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The Dumbing Down of America: Change You Can’t Believe In

March 16th, 2010
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03.16.2010 original publish date
03.29.2010 edit
03.18.2011 updated broken links

The Dumbing Down of America: Change You Can’t Believe In

original article written by Net Advisor

The United States spends more money on education than any other country in the world, yet apparently according to government data, a high number of students just are not making the grade.

“…the United States spends 28 per cent of the global education budget although only 4 per cent of the world’s children and young people live there”

(Source: United Nations)

Background:
President Bush introduced the “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001” or “NCLB” that was to set among other things, proficiency standards. The bill passed overwhelmingly by both political parties fairly equally with 384 in favor, 45 against, 4 non-voting. (Source: clerk.house.gov Final Vote Results)

View the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001; Public Law 107-110 (1,425 pps in PDF Format, 2,094 pps in printed form).

Educators had to make sure students could pass basic math, and reading comprehension tests, and this information would be tracked by government.

“Under the current law, states must test students annually in reading and math in grades 3-8 and once in high school.” (source: Education Week)

“A common complaint of No Child Left Behind is that it labels too many schools as simply failing.”
(Source: CS Monitor)

Let’s take a look at this. Students (kids) are not tested until they are about 4 years in school (K to 2nd grade no testing; 3rd grade testing begins). Then students are tested ONE TIME per year – ONE TEST – to see how much they have learned in math and reading. Then the most important preparation years for college, schools, under the NCLB Act, only test teens ONE TIME in high school. Again, that’s testing ONE TIME in high school. How many times are we testing to see if someone meets minimum standards for math and reading in high school? ONE TIME.

Now Here is the Funny Part:
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has suggested, “(No Child Left Behind Act) doesn’t set a high enough bar for academic achievement.” (source: Education Week)

What? The Secretary of Education suggests that our education standards are not high enough; that we need to RAISE standards?

We’ll that sounds good, but this is just another one of those political sound bites and this rhetoric by the Secretary seems far from from having high accuracy.

The problem with the No Child Left Behind Act is NOT that we need to raise education standards; the problem is that government can’t seem to get kids to meet the EXISTING education standards.

“On the most recent test, 39 percent of fourth graders and 34 percent of eighth graders scored at or above the proficient level.” (Source: New York Times)

Let’s flip these percentages so we can focus on the problem – those having difficulty passing a standardized test, verses reporting only those who CAN pass a standardized test:

Thus,

61 percent of fourth graders and 66 percent of eighth graders scored BELOW the proficient level.



In 2010, the United States will spend over $1 Trillion on public education.
(Source: usgovernmentspending.com).

Government is Not the Answer to our Problems
If you thought government was the answer to all our prayers, they have not done too well with managing education. In fact, the New York Times reported that test scores improved more when the No Child Left Behind Act was NOT ran by the federal government; that having education ran by the individual states was more successful than education ran by Congress.

So what do we do?

Instead of working out the education problems and helping kids with better strategies to do better in school, President Obama has a new plan:

Change the rules.

Under current law, the No Child Left Behind Act “requires schools to bring 100 percent of students to reading and math proficiency by 2014.” (Source: New York Times) That won’t happen by 2014, and it would be quite a feat to have that happen at any time, unless you make it easier to pass the test, or just change the rules for testing.

The Obama Administration has effectively proposed to change the definition for what is proficient; allow those who have difficulty with math and reading comprehension to obtain other skills that can help them get ready for a career.

“Although reading and math tests would remain in the administration’s proposal, schools could also include student performance in other subjects as part of overall measurements of progress.”
(Source: CS Monitor)

Thus, kids and students (K-12) could take other non-math or non-reading courses and if they pass those standardized tests, then they could be considered as “proficient.” The Obama Administration has suggested that “students need a well-rounded education,” and suggests studies in subjects such as history, civics, foreign languages, and the arts. (Source: The Blueprint, U.S. Dept of Education)

What the Dept of Education may have overlooked is that elementary, junior, and high schools generally have existing history, civics, foreign language (high school level) classes, and if any funds are left over, art and science programs. The problems seem to be associated with basic math and reading skills. I can tell you right now; if your reading and basic math skills are awful, the career options and ones future income will be severely limited.

