Thursday, December 13, 2007

Doesn't Add Up

Andrew Coulson says, think a second time about No Child Left Behind:
So, according to the [Program for International Student Assessment] test, U.S. students have suffered overall stagnation or decline in math, reading, and science in the years since NCLB was passed. ....

Taken together, the PISA test data suggest NCLB has been a failure. That same picture is painted by a separate test of 4th grade students: the Program on International Reading Literacy Survey. According to PIRLS, U.S. 4th grade reading achievement fell, though only by a negligible 2 points, between 2001 and 2006.

While NCLB hasn't improved achievement or closed the gaps, it has succeeded in making public schools far more expensive to operate. The average estimate of the costs imposed by NCLB's accountability provisions hovers around 5% of combined state and local spending. Conservatively speaking, that amounts to roughly $16 billion in additional spending, annually. And since those accountability provisions appear to have done no good, we seem to have wasted almost $100 billion since NCLB was enacted.

But this isn't just another story about federal waste or "unfunded mandates." It's a story about the millions of American children whose chances of receiving a good education have been gambled away because Congress backed the wrong policy horse. Our elected representatives went to the track one day and bet our money on a long-shot -- on the idea that increased federal intrusion in the classroom would promote academic excellence. They, and we, lost. But of course the biggest losers are American kids -- particularly the lowest-performing students, whom the law was especially intended to help.

Now that the results are in, only obstinacy and foolishness would lead us to continue throwing money at NCLB. It is time for Congress to return authority over education to the states and the people, where the Constitution so presciently left it.

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