Advice for the new guys

On Gadfly, Checker Finn offers advice for Rep. George Miller, who’ll be taking over the House Education Committee. Pelosi’s “New Direction for America” says little about K-12 education, so Miller, who helped write No Child Left Behind, will be a power player.

Finn suggests updating Head Start.

Will Head Start, originally designed as a “child development” program, now become the kindergarten readiness program that poor kids need most–a stepping stone to NCLB–with cognitive focus, coherent curriculum, standards to meet, and staff competent to do all this?

New Direction promises to make college “more affordable,” but how?

Before assuming that additional federal student aid is the only path to affordability, check out Charles Miller’s commission report on the subject of efficiency and productivity in higher education. Consider, too, the conclusion of many analysts that most young Americans who, by the end of high school, are truly prepared to succeed in college, are finding the means to matriculate. It would seem that much apparent inequality in who goes to college and stays there is attributable more to high school preparation than to resources per se.

Finn also suggests a close look at the government’s education research operation.

As for NCLB, “It should step up the federal role in setting standards and monitoring progress, but also empower educators and state/local leaders to work out the best means of getting there.” Spending isn’t the solution, writes Finn. Figuring out the state-federal balance of power is where it’s at. Of course, he wants Miller to figure out how to do national standards and tests, looking to England as a model.

Please understand, then, that the “public school choice” feature of NCLB isn’t working, mostly because districts have no incentive to make it work and those with the largest numbers of deserving kids have the least room for them in high-performing schools. Congress needs to prime the supply pump by encouraging creation of more high-quality charter schools in such communities. It should give kids from dysfunctional schools the right to attend public schools in neighboring districts. (Here you’ll have to fend off suburban Republicans who don’t want “those kids” in their schools.)

Miller is a “stronger accountability hawk” than the Bushies, writes Eduwonk. Sen. Edward Kennedy, who’s likely to chair the Senate Education Committee is pro-accountability too. There are signs the incoming Democratic leadership plans to “do some actual work” on NCLB reauthorization, says Eduwonk’s rumor mill.

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  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    I dunno about accountability.

    The biggest single change in education has been the rejiggering of the SAT so as to avoid embarrassment at the results.

    This happened in spite of or because of–take your pick–increased federal aid to education.

    The thing to do now is to reduce the rate at which the entire system is circling the drain.

  2. But who will the NEA whine about if NCLB gets reauthorized?

  3. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I have always felt that the best way to finance higher education was a surcharge against future income tax, partially forgiven for terms of public service. In fact, why not fund all education that way? [silly me! If it was user pay, it would have to be user’s choice.]