Government Knows All. Fixes All. At All Cost… To You.
So first it was the banks were taken over or bailed out by government, then the mortgage companies (Fannie Mae/ Freddie Mac), insurance companies (AIG, Hartford, etc.), then the autos (GM, Chrysler), a push for health care, jobs, and toss in education “reform,” including seizing control over all the student loans programs, that the government has sought to gain control of it all. Are any of these industries that government owns thriving companies to their non-government counterparts? Answer No.

So government is spending more and more creating more laws, more regulation and is our system getting better? For this article’s purpose, is our education system better? No, they will say that this is why we need reform right? How about going back to doing what worked BEFORE the federal government had their hands in education? Government is seeking more and more control over what freedoms we have, and what you learn is up to the government to decide. And they will spend your money to do it their way.


So Where is Our Kid’s Tax Payer Education Money Really Going?

President Obama signed the $787 billion “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).” Of that, $69 billion so far supposedly went to “help schools and education.” What Obama really has done, has supported those who helped get him elected by hiring 300,000 new “teachers, principals, librarians, and counselors.” (source: U.S. Dept. of Education)

California received $20.354 billion+ from February 17, 2009 to December 31, 2009. Those funds allegedly created 69,975 jobs. That works out to be a tax payer cost of over $2.8 million per job created, just in California. (Source: Recovery.gov CA graphic.)

The Obama Administration further claims that this program has saved or created 400,000 jobs from this funding since October 2009. (source: U.S. Dept. of Education)

Unfortunately the jobs numbers just don’t pan out as America has seen a net loss of jobs since President Obama took office. The unemployment rate has climbed from 8.5% (Jan 2009) to 10.4% (Feb 2010) that is a 22% NET INCREASE in unemployment (Source: Google.com Citing BLS as of 03-10-2010)

One should also note that of the $69 billion Obama allocated for “education,” most of it, $36.9 billion went to states under a program called “SFSF or State Fiscal Stabilization Fund” to supposedly help to pay for schools so states would not cut school funding.

“These funds will help stabilize state and local government budgets in order to minimize and avoid reductions in education and other essential public services.”
(Source: US Dept of Education, 03-07-2009)

A noble idea, however states across the country are cutting education programs anyway, and there is no evidence I could find that the states are using this money for only education purposes.

The money the states are receiving is really a government unemployment program, not an education program, and here it is:

#1 Program Objective: “Spend funds quickly to save and create jobs. ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) funds will be distributed quickly to states, LEAs and other entities in order to avert layoffs and create jobs.” (Source: U.S. Dept of Education, State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, 03-07-2009)

Notice there is not a word in this government objective to actually put money into educating kids.

“Approximately $30 billion dollars in additional ARRA funding will be distributed in the coming months to continue supporting jobs.” (Source: U.S. Dept of Education, Press Release DTD 02-01-2010, last paragraph).

According to the government’s own said numbers, I see billions going to support jobs in education. I am not seeing any money specifically that is going to students and how specifically these taxpayer funds are helping kids get a better education?

In fact, according to a report by the Center on Reinventing Public Education:

13 of 23 states who received federal money for education purposes saw a decrease in their state budget for K-12 education spending.

Missouri, Nevada, and California had the biggest education decreases, where as Michigan, Louisiana and New Jersey actually increased their education spending with federal money. (Please see report page 2, parr 4; and page 3, parr 1 and chart on page 3.)

What we don’t know yet is whether states cut education spending because they received federal money or they were going to cut education spending anyway.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities they suggest, “Thirty-six states have cut education or proposed such cuts because they face massive, devastating budget deficits in this recession…at least 20 states have implemented cuts to K-12 education. At least six additional states are proposing such cuts…including Florida, California, and New York.”

