Saturday, April 13, 2013
In education, statistics turn truths into lies (rough draft)
We are spending three times what we did 30 years ago on education and our achievement stats are flat. Yada, yada yada. That is the same old argument that reformers use, which is usually followed by, that’s why we need more things like vouchers, charter schools and on-line learning, none of which have proven to be effective by the way.
The thing is the ed reformers don’t really want to see improvement in our schools, the only improvement they want is to their bank accounts.
Before you jump on the privatize public schools bandwagon at least consider the following. Thirty years ago we spent very little on special education and now in many districts that is a fifth of the budget. Technology three decades ago was an overhead projector, now we spend hundreds of millions of dollars on standardized tests and isn’t everything more expensive than it was thirty years ago.
In 1983 comic books were sixty cents, now the average price is three dollars. Spiderman is still Spiderman by the way.
Okay so now that we have disproved the, we are spending more argument; I would like you to think about poverty. Poverty is the number one measurable factor in determining success in school. Kids in poverty don’t do as well as those that aren’t. Over a fifth of our kids live in poverty and nearly a fifth just above it. Since that is the case we should be jumping for joy that we are doing as well as we are. Furthermore when you factor out poverty our rankings rush near to the top of the heap. So yeah we do have issues but is it schools that are failing society or is it society that is failing schools?
I think there is a funding based argument we can and should be having, and that is are we spending our money wisely. I don’t think so and let me suggest some alternatives. Instead of spending billions on standardized tests, why don’t we invest that money in the arts so we make school worth going to for many kids and so we can develop programs that play to student’s strengths and interests? Why don’t we use that money to mitigate the dehabilitating effects of poverty because unless we start serving the whole child all we are doing is playing the fiddle while Rome burns down around us? If you really want to see improvement, lets start there.