reading it.

  119. 119
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Arclite:

    Oh, you and I are agreeing with each other. It’s just that some people seem to think the solution for corrupt school districts wasting the money they get is to cut funding to those districts rather than fixing the corruption that’s causing the money to be wasted.

  120. 120
    Arclite says:

    @Mnemosyne: Oh, I didn’t realize. The situation in NJ sounds terrible.

  121. 121
    Eljai says:

    I listened to a very one-sided interview with Michelle Rhee on All Things Considered on Saturday and the interviewer, Guy Raz, did not bring up any of the criticisms of Rhee that you highlight. Thank you for providing some much needed analysis.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/t.....=134087838

  122. 122
    Annie says:

    If we approach formal schooling from an equity perspective, we can understand why most reform efforts fail, and why people like Rhee are dangerous. Equal opportunity tries to give everyone the same inputs; however, equity tells us to look more closely at context and design inputs that work well with different groups of students and with different conditions, keeping in mind our outcomes — what we want students to achieve through formal schooling. Smaller class size always helps us understand and respond to context. Working with and through the community as a partner also helps. Rhee failed to engage the local community and that was one major criticism.

    Generic reforms, based on research and information extracted from relevant communities, and applied across the board will fail, because they ignore context and stakeholder participation.

  123. 123
    alexander says:

    congrats, and welcome to the party — you’ve picked an excellent time to weigh in.

    if you have time to do a quick interview about the new effort i’d love to promo the blog on my education site, thisweekineducation.com

    / alexander
    thisweekineducation at gmail dot com

  124. 124
    Corner Stone says:

    @Jamey: Bike Commuter of the Gods:

    But all this still leaves me wondering why you’re writing about edumacation in Forbes? Or more to the point (and forgive me this question, please), why Forbes turned to you; having an abiding interest in a subject is not the same as mastery.

    It’s kind of like McMegan writing about economics…

  125. 125
    jcgrim says:

    There’s more to the edu-reform juggernaut than saving the kids. Check out this analysis with a clever visual chart.

    http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot......style.html

  126. 126
    jcgrim says:

    There’s more to the edu-reform juggernaut than saving the kids. Check out this analysis with Jazzman’s clever visual chart.

    http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot......style.html

  127. 127
    Svensker says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Well, no shit.

    Apparently the folks in some parts of Northern NJ haven’t been able to figure that part out, yet.

  128. 128
    Jim, Once says:

    I’ve really enjoyed your recent columns, E.D., and wish you well at Forbes. I only ask that you remember this: the fact that you once sat in a classroom does not make you an expert on education. I speak as a retired AP English teacher who learned early on that the only assessment tool worth the effort was the essay – and who knows in her bones that money properly spent really will fix education.

  129. 129
    Svensker says:

    @Chris:

    (lunch is less than fifteen minutes long),

    Srsly? Good grief. It’s all so DUMB. I hate metrics.

  130. 130
    Svensker says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Oh, you and I are agreeing with each other. It’s just that some people seem to think the solution for corrupt school districts wasting the money they get is to cut funding to those districts rather than fixing the corruption that’s causing the money to be wasted.

    If you’re referring to me, you’ve got it wrong. I am decrying corruption because it really makes me mad that those fuckers will screw over kids to enrich themselves. Little kids.

    I don’t know how to root out the corruption and I don’t know how to fix the schools. I know more money, well applied, is a big answer, but how to apply it well I have no clue. I hope there are some folks out there who do know.

    And Arclite, not all NJ schools are corrupt. In the rich areas, NJ has some of the best school systems in the nation. The bad ones are in the poorest areas (or where only poor kids use the public system) — those kids and their families are getting victimized.

  131. 131
    Chris says:

    Svensker: Seriously. Several dozen parents recently signed a petition to give the kids more than fifteen minutes for lunch, but the school system is resisting — explicitly on the grounds that principals want to maximize instructional time because of the pressure No Child Left Behind puts on them to raise standardized test scores. Some schools actually had the kids eating lunch while bundled up in their parkas and snow pants, so they wouldn’t have to waste any time getting from lunch to recess. More here.

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