Further, “At least 28 states have implemented cuts to public colleges and universities and/or large increases in college tuition to make up for insufficient state funding.” (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

States are increasing the cost of college because they can’t seem to manage their own money, and refuse to take the cuts necessary starting with management (government) to reduce spending. Instead, states such as California is raising in-state tuition substantially to help shore up the state’s fiscal budget problems.

“California is raising in-state tuition for 2009-10 by 7.4 percent to 10 percent as part of its October budget deal, and in December the governor called for additional tuition increases of 9 to 13 percent for some institutions.”
(Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

So class, when you are in school, keep in mind that a portion of your tuition is not going to pay for your education costs, it is going to government to balance a budget for spending your money they didn’t have to spend, and keep teachers, principles, school boards, etc., employed even though there is no money to pay them. So we borrow the money to pay this bill too.


Is President Obama Living Like It’s 1964?

On March 8, 2010, Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education hinted that the Obama administration plans to “step up enforcement of civil rights laws that apply to schools and colleges, many of which are often ignored.” (Sources: CS Monitor, UCLA Newsroom)

The President, who was supposed to unite us and move away from racial divide suggests that there are racial issues when being admitted to public schools.

What the President and Education Secretary might want to review is Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states in part, “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.” That the Justice Department has an on-line complaint form for related discrimination cases. (Source: US Dept of Justice)

Is discrimination in public education really a problem in 2010? Or could it be social and economic issues that may not place school as a high priority in some parts of the country? According to the Secretary, “Just 12 percent of high schools produce half the dropouts in America. Three-fourths of African-American and Latinos come from those schools.” (Source: CS Monitor)

Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan (Obama Adminstration)


About the U.S. Secretary of Education.
“Prior to his appointment as secretary of education, (Arne) Duncan served as the chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools, a position to which he was appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley, from June 2001 through December 2008, becoming the longest-serving big-city education superintendent in the country.” (Source: U.S. Government)

With this tenure, one would think the Secretary was an education success right?

Not exactly. Despite the government’s bio on the Secretary, if you just go and take an independent look at the schools for which Obama’s Education Secretary was supposedly overseeing, one will find that very few Chicago schools are ranked 9 or 10 out 10 (ten being best score) according to greatschools.org. In fact as of the date of this report, there were only 17 out of 536 schools that ranked 9 or 10; less than 4% of school had a high ranking.

There were 383 out of 536 schools that had a rank of 4 or lower; that means over 71% of Chicago schools where the Secretary of Education allegedly achieved so much, ranked 4 out of 10 – 10 being best. If you got a score of 6 out of 10 on a test that would be a “D.” (Data Source: greatschools.org as of 3-15-2010.)

(Note some schools were un-ranked. I would argue that if the school was average to outstanding it would be ranked.)

The Secretary himself has an amazing education in sociology from Harvard University. I would think that a course in basic math would better define the statistics of what we have seen here.

So are we going to change how we educate K-12? Are we going to have government further regulate education with new laws, and spend over $1 Trillion on something that produces little to no positive result? Are we going to make it easier to pass standardized tests so we can call a program a success? Will we create new government programs for people who can’t pass a math or reading test and instead have other training programs that we will push them through and call students “proficient” so they can graduate 8th grade, and maybe high school? Maybe the government will introduce new education program perhaps one that might be called, Fast Food Bun Warmer. A job that will cost government $18 million to train one person and the job pays $7.75 an hour less a mandatory Obama-health-care tax, social security tax, federal, state and other taxes. Change You Can’t Believe In.

Further Reading:
The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America
— by Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt (free e-book 738 pps)

03-29-2010 UPDATE:
Only two out of the 50 U.S. states win Obama’s approval to receive education grants.
Delaware, Tennessee Win Race to the Top Grants

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