The 2024 graduating class is now in the first grade. Parents can expect:
· By the third grade 66 percent of their children will read at or below basic; a primary indicator of a potential high school dropout.
· By seventh grade many of their children will realize they have been shortchanged and begin to dropout: 25% of those that reach their freshman year of high school will drop out.
· Approximately 50% of high school graduates will go on to higher education.
· Only 1/3 of those who go on to higher education will earn a degree.
Over the next twelve years, assuming no inflation, Delaware will spend from all sources nearly $28 billion on education.
It is not about the amount spent; it is about effectiveness for children. The outlook for a satisfactory return for a large number of children is gloomy but revealing.
Since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was enacted in 1965 the federal government has controlled funding and increased its intervention in schools even though most programs have failed. The amount of funding continues and stimulates more spending. Today from all sources the United States will spend each year over $800 billion on education.
ESEA, with Title 1 as its center, gave federal government control of funds with the intention of stimulating equality and helping school districts overcome the effects of poverty. Since then our children have become less competitive and little progress has been made to reduce the performance gap of disadvantaged children who continue to have skill levels as much as 3-4 grades behind their peers. Title 1 has spent approximately $350 billion thus far.
Milbrey McLaughlin of RAND Corporation evaluation on Title 1:
“The teachers, administrators, and others whose salaries are paid by Title 1, or whose budgets are balanced by its funds, are . . . a more powerful constituency than those poor parents who are disillusioned by its unfulfilled promise.”
There may never be a direct correlation between spending and test results, however, there must be a solid indication spending is making significant impact. A good example of well-intentioned, underperforming and expensive programs is Reading First Grants. Since 2000 the program has received more than $9 billion intended to help kindergarten through third grade reading instruction to improve reading skills and reduce dropouts. Overall proficiency has made little progress; Two-thirds of children who participated in the program still read at basic or below basic, which means they have difficulty performing simple everyday functions like filling out job applications.
Federal education policy is not leading change or programs that will overcome the shortcomings of the education system. Diane Ravitch, education historian and former member of U. S. Department of Education writes,
“My impression, based on the last 30 years, is that the Federal Government is likely to be hoodwinked, to be taken in by fads, (or) to fund the status quo with a new name.”
Thirty years ago ‘A Nation at Risk’ predicted continuing on the same education path would result in the country being left behind our international competitors and many of us will be
“… effectively disenfranchised, not simply from the material rewards that accompany competent performance, but also from the chance to participate fully in our national life.”
President George W. Bush took it to a new level with “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) that promised to free states, schools, and districts from smothering regulations and rules accumulated from decades of funding. But NCLB added massive new requirements for state standards, assessment, annual yearly progress levels, teacher certification and others that had to be implemented in a short time: annual allocation for the Federal Department of Education grew 72% to $78 billion.
Secretary of Education Paige said of NCLB:
“Our education system does not provide a quality education for all… That is why the . . . Act is so important. It goes beyond Brown and says that every child deserves a quality education.”
Now it is President Obama’s turn to lead the next imposed education solution that sounds a lot like the previous one. RTTT / Common Core like previous programs say they respect states rights and the importance of local control of schools, however, the facts are different than the rhetoric. The National Conference of State Legislators said of the rhetoric of NCLB;
“… greatly concerned about the extent to which the federal government seems indifferent to … a shift of local control of schools to the control of state education agencies and the U.S. Department of Education, and incentives that encourage actions contrary to the law’s stated goals.”
Reasonable outcomes that can come from a standard operating system like RTTT / Common Core is more inequality, more confusion, continued unsatisfactory performance, rewards for compliance, stifled creativity, more disenfranchisement of families and children, and more spending. Already Common Core has caused states with leading standards in English and Math to reduce their standards to qualify for federal funds.
This adds up to an education system that is failing our children, underperforming expectations, and increasing costs. Programs which give false appearance of comfort and progress give few second chances to those they fail; your child could be one of those failures.
Parents and taxpayers must step forward to demand the best educational experience for their children. We all want to be part of something bigger and that is for all children to have an opportunity to be successful. We do not want to be part of more failed government programs.
We know very little about today’s programs. It is time to become informed and to let your feelings be known.
First, vote for local school board members that will keep your child’s needs first and know how to push back on expensive, bureaucratic programs that will not succeed.
Second, contact your representative and senator and demand they reinforce our state’s right to control education; and demand a full public accounting on how funds are being spent and what specific results we can expect for the children.
Finally, tell your representative and senator that you want to be empowered to determine the best education experience for your child and direct the funds allocated for your child to that experience.
The failed education system has been speaking for your children. It is your turn.
Do what you know is right for the children – get involved!