Will 2013 come to be known as the year of presidential decree? The year the president ignored Congress, changed the rules of government, and put into place whatever policies he saw fit? The year the United States ended what has been called its “obsession” with its Constitution?
President Barack Obama last month signed an executive order promising to "improve outcomes and advance educational opportunities for African Americans." The order instructs federal agencies to "promote, encourage, and undertake efforts" to increase "college access, college persistence and college attainment for African American students." Unfortunately, his administration remains opposed to the Opportunity Scholarship program in Washington, D.C., which lets students—mostly low-income and African-American—use a voucher to attend a private school.
However Wisconsin's recall election turns out on Tuesday, teachers unions already appear to be losing a larger political fight—in public opinion. In our latest annual national survey, we found that the share of the public with a positive view of union impact on local schools has dropped by seven percentage points in the past year. Among teachers, the decline was an even more remarkable 16 points.
Just as gross domestic product (GDP) growth is said to be a good measure of a president’s economic management skills, so the nation’s official report card, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), provides an objective indicator of the success a president has had at strengthening the American school.
Last Thursday, the president urged Congress to pony up roughly $200 billion in taxpayer money to "provide more jobs for teachers [and] more jobs for construction workers" and more money to carry out other state and local activities. He urges Congress to spend this money even after handing out hundreds of billions of dollars for similar purposes as part of the 2009 stimulus package, as well as a score and more billion dollars again in 2010.
This past week the NAACP, the National Urban League and other civil-rights groups collectively condemned charter schools. Claiming to speak for minority Americans, the organizations expressed "reservations" about the Obama administration's "extensive reliance on charter schools." They specifically voiced concern about "the overrepresentation of charter schools in low-income and predominantly minority communities."
A couple of weeks ago, I learned about “price points” by speaking at a conference for those who design hotels and restaurants. As many readers may know, the price point is the approximate amount someone is willing to pay for such things as kitchen cabinets, faucets, sinks, and bathroom tile. All of these commodities come in a zillion different shapes, sizes, materials, and—of course—prices. If a designer does not know the customer’s price point, too much time can be spent promoting a gold-plated door knob when a brass one will do.
On Saturday, President Obama delivered a radio address on education and he didn't shrink from saying that American high school students are trailing international averages. He sketched out details of a bill his administration is now pushing to revise the No Child Left Behind Act. He proposes to preserve testing requirements but create a better measuring stick, require teachers be evaluated by performance (not credentials), and use carrots instead of sticks to encourage progress.
Yesterday President Barack Obama delivered a pep talk to America's schoolchildren. The president owes a separate speech to America's parents. They deserve some straight talk on the state of our public schools.
According to the just released Education Next poll put out by the Hoover Institution, public assessment of schools has fallen to the lowest level recorded since Americans were first asked to grade schools in 1981. Just 18% of those surveyed gave schools a grade of an A or a B, down from 30% reported by a Gallup poll as recently as 2005.
If Congress creates a public option in health-care insurance, will that inevita bly lead to a single-payer system, with the government everyone's insurer? And should that happen, would the single-payer system lower costs, enhance medical-service delivery and improve the health of all Americans, as its advocates promise.
Much can be learned about such questions by considering the history of secondary schools in America.
THE stimulus package will more than double the fed eral money being spent on K-12 education for the next two years. But will local districts spend the cash productively?
Flash back to 2002, when school reform was in the air in Philadelphia, one of the nation's largest and most troubled school districts. The district, under state pressure, revamped its governing structure and contracted out its 46 most challenging schools.
"An unfunded mandate," cry the critics of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. In the words of Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee: "By neglecting his promise to provide the funding necessary to help each student to reach high standards, George W. Bush has made a mockery of the phrase 'leave no child behind.'" Virginia's Republican-dominated legislature recently struck a similar chord, passing (on a vote of 98-1) a resolution complaining that the law will cost "literally millions of dollars that Virginia does not have."
Few doubt that education in our inner cities is in desperate need of improvement. Decades after the civil-rights movement began, equal educational opportunity remains more a slogan than a reality. Minority-group students in U.S. elementary and secondary schools continue to learn much less than their white peers, as measured by a wide variety of tests of student achievement, such as the SAT and the National Assessment of Educational Progress.