Tuesday, July 31, 2012


The Obama administration is quietly abandoning No Child Left Behind by granting states waivers from numerous aspects of the law. For example, six additional states—Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon, and South Carolina and the District of Columbia, were approved for waivers, bringing the approved total of applicants to 33. And still more are in the works.

Those who abhor NCLB may view its death by waiver as grounds for celebration. But that is overly optimistic. While Arne Duncan and company are quietly dumping some of NCLB's more preposterous requirements well before the law's 2014 drop-dead-date, they are not backing off from their more general stance of officiously telling state and local school people what to do.

Therein lies the problem. Federal school officials are neither wise enough, nor well-informed enough to take this stance. Confined to the Olympian heights of our nation's capital, these politicians and bureaucrats are so far removed from local realities that their persistent meddling provides little but comic relief. Nevertheless, like the party apparatchiks who crafted the former Soviet Union's ridiculously optimistic Five Year Plans, they persist in imposing still more "reforms."

Most of these new impositions will disintegrate into farce in the face of day-to-day realities. But before they do they will distract and dismay thousands of competent educators. The only good this federal tinkering is really likely to accomplish is keeping state school officials too busy to develop "reforms" of their own.

Meanwhile the best government money can buy will persist in allowing, even creating, the social and economic conditions that breed school failure like garbage breeds rats.

For a complimentary copy of a new hard-hitting education journal click here.

Friday, July 27, 2012


A study by Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, using data submitted from 38 medical centers around the country, found that Rising home foreclosures and mortgage delinquencies have contributed to an increase in child abuse.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports, "Every 1 percent increase in 90-day mortgage delinquencies over a one-year period was associated with a 3 percent increase in children’s hospital admissions for physical abuse and a 5 percent increase in children’s hospital admissions for traumatic brain injuries suspected to be caused by child abuse."

No doubt these same rising home foreclosures and mortgage delinquencies are also linked to an increased number of kids failing to learn in school. But who in power is interested in researching such questions? Instead of facts, educational policy is based on political feel-good fantasies like No Child Left Behind.

Check out http://www.newfoundations.com/PolEdReform/PolEdRef.html for a complimentary copy of a new, hard-hitting education journal.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


As the November elections approach, both President Obama and Mitt Romney have jumped aboard the charter school train. They both promise ever more of them. 
Charter schools are already a very big business. More than $12  billion is spent on them annually.  The trouble is a lot of larcenous people are wetting their  beaks in this vast lake of public money. Consider that  there are   about six thousand charter schools in the  United States. Yet a Googlsearch for charter school fraudyieldan astonishing  2,890,000 hitsCharteschool corruptiontriggers another 1,850,000, and charter  school  scandals results in 1,060,000 more.
Maybe it will be worth the inevitable increase in fraud and corruption to gain the advantages charter schools offer. But research reveals that consistently superior academic results will not be one of them. Sure,  some  charters get  better results than  some  traditional public schoolsat  least  as measured by standardized tests.  But some  tradtional  public  schools  test  better than  some charter schools  too.  And when we compare overall test  results for both  type  schools, there is no clear-cut winner.10 So whatever advantages the increase in charter schools  offers,  do not count on improved learning being one of them.
What, then, can we count on as charter schools proliferate? Well, if the past is prologue (and in this case it almost certainly is) we can count on a proportional increase in public corruption and cronyism and a brighter future for unemployed relatives of wellpositioned politicians, assorted bunko artists, flim-flam men, confidence tricksters, and  defrocked storefront preachers. 

For more on this in a free download of the New Foundations of Education Journal click here


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND: solemn but never serious

No Child Left Behind seems to be quietly fading away. Since Congress cannot, or will not, reform this reform, President Obama is killing it off with waivers. Do this and that and we'll let you sidetrack NCLB.

I, for one, am not surprised. I never took NCLB seriously. The very name of the act indicates a preposterous goal. Given the resources available to schools and all the non-school factors that impact educational success, achieving this goal would require altering the whole of American society.

No Child Left Behind indeed. Such a goal is plainly preposterous. How, then, was it arrived at? The late Paul Goodman noted that Americans are solemn about schooling but seldom serious. And there isn't a better example of that than this preposterously ambitious "reform."

Imagine applying a similarly ridiculous goal to something we take seriously — let's say professional baseball. No Team Left Behind. We all know that to be successful in baseball requires a delicate balance of defensive and offensive capabilities. We also know that putting such a balance together requires resources. To get a first-rate pitcher you either need a ton of money or you have to trade a first-rate something else. Trying to get a twenty game winner by trading your utility infielder would get you laughed out of the game. Baseball is serious business.

Politicians dabbling in school reform, on the other hand, settle for merely being solemn. They hatch plans so simplistic it is embarrassing to rebut them. Let's remember some previous solemn "educational reform"goals. For example, that the United States must lead the world in science and mathematics education by the turn of the century? Well here we are twelve years after that due date and nothing of that sort has happened. Instead, the whole imperative was quietly shelved in favor of leaving not one single child behind. Why? Because no one was seriously committed to gaining this preeminence to begin with. It was just political theater.

No Child Left Behind is like that. The enormously complex tasks required to even approach this ridiculously ambitious goal were never even laid out. Worse, the prodigious resources required were not even been brought up for serious discussion.

Is this an exaggeration? Consider that NCLB requires that all teachers be "highly qualified." But actually achieving that goal required major, and expensive, changes that none of these solemn politicians were prepared to back. So, by time of the Obama administration, this solemn goal had turned into a laughable farce as thousands of teacher interns, rank beginners mind you, were placed in that category. Beginners as "highly qualified." What could be less serious?

In the fulness of time NCLB will be gathering dust with all the many other solemn, but not serious, reforms of yesteryear. But because of the disruption it has spawned, this particular bit of political theater will have so disassembled public schooling that, like Humpty Dumpty, we will never be able to put it together again.

For a more detailed consideration see www.newfoundations.com/Clabaugh/CuttingEdge/Serious.html