Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Here is a challenge to your thinking about education. We all say our schools have problems, but we do not seem to get them fixed. Maybe that means we have misdiagnosed the problems. Someone said the definition of insanity was doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.

Two guys at the Manhattan Institute think our perception of the education problem is wrong. They are Jay Greene and Marcus Winters. They say nearly all we believe about the role of money, class size and testing is wrong. Here are their findings.

• The average total of federal and state spending for education is almost $500 billion each year for public K-12 schools. That comes to about $10,000 per pupil per year. It is more than the $430 billion spent on national defense in 2004.

• Studies of class-size show no effect by reducing class size. While the average student-to-teacher ratio dropped from 22.3 in 1970 to 16.1 in 2002, student achievement did not improve.

• School teachers make more than other public servants. For example, in 2002, the average elementary school teacher earned $30.75 per hour. Firefighters earned $17.91 per hour and police officers $22.64.

• The main obstacle to college attendance for low-income and minority students is academic. We assume it is financial. However, out of the 4 million students that enter high school each year, only 2.8 million graduate. Worse, only 1.3 million meet college admission requirements.

• High- and low-stake standardized tests produce similar results. Those of you in Texas will appreciate that comment.

If Greene and Winters are correct, and the data indicates they are, most of the education establishment and legislative bodies are insane. And we are insane for supporing them.
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