Useless Education Reform May 10, 2009Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Education.
Tags: A Nation At Risk, education reform, National Assessment of Educational Progress, NCLB
In 1983, educational reformers published research that garnered national attention. Entitled A Nation At Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, the book reinforced the idea that our schools were utterly failing and it stimulated waves of reform measures. The currently ubiquitous high stakes testing including the federal No Child Left Behind Act and various state testing regimes are the culmination of these reform movements.
But this chart released last week by National Assessment of Educational Progress suggests there never was a crisis and that all the reform adds up to a hill of beans.
Contrary to the claims of A Nation at Risk, our educational system was not an utter failure in the 1970’s and apparently the reforms since then have produced only modest improvements at best. High stakes testing has not made much of a difference. 9-year-olds are doing a bit better in reading and math but not the upper grades—average scores for 17 year olds really haven’t budged.
To be fair, it is a bit too early to judge the effects of NCLB since it has only been operative since 2002. But there is not much evidence here of improvement.
This reinforces the point that critics of school reform have made over the years. The movement toward higher standards and accountability was largely manufactured by conservatives and business interests intent on undermining support for public education by blaming schools (specifically teachers and especially teacher’s unions) for a variety of ills, and denying the influence of poverty and school funding inequities.
Indeed our educational system is failing compared to other developed nations. But it fails because of poverty, children’s lack of access to health care, inequitable school funding, and an anti-intellectual environment that views education as a meal ticket rather than something intrinsically valuable.