The quality of America’s education system has a direct impact on the future success of the children it is set up to serve and ultimately on our nation’s ability to sustain a cutting-edge workforce that is able to compete in the world economy. Many, both inside and outside of the public education system, agree that public schools are in desperate need of reform. Despite the many wonderful teachers and administrators, American schools consistently rank poorly worldwide. According to a 2009 report from the Program for International Student Assessment, American schools ranked 14th in reading and 25th in math among industrialized countries. Slightly over a quarter of high school students in the United States do not graduate within four years, and in some states, nearly half of the students fail to do so. In many large urban areas, the chances of a child graduating from high school are even lower.
All too often, parents are left to feel hopeless about helping their child get the best possible education. If they live in an area with an underperforming school district, they are often forced to accept limited education opportunities and an inadequate educational environment for their children. And most families do not have the luxury of relocating to areas with great public schools.
This is why many have come to be such fervent advocates of school choice — freeing parents to choose where they send their children to school and giving more children increased opportunities for a quality education. One of the most vocal and visible advocates of school choice is Michelle Rhee, former Chancellor of the D.C. Public Schools. She is now the head of the policy reform advocacy group StudentsFirst. Rhee has been quoted as saying, “The thing that we think is most important… is that families have choices. We never want any family to feel like they’re trapped in a failing school without any options.”
Lawmakers, especially those at the state and local levels, can bring about school choice by creating more charter and private schools. Additionally, many leading experts agree that children should be able to attend schools outside of their district. By implementing these reforms, we can ensure that more and more children no longer have to attend schools that are unsafe or that lack the proper educational materials. Instead, children will be given a quality education through greater choice that will help assure our standing in the global economy.
KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK – EDUCATION POLICY:
Here are some fundamental questions about education policy to keep in mind as you read news articles, blogs, and Facebook posts, listen to speeches, or watch a commentator on television. These are also important questions to ask at an event or to pose to elected officials as they zero in on the core of an issue and whether or not what is being talked about or proposed will result in better schools and more individual freedom for Americans.
Does what is being talked about or proposed:
- Allow parents, regardless of where they live, more involvement and the freedom to make more choices about their children’s education, including where their children attend school? Or does the proposal give the government more power and restrict decisions for parents?
- Reward good teachers for their performance and commitment to their students?
- Reform the education system to focus on students, not bureaucratic institutions, and what works best in the classroom as determined by great teachers with the involvement of parents?
- Add to the fundamental knowledge and skills needed for a well informed and productive American citizenry? Or does it divert scarce education resources to mirror a fad or popular social agenda?
RELATED POSTS ON FACEBOOK AT “BEING AMERICAN” – EDUCATION POLICY:
Our Facebook page Being American has over a million fans! Take a minute to check out what we have posted on education policy and read what fans from around the country—and even the world—think about the issue. If you would like to join the conversation but have not done so yet, do so now by becoming a fan of Being American.
The city of New Orleans has had a remarkable educational revival over the past 6 years, going from one of the worst performing districts in the nation, to now being on track to become the first urban city in the country to exceed its state’s average test scores in the next 5 years. The increase of charter schools, which enroll nearly 80% of public school students, up from 1.5% pre-Katrina, has been a major factor in the turnaround. LIKE this if you think giving parents more choice in their children’s education will lead to better educational outcomes. (May 3, 2012)
As education spending has quadrupled since the 1950’s, the quality of education in America’s school system has not improved. Parents and local communities are attempting to hold schools that are failing to adequately educate the next generation of Americans accountable. LIKE this if you agree with parents throughout the country that think that giving parents more choice in schools will force schools to compete in order to increase the quality of education and make America more competitive in the future. (February 2, 2012)
N.J. Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Rep. George Miller, D–California, have something in common: They want to put political partisanship aside and tackle America’s education crisis. American schools rank 14th in reading and 25th in math among industrialized countries. Do you think it’s time to put an end to the status quo and ensure that American students get a quality education? (May 13, 2011)
The Class of 2011 is graduating with the most college debt ever — $22,900 per person. The Collegiate Employment Research Institute estimates that the average salary for recent grads will be $36,866, down from $46,500 in 2009. Anyone in the group graduating with debt? LIKE this if you think higher education should be more affordable. (May 9, 2011)
Newsweek released figures over the weekend showing that of 1,000 Americans asked to take the United States’ official citizenship test, 39 percent failed, causing Newsweek to ask the question: “How dumb are we?” Is that a fair question, or should the focus be on improving the effectiveness of America’s education system and teaching students more civics and American history? (March 24, 2011)
LINKS TO THINK TANK PAPERS AND OTHER DOCUMENTS:
Below are several links from a variety of perspectives on education gathered from think tanks and/or official sources. While not exhaustive, they provide even more detail on education policy and the different perspectives in the debate about the next steps in addressing education for the future.
School Choice, School Quality and Postsecondary Attainment
This study found that students from low-quality neighborhood schools who win lotteries to attend a school of their choice are more likely to graduate from high school, attend a four-year college, and earn a bachelor’s degree. They are also about twice as likely to earn a degree from an elite institution after graduating from high school.
(National Bureau of Economic Research, September 2011) Read the entire article here.
Charter-School Management Organizations: Diverse Strategies and Diverse Student Impacts
Charter School Management Organizations (CMO’s), which establish and operate multiple charter schools, tend to perform positively overall in student math and reading achievement. Overall, test scores in reading, math, science, and social studies are positive, and those CMO’s that do well in one subject tend to repeat that success in all other fields. CMO’s tend to offer more rigorous training and instructional programs for their teachers and more classroom time than public schools, which helps student performance.
(Mathematica Policy Research, January 2012) Read the entire article here.
The Unique System of Charter Schools in New Orleans After Hurricane Katrina: Distinctive Structure, Familiar Challenges
In Post-Katrina New Orleans, charter schools are showing early signs of success. Both reading and math gains have been larger in New Orleans’ charter schools than their public schools, including substantial gains by low-income and African American students. Students that remain in charter schools for longer also tend to do better.
(Cowen Institute, July 2010) Read the entire article here.
Illinois: The New Leader in Education Reform?
Illinois was able to pass a bill that emphasizes teacher effectiveness in hiring and dismissal which made it more difficult for teachers unions to strike, and they did it in a collaborative way that other states can emulate.
(Center for American Progress, July 2011) Read the entire article here.
Reducing the Federal Footprint on Education and Empowering State and Local Leaders
A top-down approach to education that sets uniform standards for everyone in the country has not worked and has directed school resources away from students. Control of schools should be returned to state and local authorities.
(Heritage Foundation, June 2011) Read the entire article here.
A Worm in the Apple? The Implications of Seniority Based Teacher Layoffs
Staffing cuts based on seniority reduce student learning by retaining ineffective teachers at the expense of younger and more effective teachers.
(American Enterprise Institute, January 2011) Read the entire article here.
Study: Graduation Rates in Largest U.S. Cities Lower Than National Average
Lists the cities where graduation rates are the lowest throughout the country.
(School Library Journal, April 2008) Read the entire article here.
Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 1972–2008
Provides graduation rates and retention rates for each state and the District of Columbia.
(National Center for Education Statistics, December 2010) Read the entire article here.