Friday, September 11, 2009

America's public schools are crippling the economy

America's public schools are failing. From the smallest towns to the biggest cities, our schools aren't delivering the tools that young people need in today's economy. Many kids simply aren't finishing school. And too many who do graduate are unprepared for college and the working world. Comprehensive reform is needed.

There are plenty of signs that there's something wrong with the status quo. Over 7,000 students drop out every day -- that's about 1.2 million students each year. The national high school graduation rate, around 73 percent, is lower than it was 40 years ago.

Students couldn't be quitting school at a worse time. Technology is catapulting us forward. Jobs are increasingly complex. According to the federal government, more than half of all new jobs in the next five years will require some college. Only about 30 percent of low-income young Americans go on to earn any kind of degree or certificate after finishing high school.

But simply reducing the dropout rate won't make things better. Getting a high school diploma is no longer a guarantee that someone is ready for college. More than one third of America's college students require remedial classes to learn what they should have learned in high school. Roughly 60 percent of students at community colleges have to take some remedial classes before they can pursue their degree. These extra courses cost taxpayers, students, and parents about $2 billion annually. And businesses now spend substantial amounts of time and money teaching employees what they should have learned in school.

To produce the next generation of workers, we must improve our schools. Lawmakers have the most important role to play. They could start by looking at ways to change the way teachers are taught and recruited. They should also consider restructuring the teacher-student relationship. Perhaps students and teachers should stay together for multiple years.

Raising state standards will also help. One idea that's gaining traction is the creation of a uniform roadmap from primary school to high school, so that once a student receives a diploma, she would actually be able to continue onto college or smoothly transition into the workforce.

Nonprofits, too, can improve educational outcomes. Over the last decade, for example, the Millennium Scholars program from the Gates Foundation has provided 12,000 scholarships to promising low-income students. The result? About eight in 10 students receiving these funds graduate from college within five years.

The business community also has a role to play. Together with the Gates Foundation, Viacom has launched "Get Schooled," a five-year initiative that creates a platform for corporate and community stakeholders to address the challenges facing the public education system.

American businesses must also find innovative ways to encourage today's students to succeed. We need to make a habit of communicating with government leaders and educators on a regular basis. We can -- and should -- offer insights into how the world economy is evolving.

We can't allow the nation's students to be left behind. Our failure to produce a properly educated workforce today will cripple our ability to compete in the global arena tomorrow. The time to act is now.


What the American Public Thinks of Public Schools

High-school graduation rates are lower today than in 1970

Yesterday President Barack Obama delivered a pep talk to America's schoolchildren. The president owes a separate speech to America's parents. They deserve some straight talk on the state of our public schools.

According to the just released Education Next poll put out by the Hoover Institution, public assessment of schools has fallen to the lowest level recorded since Americans were first asked to grade schools in 1981. Just 18% of those surveyed gave schools a grade of an A or a B, down from 30% reported by a Gallup poll as recently as 2005. No less than 25% of those polled by Education Next gave the schools either an F or a D. (In 2005, only 20% gave schools such low marks.)

Beginning in 2002, the grades awarded to schools by the public spurted upward from the doldrums into which they had fallen during the 1990s. Apparently the enactment of No Child Left Behind gave people a sense that schools were improving. But those days are gone. That federal law has lost its luster and nothing else has taken its place.

It's little wonder the public is becoming uneasy. High-school graduation rates are lower today than they were in 1970. The math and reading scores of 17-year-olds have been stagnant for four decades.

You cannot fool all the people all the time, President Lincoln said. And when it comes to student learning, the public seems beyond deceit. When asked how many ninth graders graduate from high school in four years, the public estimated that only 66% of students graduated on time—slightly less than the best available scholarly estimates.

When asked how American 15-year-olds compare in math with students in 29 other industrialized nations, the public did not fool itself into believing that the U.S. is among the top five countries in the world. Those polled ranked the U.S. at No. 17, just a bit higher than the No. 24 spot the country actually holds.

In another sign of declining confidence, the public is less willing to spend more money on public education. In 1990, 70% of taxpayers favored spending "more on education," according to a University of Chicago poll. In the latest poll, only 46% favored a spending increase. That's a 15 percentage point drop from just one year ago when it was 61%.

But when it comes to actual dollars spent per pupil, Americans get the numbers wrong. Those polled by Education Next estimated that schools in their own districts spend a little more than $4,000 per pupil, on average. In fact, schools in those districts spend an average of $10,000.

One can understand the public's confusion on the dollar and cents question. Schools' money pots are filled with revenue from property taxes, sales taxes, income taxes, gambling revenues, and dozens of other sources. It's not easy to add up all the numbers, and no one does it for the voter except the federal government, which manages to get the information out two years late. When those surveyed are told how much is actually being spent in their own school district, only 38% say they support higher spending.

The public also dramatically underestimates the amount teachers in their state are being paid. The average guess in 2007 was around $33,000—well below actual average salary of $47,000 across all states. When told the truth about teacher salaries, support for the idea that they should get a salary increase plummeted by 14 percentage points.

A presidential truth-in-spending address is definitely in order. Over $100 billion of the stimulus package went to K-12 education, doubling the federal contribution to school spending. A powerful public-school lobby will fight fiercely to keep federal aid to education at these historic highs. President Obama could head off such deficit-driving pressures by sharing accurate information about how much students learn, how much schools spend, and how much teachers are paid.

The president didn't hesitate to tell American kids to take responsibility for their behavior. It's time he delivered that same message to states, school districts and unions.


Australia: Another NSW government school destroyed because of ban on effective discipline

BALACLAVA-clad students jeered as frightened children stood outside the gates of their government high school yesterday with signs reading "Stop the violence". School bullying has become so rampant that parents fearing another Jai Morcom-style death threatened to remove their children from school.

Police have charged two 15-year-old boys with assault and affray after an alleged serious attack on students at Airds High, near Campbelltown in Sydney's southwest. Two students were suspended for 10 days and two others for four days after a brawl that left three teens injured - one with a broken nose.

Yesterday, protesting students shielded their faces with placards. Students worried about bullying plan a mass walkout tomorrow. Parents said the death of 15-year-old Jai Morcom after a schoolyard fight at Mullumbimby on August 29 was a chilling reminder of the potential dangers children faced.

Yesterday, Airds High students said they were "living in constant fear of being next". "All it takes is just looking at someone the wrong way and then you're hit," one student, too frightened to give his name, said.

Students leaving the school yesterday told of a "vicious" culture of bullying at the school. They said the bullying was indiscriminate, with victims targetted regardless of age, race or religion. "It's pretty vicious - people bash each other and call each other names," one Year 7 student said. "The bullies target anyone they think they can get to - they don't hurt people because of race. "But there are always people getting hurt in the playground."

Tracey Ross said she feared sending her son Jacob to school each morning after he was severely bullied by a group of older students. "I was told . . . that not one of these kids is safe between school hours," she said. "Jacob is in Year 8 but the students who were picking on him are in Year 10 . . . he was physically and emotionally bullied so badly that he was removed from school for six weeks."

Rebecca Hoffman said she often felt "scared" for her daughter Danielle in Year 9. "When I saw the (Mullumbimy High) incident on TV I was very worried," she said.

The two 15-year-olds charged after the incident on September 3 will appear in Campbelltown Children's Court on September 28. A Department of Education and Training spokesman said they would be placed on probation on their return to school. [Meaning what? More empty talk]


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Our leaders in Washington must seriously consider new and innovative policies that promote a better, more confident, prosperous, and secure America in the 21st century. One of the things I think we can do to help make that happen is support American businesses and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ( They're doing things to reach out and show people that they can get involved, too.