Questions about claims made in "Nation Is Spending More on Education, Producing Worse Outcomes" (


"More spending usually means more teachers. Last year Obama not only used stimulus funds to preserve education jobs but called for '10,000 new teachers.' Yet as Figure 3 shows, the number of students per teacher in U.S. public schools fell from 17.4 in 1990 to 15.7 in 2007."


This is unclear unless it is attempting to demonstrate that because the number of students per teacher had fallen to 15.7--one might assume already being an acceptable ratio; otherwise the need for more teachers would be justified--two years before Obama took office (and presumably stayed that way for those two years.)  What is this meant to signify?  Why wouldn't current statistics be used? 


"We have tried spending more money and putting more teachers in classrooms for more than a generation, with no observable improvements to anything except the schools’ bottom lines. Why? Because of the lack of competition in the K-12 education system. Schooling in the United States is still based largely on residency; students remain tied to the neighborhood school regardless of how bad its performance may be.

Federal spending on education (which amounted to 8.3 percent of total public education spending in 2007) is funneled to students through the institutions to which they are tied, largely regardless of student performance. With no need to convince students and parents to stay, schools in most districts lack the incentive to serve student needs or differentiate their product. To make matters worse, this lack of competition continues at the school level, where teacher hiring and firing decisions are stubbornly divorced from student performance, tied instead to funding levels and tenure."


Is this kind of focus on competition possible in a social climate that makes victims out of, and subsequently accommodates, the incapable?  If a student is unable to perform in class, that student is diagnosed based (in the case of disorders not involving brain trauma, entirely based...otherwise the issue becomes one of some other system in the body and not a learning issue) on the symptoms present--the symptoms being or being centered around the student's inability to perform in class.  At that point, accommodations are made, but is it an even playing field anymore (not that it is ever really an even playing field, thinking now of economic and familial factors)?  After all, normality is both a myth and a necessary premise of the current model: there must be a reference point in order to establish deviation.  What about the students who deviate from the acceptable norm significantly enough to discourage the child but not enough to raise any flags?  That child is treated as though (s)he is unwilling to perform rather than unable.  What about those without the resources to receive a diagnosis for learning disabilities?  These students are at a competitive disadvantage.  If we accommodate those that fail to succeed under normal conditions, couldn't we also accommodate the successful in order to facilitate greater success?  Isn't the degree of expected success arbitrarily determined?  Couldn't we raise our expectations accommodating a greater percentage of students and achieve a greater degree of success?  Of course, that would require more man-power (inclusive) and resources.  And if symptoms are the basis for diagnosis, then behavior is the basis for diagnosis--behavior being universally an issue of choice and physical make-up; so is the shift from holding someone accountable for his/her action to considering him/her a victim of some physical ailment justified when there is only the behavior on which to base a diagnosis?  Also, as education is a partnership, is it fair to only punish half of the partnership involved?  I mean, if you were going to do that, wouldn't it make more sense to punish the partner who hasn't proven his/her worth and abilities?  Why would we fire the teachers if the students are unable/unwilling to perform?  Why would we give that much power over the teacher who's proven him/herself to a student or anyone acting on the student's behalf?  As well, in a competitive environment, with all the requisite incentives for the students, like the one this article advocates, wouldn't the situation quickly arise of one (or very few) satisfied student who receive the reward and many dissatisfied students who don't?  The teacher is a very easy scapegoat for the failure of so many to succeed and be rewarded with these incentives.  And so on...  It's all very unsettling. 


 "If reform is to be defined by something other than the amount of money flushed down the toilet, it is time to reverse the flow of power from the top (administrators, school districts, teachers unions, governments) to the bottom (students, their parents, and taxpayers who want their money spent wisely)."


Aren't the people at "the top" (school board through the president) those who are elected by the parents and taxpayers?

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Replies to This Discussion

Good reflection and questions, Jason.


I think the "normalcy" is derived from statistical distribution theory. As such, you would have an 80% range of those who are able to perform in response to certain instructional models, the others would fall within that LD category. So, it is not quite as ambiguous as it appears on the surface.

Roger that.  So then what's normal is relative to the instructional model being implemented.  And changing the model would also then change who falls into the LD category, so LD itself is relative.  My concern about the assertions of the article remains though: how legitimate it is to enforce a competitive morality on a system that selectively utilizes corked bats?

The last quote probably stuck out to me the most about "reversing the flow of power."  Just as with any business, the school system has the most highly qualified and experienced people in charge.  I can't see how reversing the order would be beneficial.  Educators do need to keep in mind the needs of their students but can not solely focus on what the students/parents want.  We are trained to look at the big picture.  Parents and students should always be allowed to voice their opinions but it is up to the school (school board/teachers/admin.) to decide if that is what is best.



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