Unaccountable to parents

As the No Child Left Behind debate heats up, Krista Kafer of the Heritage Foundation analyzes the past, present and future of federal education policy.

Most of the accountability provisions hold districts accountable to the state or federal government, not to parents, she points out. Parents are supposed to have the option of transferring their child to a better school if their child’s underperforming school fails to improve for years at a time. But some districts aren’t telling parents they have a choice; others offer transfers to equally low-performing schools. One district letter read:

“All schools in District [name omitted] are committed to excellence through continuous improvement. [Name omitted] Elementary is no exception. Our school has been identified for ‘School Improvement’ by the Federal Title I guidelines. We are excited by this opportunity to focus on increasing student achievement on the CSAP assessments.”

A school that’s identified for “school improvement” is a school that’s failed to improve — continuously or sporadically — for several years in a row.

On Education Gadfly, Lamar Alexander advocates $500 Pell Grants for kids from middle- and low-income families.

Parents could use these Pell Grants to help their schools pay for more math teachers and or for new art programs — or parents could purchase English or music lessons or other services that schools don’t provide.  

. . . Pell Grants for Kids would provide more federal dollars for schools with fewer strings and more local control over how the money is spent. In its first year, Pell Grants for Kids would cost $2.5 billion new federal dollars, providing every middle- and low-income student in kindergarten and first grade with a $500 scholarship. Congress could add grades each year.

When the elder George Bush proposed the idea in 1992, the grants were worth $1,000. I can’t see $500 buying a lot of change in the system.

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  1. Sigivald says:

    I am somewhat frightened that the school that sent the excerpted letter is actually claiming to be “excited” to suck so badly.

    They’ve had the “opportunity” to “focus” on improvement for quite some time now. Perhaps they should have become “excited” before the axe was raised and their neck put on the stock?

    Do these people even think about what they’re writing?

  2. Larry Levin says:

    I think the Pell grant idea makes a lot of sense although $500 is way too low. My friend’s daughter had serious problems with reading. The principal of her school said that since she was not in the bottom tenth of her class there was nothing extra the school could do for her. Her parents then sent her to the Sylvan after-school reading program and now she is reading above grade level. I think all parents (especially poor ones) should get that kind of opportunity. I would much rather give them this opportunity then to sink more money into an unaccountable school district.

  3. John Doe says:

    More money, less reform. Starve the beast.