Thursday, September 21, 2006

Tennessee for example

Today's educational must read is provided by William J. Bennett and Rod Paige. These are two men who know a thing or two about the subject of educating Americans.

They write:

We need to find better and more efficient ways to produce an educated population and close the achievement gaps in our education system. Americans do ultimately get themselves educated -- at work, after school, online, in adulthood -- but a lot of time and money are wasted in the process.
The education "establishment" has wrongly insisted that more money (or more teachers, more computers, more everything) would yield better schools and smarter kids; that financial inputs would lead to cognitive outputs. This is not so.

A new Fordham Foundation report shows that most states have deployed mediocre standards, and there's increasing evidence that some are playing games with their tests and accountability systems.

Take Tennessee, for example. It reports to its residents that a whopping 87 percent of its fourth-graders are "proficient" in reading. Yet the National Assessment of Educational Progress reports that the number is more like 27 percent.

The remedy? As both of us have long argued, Washington should set sound national academic standards and administer a high-quality national test. Publicize everybody's results, right down to the school level. Then Washington should butt out.
I know that no measuring stick is perfect and that you've got to find the right one for the job. I also believe you shouldn't be allowed to recalibrate it at will when you realize that you're unable to measure up. It's at times like this when it seems reasonable to have a higher authority be the keepers of the ruler. Frankly, I would prefer a Tennessee legislature and local school boards that have backbone enough to tell the professional educators that what they're doing isn't good enough and we're going to try some real freedom and competition instead. If they do a good job they can keep their jobs. Otherwise, they better make way for merit pay, bonuses, firings, charters and online schools of all sorts and some real sunshine into what's been going on.


Anonymous said...

"Washington should set sound national academic standards and ... Then Washington should butt out.

What an oxymoron....

I'm siding with Spunky on this one.

Kay Brooks said...

For those who are unfamiliar with Spunky you'll find her comments here.