Education is mentioned nowhere in the Constitution. Therefore it falls to the States and to the People. (Cf. Article 1, Section 8; and 10th Amendment) That is why the Dept of Ed has done nothing but burden our education system. It doesn't matter what they call the program: Head Start, Goals 2000, No Child Left Behind, whatever. Each successive program has worse results.
Education is the only duty in the WA State Constitution that is 'of paramount importance.' And over half the state budget is education-related. But the state has usurped more and more control from parents and school districts, with the same result that the feds have had: lower test scores, higher dropouts, and students less prepared for the workforce. The State Leg needs to realize that 'access' to a good education for all WA kids does not mean that a one-size-fits-all approach is needed. Instead, the focus should be (as with business /economy/jobs) CREATING THE ENVIRONMENT FOR PEOPLE TO SUCCEED. Gov. should trust the energy and creativity of the American people, and get out of the way.
The solution is clear:
1. Stop accepting federal funding for education, as it always comes with thick strings and poorer results. Cite 10th Amendment.
2. Attach the money to the student as tightly as possible, and allow parents to choose how to spend their education dollars. Currently we in WA spend over 10K per year, per student, (I'm counting state-level spending only; this doesn't include levies or fed taxes) for a crummy result. Catholic schools do it for half the cost...and much better results. Homeschoolers spend an average of $400/year and score an average of 36 points higher on standardized tests like the Iowa. (cf. new study released August 2009; read it at http://www.hslda.org/docs/news/200908100.asp Yes, that's 36 percentage points, as in "The public schooled kids taking the Iowa Test average in the 50th percentile, obviously...and the homeschooled kids average in the 86th percentile." This is regardless of income level, and regardless of education level of the parents, even! How is it that high school graduate parents are doing a massively better job than our MA-holding certified teachers? Do the math. It's about flexibility and meeting the students' needs. ----Hey! We can fix that!
Competition will provide the solution. Look, the other day I passed a store that sells only Sea Salts. Will it survive? Only the invisible hand of the free market knows. Put that power to work with our schools. Or are you happy with that 70.9% graduation rate? For you recently public-schooled citizens, think about it this way: You have 100 kids in your class. Twenty-nine of them will quit school. Only four of those dropouts will finish later. The other 25 dropouts will be depending on YOU to pay for their rent, food, medical care, their share of taxes, or (worst-case scenario) Big Hotel.
3. Go back to the Iowa, and stop spending endless sums of money on reinventing the testing wheel. The Iowa offers state-specific addenda if we really want them; many states are taking that approach. Our WA approach? Toss the Iowa because it shows how badly our students fail; spend millions on committees to redefine education; spend a few more years coming up with science and math guidelines; blah blah blah....Meanwhile our children are growing up unprepared to make a living. So they'll end up frustrated, depressed, and dependent. If we fixed education, I bet the prison costs would come down too.
4. Go back to teaching real math. You don't need to dictate the curriculum at the state level; if the money follows the student, and the principal and teachers can choose the curriculum that best meets the needs of their students, they WILL find the best curriculum, fast...because that's what competition does. It's pathetic when a kid can't make change at the drive-through. Embarrassing. And frightening. The multiplication table has become an historical relic. Bring it back.
5. Go back to teaching real reading. See comments for number 4. Real books, not Captain Underpants. Try Treasure Island. Robinson Crusoe. The Hobbit. Charlotte's Web. The Wind in the Willows. Dr. Seuss. And no, do not 'reward' the students by showing the movie after they've read the book. Let the book stand on its own merit, for crying out loud, and stop treating the kids like idiots. Children rise to the level of expectations set for them by the adults who love them.
6. Shut up about class size. My grandmother's 5th grade class photo is about 45 students and 1 teacher. Sno. Cty. has a high school grad rate of 70.9%. We don't have to reinvent the wheel. Just go back to what worked! Obviously I am not saying we should ignore the progress made in civil rights (this is usually the first red herring tossed out by opponents to true education reform). Attach the money to the child, and principals and teachers will use common sense. Good solid curricula exist...but (HINT) it's not the top 3 publishers currently being used by public schools. If the principal can control his curriculum and personnel decisions, trust me...he'll find the good curriculum. I reviewed 5 nationally-used K-12 curricula myself a few summers ago while working as a research analyst for Evergreen Freedom Foundation, and contrasted them with the WA State learning guidelines. The results are still published on EFF's website. http://www.effwa.org/main/page.php?number=413 Defining Literacy; pages 9-13; I researched all this info and created these charts. Paul can attest to the fact that I would sometimes lie awake at night crying for the students of WA state during this project, it was so horrifying. It's what prompted me to seriously consider running for State Legislature.
There's a bookstore in Kirkland, Potpourri, that has shelves and shelves of curricula for every subject. The Science aisle. The Math aisle. The History aisle. The books exist. The principals will find them when they have the freedom and incentive to do so.
My 90-year-old Granddad, a retired Accounting Professor, says, "Read the problem."