No Child Left Behind: A Failure?

Well that is what Anderson (frequent OTB commenter) is saying, as well as Mark Kleiman. Here is the bottom line, each state has to attain 100% proficiency in reading in math by 2014, but each state can select its own standard. So naturally states are responding by dumbing down the standards.

After Tennessee tested its eighth-grade students in math this year, state officials at a jubilant news conference called the results a “cause for celebration.” Eighty-seven percent of students performed at or above the proficiency level.

But when the federal government made public the findings of its own tests last month, the results were startlingly different: only 21 percent of Tennessee’s eighth graders were considered proficient in math.

Of course, I see this as a reason to reduce the governments role in education not expand (probably the exact oppisite policy that Anderson would conclude). The reason is that I don’t see how to avoid this problem and not spend buckets of cash. The No Child Left Behind has resulted in massive increases in federal education spending (link, link, link), and at the same time we have either no improvement in actual proficiency or possible even a decline. To get the improvement my guess is we’d probably have to spend even more.

I suppose one could argue that what is needed are tests determined by the federal government. But I bet each state would lobby hard to make sure such tests are not that tough, and that right there would be a waste of resources. And of course, if the lobbying is successful we’d see precisely the result we are seeing now. Further, I wouldn’t even be surprised if the administration were to water down federal standards with little or no lobbying, it would ensure that the policy produced “good results”.

I say get the government out of education. Set up a voucher system. Set it up so that parents have to fork over part of the tuition. Once parents start having to cough up the dough every month so their kid can get an education I bet more parents would be interested that they are “getting their money’s worth”.

FILED UNDER: Education, ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. DL says:

    I know of a situation where a master teacher (of 25 years?)was place on a remedial program of intense supervision as the new rules decided one particular reading course wasn’t taken 25 years ago. She can teach reading rings around her supervisors. Brand new teachers don’t have to do this because they take that particular course(a bureaucrat’s temporary favorite?) in college now routinely.
    It’s all disheartening and insulting to the best teachers – no evidence at all that it improves education. It’s just more Bureaucratic -jump through our hoops if you want to keep your job crap – soviet style!

  2. Herb says:

    I have yet to see ANY program the government gets involved in that doesn’t get screwed up.

    More money is not the answer to our failed education system. Kids are not taught the basics and most don’t have a clew. The biggest problem for our failed syayem is the “Teachers Union” that protects teachers that don’t do the jobs they are paid to do.

    I have often said that, “A teacher that has just one student failing in class is a failure on the part of the teacher”.

    While teachers often say, along with their unions, that ” the classes are overcrouded”, they “don’t have the proper material” etc,etc, The truth is that one hell of a lot of teachers only want “More Money” and thats the bottom line.

  3. Mike says:

    I recently sat down w/ one of my favorite teachers from high school and she said that she can no longer recommend teaching in public schools as a profession not b/c of the students or violence or pay etc.. but b/c of the bureacracy/red tape that keeps being added —- I guess I understand why every person I knew from college that became a teacher, quit w/i the first 5 yrs.
    I no longer have faith in the federal gov’t running our education system – it is a state issue – break the unions and get rid of national initiatives.

  4. Anderson says:

    Goodness, people, don’t waste time reading my blog.

    Education is too important to be left up to the states. Recent events in Kansas illustrate that. If we’re going to be a democracy, we need a well-educated citizenry.

    Our half-assed federal/state split, arguably, is worse than either state or federal control. Who gets to decide what is unclear, which is always good for a SNAFU. However terrible the feds, I am a Mississippian. The feds look pretty damn good. As I think P.J. O’Rourke said, the states can’t even build g.d. roads well.

    The two best ways I know to avoid micromanaging the classrooms are to put high-quality teachers in there & have demanding exit exams. The former is going to require making teaching a real profession, not the last resort of the otherwise unqualified. (Good teachers out there, you have seen the people I’m talking about, don’t get huffy.) I see forcing the teachers’ unions into a bargain: higher salary and better discipline in exchange for higher credentials and loss of tenure.

    The latter is going to require Uncle Sam getting rough with the states. That said, it’s VERY DUMB to immediately tie test scores to funding, for the reasons in Drum’s post. We need to use the test scores to discover what’s being taught successfully v. what isn’t, and compensate at the teaching level.

  5. Rinhto says:

    I no longer have faith in the federal gov’t running our education system – it is a state issue – break the unions and get rid of national initiatives.

    The federal government does not “run our education system.” They provide modest funding, but most of it comes from local property taxes and the governance structure is entirely local. “The unions,” by the way, have been unequivocally critical of idiotic national initiatives like No Child Left Behind.

    Before the big-government ideologues of the Bush/Rove/Cheney camp browbeated conservatives who demanded limited and effective governance, the Republican party had the elimination of the Dept. of Education as an important element of their party platform.

    When Bush ran for president in 1999 he largely did it on the appeal to become the School Board Superintendant-in-Chief. That should have tipped us of to his activist predilections. After assuming the presidency its gone downhill since.

  6. McGehee says:

    Education is too important to be left up to the states.

    Agreed. It’s also too important to be left to the feds, or to local government.

