5 education myths

Robert Maranto and Michael Q. McShane list their five favorite myths about public education, starting with “the cutback myth.”

Most Americans believe that their public schools are underfunded, and struggling to get by on declining resources. . . . In constant dollars, education spending rose from $1,214 in 1945 to just under $10,500 in 2008. . . . What’s far more important is how that money is spent.

“More money means better schools” is myth #2.

While expenditures have been increasing over the past several decades, performance has not. The National Assessment of Educational Progress has been given to a representative sample of U.S. students since the early 1970s, and the results have been basically flat. Similarly, the graduation rate for students has remained stagnant, as well, at about 75 percent nationwide. While some might argue that students today are somehow more expensive to educate, it should be noted that in this time period, rates of child poverty have declined and, in theory, technological advances should have been able to automate and thus decrease the price of some of the processes of schooling.

It’s also a myth that “our schools are going to hell in a handbasket.”  NAEP shows our schools aren’t getting any worse.

Myth #4: Choice will solve everything. Nope.

The “most insidious and dangerous myth” is that “schools don’t matter” when it comes to educating disadvantaged children, they write.

“It’s poverty, stupid!” the familiar refrain repeats.

. . . This is simply not accurate. We know, as a result of the measurements imposed by No Child Left Behind, that there are hundreds of schools across the country that are succeeding in educating poor students – charter schools, private schools, traditional public schools. And, if you ask them how they do it, as we asked the leader of one of the most successful systems of charter schools in America, they’ll say, “good teaching, and more of it.”

This is not to say that poverty does not play a major role and that broken homes and dangerous neighborhoods do not present serious hurdles that students need to overcome in order to learn. What it does tell us is that those hurdles are not insurmountable.

American public education has started to foster innovation and reward excellence, conclude Maranto and McShane, authors of a new book, President Obama and Education Reform: The Personal and the Political.

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