Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stimulus Bill Misses the Mark for Education

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- While a broad base of national educators, leaders and policymakers have agreed that the nation's education system requires fundamental operational changes, the federal government is poised to subsidize the systems that have failed American students, allowed them to fall behind their international counterparts and left a yawning achievement gap that sees barely 50 percent of African-American males graduating from high school.

"The achievement gap between white kids and most children of color is downright scary... alarmingly, as one study reveals, a growing number of the largest school districts are showing African-American male graduation rates of less than 40 percent. Across the country, the numbers are grim." - This according to Mandate for Change, a new monograph from the Center for Education Reform (CER) edited by Senior Fellow Samuel Casey Carter.

Unlike Washington's financial band-aid, CER's Mandate for Change offers a five-part cure for education in America that unites federal and state policies with substantive proposals for school improvement.

As another Mandate for Change contributor, former three-term governor of Michigan John M. Engler, makes clear, the problem starts with the public not having access to enough performance information about what we're getting for the money currently being spent before we even discuss whether more money can solve the system's ills. "If we can verify the quality of a product every step of the way as it moves along the manufacturing process, the education of our children deserves the same careful attention."

Journalist Richard Whitmire argues that without varied teacher compensation systems, there can be no improvement in teacher quality, writing, "Teachers should be hired, promoted, or fired based on their effectiveness in educating children. That simple formula, however - judging employees by the outcome of their efforts - although commonplace in the rest of society, remains elusive in the teaching profession... Effective teachers make a difference and the current system does next to nothing to reward effective teaching."

The proposed education aspect of the forthcoming federal stimulus package seeks to fund the continuance of all teachers' jobs, not ensure that our best and most effective teachers are rewarded for elevating the performance of the system as a whole.

"The stimulus package is supposed to be a tonic for the nation. Instead this may be just another quick infusion of cash to keep the status quo afloat. While teachers' unions, school districts and construction companies may benefit, this plan will not directly improve education for America's children. Money alone, not focused on student performance, will not improve the results," says Center for Education Reform president Jeanne Allen.

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