Support Programs That Work; Improve Those That Don't
"When I'm president, programs that work will get more money. Programs that don't will get less. And we'll send a team to fix bad programs by replacing bad managers."-- Dayton, Ohio
By ALINA SELYUKH
Sizing up the state of the public education system, one expert panelist at this year's Georgetown Public Policy Institute Conference said that despite public and private investments, updated technology and an increasing techer-to-student ratio, the U.S. isn't seeing much productivity.
Robert Lerman, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Urban Institute, told those attending the conference's public education panel at the Cannon House Office Building that with all the possibilities, "end results are maybe slightly better, but not a whole lot better."
The panelists welcomed the Obama administration's reform initiatives but identified some potential problem areas. One is replacing "bad programs" with those that impose lower standards in order to produce superficially better results, Lerman said. And Phyllis Eisen of the Eisen Group, which consults on education policy, cautioned against falling into the No Child Left Behind trap of imposing national standards on a "patchwork" of states with varying values and pressing for equal results.
To avoid that problem, Robert Muller, founder and CEO of public policy consulting firm Practical Strategy, said the key is combining accountability and flexibility -- two notions often considered mutually exclusive. Muller said the two features can be "totally consistent" and worked into the policy by supporting creative teaching techniques that yield testable results -- as long as those tests are well-designed.
Following a discussion about providing secondary students with a career-oriented two-year-degree track, in addition to the traditional four-year degree program, Lerman suggested considering Eastern Europe's "very vibrant" skill-certifiable systems to revive the "very, very limited" apprenticeship programs in the U.S.
In reference to that and other topics, Muller called for the shift from an "either-or" attitude to "both-and" -- After high school graduation, everyone should both be ready to be in the workforce and have an option of attending college.
MARCH 10, 2009
Obama Introduces Education Plan, Reinforces Promise
In remarks about his new education reform plan, Obama reiterated his intention to cut wasteful education spending: "My outstanding secretary of education, Arne Duncan, will use only one test when deciding what ideas to support with your precious tax dollars. It's not whether an idea is liberal or conservative, but whether it works." Programs to receive additional funding include Head Start and the Teacher Advancement Program.
MARCH 05, 2009
Budget Blueprint Would Replace Student Loan Program
President Obama's budget outline would replace (subscription) the Federal Family Education Loan Program with the Treasury-financed Direct Loan Program. That would strip private student-loan institutions of government subsidies and turn them into servicers of government-issued loans. The budget plan estimates the switch would save the government $4 billion annually, but private lenders plan a vigorous opposition.
JANUARY 15, 2009
Duncan: We'll Trim Fat
During his confirmation hearing, Education Secretary-designate Arne Duncan pledged "to scale up what works" to raise student achievement.