Education fads offer lesson
The Arizona Republic
Sept. 8, 2007



12:00 AM

Harper's September issue includes an excellent article listing most of the American education fads during the past several decades. The list is long, often repetitive, and embarrassing to review.

"New" math, compensatory education, Head Start, expanded kindergarten, magnet schools, computer-assisted instruction, open schools, team-teaching, class-size reduction (27 in 1950 to 17 in the 1990s), special-education, bilingualism, bigger high schools, smaller high schools, more homework, less homework, laptops for all students, merit pay and more pay for teachers, accountability for administrators, voucher plans, charter schools, high-stakes testing, phonics, whole language instruction, more education courses for teachers, teacher testing, "No Child Left Behind" - most were listed, and all have been tried extensively.

"Has any of this made a difference?" asks the article's author, Peter Schrag. The short answer, he says, lies somewhere between "not sure" and "not much."

U.S. performance vs. other nations' continues to sag, the number of high-performing U.S. SAT-takers on the verbal portion declined nearly 25 percent from 73 to 90 (the test has since been revised, precluding further long-term comparisons), small gains in SAT math have been made since the mid-1960s, but 17-year-olds' National Assessment of Educational Progress scores have remained flat.

Three important implications:

1.Roughly two-thirds of our $500 billion-plus per year in public school expenditures is wasted.

2.Much of the money spent within colleges of education is also wasted.

3.It's time to try something Asian schools have found to be very important - substantial parental involvement. - Loyd Eskildson,Scottsdale