Robert B. Reich, a co-founder of The American Prospect, is a Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His website can be found here and his blog can be found here.
G eorge W. Bush and Al Gore are talking the education talk, but neither is walking the education walk. By far the biggest obstacle to upward mobility in this prosperous nation is the lousy schools so many poorer kids attend. But neither candidate comes close to a solution. I think I have one--or the beginnings of one--but before I let it out of the bag, you need to understand the two main reasons poor kids attend lousy schools. First, there's not nearly enough money. Across America about half of school revenues come from local property taxes. Increasingly, though, Americans are segregating by income in terms of where they choose to live. Entire towns are now either rich, poor, blue collar, or middle class. That means poorer districts have lower tax bases, which translates into fewer dollars per pupil. Court-ordered state "equalization formulas" seeking to redress the financial imbalance haven't worked. A new analysis from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that most...
The New York Times
Thomas Lepuschitz, one of 46 Austrians recruited by New York City to help
ease the shortage of math and science teachers, told a New York Times
reporter recently that he thought it strange that the state required even
the slowest students to take math and science in order to graduate.
It's different in Austria. "Our school system divides people who can do
certain things and people who can't," he explained. "The people who can't
are not lost; it's just a slower track."
Mr. Lepuschitz has touched a raw nerve. Standardized tests -- increasingly
linked to grade promotion, graduation, even teachers' salaries and the
tenure of principals -- are the single biggest thing to have hit American
education since Sputnik. Responding to the understandable demands for
more "accountability," almost every school in the land is morphing into a
test-taking factory. Both Al Gore and George W...
The Chronicle Review
Not long ago, the president of a prestigious university (not the one in which I
now teach) was explaining his strategy to me. "We're very selective, but we
need to become even more selective," he said. "Our SAT's are rising, but not
as fast as I'd like. We should be on par with ," and he named several
institutions even more selective than the one he led. "We're going to market
ourselves more intensively to high-school stars," he told me.
I asked him about his new capital campaign, and how much of the money
raised would go to awarding scholarships to needy students or expanding the
size of the entering class. Apparently, none. "We're going to build a new
student center, upgrade the dorms, and use the rest to attract some faculty
and student stars," he answered. "That's what our competitors are doing. We
can't afford not to."
I nodded sympathetically. Still, it struck me that, if...
The Wall Street Journal
Education tops the list of Americans' concerns. But there's no agreement on
what to do about it. The biggest emerging battle is between people who
advocate school choice and those who want more money for schools. George
W. Bush wants to give vouchers to poor kids in failing schools so they, and
their parents, can shop for a better education.
But Al Gore says no way. He would prefer to spend $115 billion more on
schools over the next 10 years, by contrast with the $13.5 billion over five
years that Mr. Bush proposes . Joe Lieberman, who has sponsored legislation
calling for experiments with vouchers for private schools, is now mute on the
subject. Meanwhile, voucher plans in Cleveland and Florida are in the courts,
and initiatives to authorize statewide voucher schemes will be on ballots this
fall in California and Michigan.
The standoff between...
The Times Higher Education Supplement The latest rage in education on both sides of the Atlantic is standardized tests. Tests have been around for a long time, of course, but have never been employed to the extent they are now. Young people are now being tested and then retested a year or two later, and then retested again and again. Our schools are morphing into test-taking factories. Politicians like tests because they don t cost much money and they reassure the public that children are at least learning something. Paradoxically, we re embracing standardized tests just when the new economy is eliminating standardized jobs. If there s one certainty about what today s school children will be doing a decade or two from now, it s that they won t all be doing the same things, and they certainly won t be drawing on the same body of knowledge. The purpose of education is not only to train people to become productive participants in an economy, of course. And yet, the work that people will...