wasting bandwidth since 1999

Wasting $100 Billion

If you had $100 billion to spend on improving the American education system, what would you spend it on?

That’s the question Jay Mathews asks in his Class Struggle column this week (as well as in the dead tree edition of this morning’s Post).

He also includes five suggestions (along with his grades for them) from “Smart Options: Investing the Recovery Funds for Student Success“, another report with the fingerprints of the Gates foundation all over it.

  1. Develop common American standards (my grade, C-minus)
  2. Provide data and information that educators, policymakers and parents can use (A-minus)
  3. Conduct meaningful teacher evaluations (C-plus)
  4. Turn around low-performing schools (A-plus)
  5. Help struggling students (A-plus)

Of course, both the recommendations of the panel that wrote the report (wonder how many actual teachers were included) and Mathews grades presume that nothing about the basic framework of American education will change.

We’ll still use the same archaic calendar (with a few extra days).

Teachers will still be responsible for the distribution of information as well as providing the learning structure for their students.

Students will still be assessed using large batteries of increasingly meaningless standardized tests.

And we’ll continue to assume that schools can be completely and totally divorced from the society outside the classroom walls, that individual teachers can work largely in isolation and overcome those problems.

Unless we plan to reconsider the entire concept of teaching and learning, that $100 billion is a hypothetical waste of money.


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  1. This wasting of $100 billion is not theoretical. It’s happening right now. Until we get on board with the idea that America’s kids need 1st-rate science, math, humanities, foreign-language, and technology education — and that they need it between grades k-8 — we’re wasting our time, money and human potential.

  2. teacherninja

    None of those answers are backed up by any kind of meaningful research. The only solution I’ve ever been able to find that is would be to cut back on the ridiculous number of tests (so there’s another few billion saved) and flood media centers and classrooms (particularly in disadvantaged areas) with more books and give the students time to read them (and the trained media specialists to help teachers and students find the right books and conduct meaningful inquiry of their own).


  3. Cary Harrod

    A change I would make to this list would be concerning #4:

    #4 Turn around low-performing schools

    While I understand the need to focus on low-performing schools, I fear for the supposedly high-performing schools. That measurement is too often based on an out-dated definition of “success”; just because a school is rated “excellent” does not mean students will be prepared for life in the 21st century, particularly if the “excellent” is equated with high test scores. If we are not careful, today’s “high-performing” schools will become tomorrow’s low-performing schools.

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