    It’s too important to be left to any government.

  7. bithead says:

    Still the local systems are better than turning it over to the fed, for pity’s sake.

  8. Balboney says:

    Set up a voucher system. Set it up so that parents have to fork over part of the tuition.

    Ok, lets say you abolish the federal Dept. of Ed and give the money back to taxpayers. It would result in about $440 per taxpayer. Tuition for a decent school like Phillps Academy Andover is $24,000 for a day student. Where’s the rest of the money going to come from?

  9. Anderson says:

    It’s too important to be left to any government.

    *And* too important to be left to the vagaries of the free market. Angels, descend! Teach us! We are unworthy to do so ourselves!

    Failing that, the feds are in a better spot to raise standards and impose uniformity than anyone else.

    Still the local systems are better than turning it over to the fed, for pity’s sake.

    Bithead, I would like to think that the feds would be less likely to impose any stunts like ID in the biology class. I could be mistaken.

    It occurs to me that we might want something insulated, like the Federal Reserve Board, to handle curriculum decisions.

    Education in general has been treated like an afterthought in this country. For years we relied on smart women’s not being able to do much else but teach. We don’t have that little luxury any more. We need to get serious about education if our nation’s going to have a future. Leaving it up to thousands of little districts and the Texas School Board’s choice of textbooks is not the way to go.

  10. An Interested Party says:

    While we’re dismantling government-run education, let’s get the government out of everything else too…let private citizens completely fund roads through tolls, let private companies handle all security needs, and let corporations negotiate with foreign governments…would this be the government-free utopia you desire?

  11. RA says:

    America needs school choice now. All this nonsense will quickly disappear as the schools that can’t compete fade away (along with the teachers unions that are protecting these failed monopolies).

    Vouchers that are made out to parents for the current per capita monies being wasted in the government schools. Just give 80% of the current per pupil expendature. The parents can take these vouchers to any school they trust. All the failing bureaucrats will either put up or shut up. They can try to organize there fellow employees at Wal Mart. LOL

  12. Anderson says:

    Wal-Mart is an excellent example of why the free market shouldn’t be solely responsible for education. The market’s priorities are not going to be the priorities we want to teach.

  13. Steve Verdon says:

    Ok, lets say you abolish the federal Dept. of Ed and give the money back to taxpayers. It would result in about $440 per taxpayer. Tuition for a decent school like Phillps Academy Andover is $24,000 for a day student. Where’s the rest of the money going to come from?

    Actually, a voucher system would take the current spending on students, divide it by the number of students and that would be a crude approximation to the amount of the voucher. Second, the comparison to a hyper expensive private school is just stupid idiotic bullshit. This is like saying if the government is going to pay for a car for everybody, then that car should be a Rolls Royce. I manage to send my kid to private school for under $6,000 for 10 months. So cut out this kind of moronic drivel, or people will start thinking you are a moron.

    Wal-Mart is an excellent example of why the free market shouldn’t be solely responsible for education. The market’s priorities are not going to be the priorities we want to teach.

    While I don’t doubt that some people might avail themselves to “Wal-Mart-esque” schools, that wouldn’t be the only choice available, just as Wal-Mart is not the only place to shop. In fact, maybe having some kids attend “Wal-Mart Schools” would be a good thing. Not everybody is going to be a doctor, lawyer, or atronaught. There will need to be plumbers, carpenters, and other jobs that don’t require things like calculus or comparative writing.

  14. DoinDaTime says:

    I say get the government out of education. Set up a voucher system.

    Steve Verdon- This is, to use your words, a better example of “moronic drivel.” Creating a voucher system is not “getting the government out of education”–it is simply re-arranging the way in which the government is skewing the marketplace. The federal government should entirely abandon the education game instead of pouring money into it as your scheme suggests.

    Under your scheme the feds will still be pouring billions into education, unfairly subsidising people with children.

    You scoff at the $440 amount–your scheme only results in about $1075 going to each student–certainly not enough to afford Andover or the crappy $6000 school you send your kids to.

  15. Marcia L. Neil says:

    The ‘ No Child Left Behind’ program was set up to mask the effects of the 1989 earthquake in the city of San Francisco, California [a major city which, however, lacks a Traveler’s Aid office]; and to guard against the activities of ‘kid troopers’ practicing voice command strategies among other students.

  16. Steve Verdon says:

    You scoff at the $440 amount—your scheme only results in about $1075 going to each student—certainly not enough to afford Andover or the crappy $6000 school you send your kids to.

    You’re wrong. And given you are such an idiot, I see no reason to discuss this further with you.

  17. floyd says:

    steve,whut yu sed makes gud cents,butt i went tu a publik skool an it dinot hert me nun. seriously, great article with good ideas.

  18. floyd says:

    balboney; let’s do abolish the federal dept. of education, and even if we only got back 44 cents, then that’s 44 cents better spent elsewhere.

  19. Shi says:

    I think the no child left behind should be called- your child left behind.
    I agree with teaching our children more, however what about the teachers that aren’t qualified? Who is watching them? So, we have these standards for our children to meet because of the no child left behind but if the teachers aren’t good their teaching is ineffective.As a result, our children ARE left behind.