A FAILING GRADE FOR AMERICA'S EDUCATIONAL SYSTEMS
By Alan Caruba
A recent headline in The Wall Street Journal caught my eye. “No-Child Law Faces Wave of Opt-Outs” reported that “Twenty-six more states asked to be excused from key requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, an exemption that would curb the education law’s impact considerably.” If the Obama administration grants waivers to all the new applicants, three quarters of the states would be exempt.
The U.S. Department of Education is a legacy of the failed Carter administration, signed into law on October 17, 1979, and given Cabinet level status. Generally speaking, the NEA made sure it was run to suit its purposes, not that of parents and students.
The best thing a new President and Congress could do for America would be to eliminate the DOE, returning the oversight of public educational systems to state and local authorities, operating under and carrying out state and local law within their respective jurisdictions. Clearly, when three quarters of the states want out from the No-Child-Left-Behind program, something is very wrong with it.
Indeed, what is wrong is the notion that education is a one-size-fits-all proposition. Any parent and any teacher can tell you that children individually learn at different rates, have individual strengths and weaknesses that require something other than a national straight-jacket. No-Child-Left-Behind, a legacy of the Bush43 administration, is proof that, no matter who’s in charge, education should not be under the control of an executive department in the U.S. national government.
What the national government does is redistribute money and, at a time when it is broke, the notion of spending billions the government does not have begs the question of who gets to waste it.
In 2010, the U.S. government “invested” $3.5 billion “in an effort to fix the nation’s bottom five percent of public schools and, in 2011, it spent another $546 million through the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. The funds were available to schools that were “eligible for up to an unprecedented $6 million per school over a three-year period to implement one of four reform models.”
Don’t expect much. It has been known for decades that schools in highly segregated, low-income, urban areas -- those with more than half of their students representing African-American and Latino populations -- are the ones in trouble. Their problems are, as often as not, related to cultural attitudes and language difficulties. The student’s problems begin in their homes and transfer into the classrooms.
So what was deemed an important U.S. Department of Education priority in 2011? Last year, DOE was crowing about its “Green Ribbon Schools” program “to recognize schools that have taken great strides in greening their curricula, buildings, school grounds, and overall building operations.” Slapping some solar panels on the roofs of schools does nothing to improve the quality of teaching and learning in the classrooms below.
As for curricula, it just means more political indoctrination regarding phony environmentalist claims about global warming, melting ice caps, endangered species, and other specious science. In April, 2012, new socalled "science" standards from the National Research Council will require students be taught the usual Al Gore version of climate change.
The NEA wants you to know that “the teaching profession has changed dramatically over the past fifty years.” That’s why it is sponsoring National Teacher Day on May 3, 2012. Astonishingly, the NEA admits that “45% of new teachers abandon the profession in their first five years” -- apparently without understanding why.
Part of the answer is the poor quality of education they receive at the university level to prepare them to teach. Part of the answer, as the NEA notes, has to do with the “nearly one-quarter of school districts (that) do not require new teachers to have certification for what they are teaching.” Part of the answer is the union requirement involving tenure, making it nearly impossible to fire an incompetant teacher.
How bad are our nation’s schools, despite the federal largess and their “greening”? A February, 2012, report issued by the National Center for Policy Analysis and titled “Restructuring Public Education for the 21st. Century” noted:
“The United States ranked 23rd in science, 17th in reading, and — worst of all — 31st in math.”
The student dropout rate nationwide wavers between 30 percent and 40 percent, with urban center dropout rates as high as 80 percent.
As for those who do graduate, some 76 percent, those who go onto attempt to obtain a college or university education, as often as not, must first take remedial courses to bring them to a level where they can begin to acquire a higher education.
What happens then? According to the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, “61 percent of folks with a student loan are not paying off the loan,” regardless of whether they are in school or have graduated. That adds up to an $870 billion outstanding balance, akin in ways to the nation’s mortgage crisis. Will public funds be tapped to “bail out” colleges and universities? Probably.
The nation’s educational systems are imploding from pre-school to kindergarten, elementary school to middle school to high school. Entire generations are either dropping out or graduating without the skill levels to compete in a world where students in other nations are learning how to run circles around their American counterparts.
A Practical Guide to Homeschooling
Alan Caruba's commentaries are posted daily at Warning Signs, his popular blog -- and thereafter on dozens of other websites and blogs. His monthly report on new books is posted at Bookviews.
A business and science writer, Caruba is the Founder of The National Anxiety Center, a clearinghouse for information
about "scare campaigns" designed to influence public opinion and policy.
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