Ted Kennedy on No Child Left Behind

Here are some unintentionally funny--if you like to cry on the inside, that is--snippets from Ted Kennedy's Wash Post op-ed on why taxpayers should fork over even more federal money for public schools under The No Child Left Behind Act. At least, that is, as long as that controversial law doesn't allow students anything remotely resembling the educational choice that Ted Kennedy and every member of Congress exercises without thinking twice about it:

Most of us in Congress know that a retreat to mediocrity is wrong. To meet the demands of the 21st century, we have to expand opportunity for all and keep our commitment to leaving no child behind.

We know the law has flaws, but we also know that with common-sense changes and adequate resources, we can improve it by building on what we've learned. We owe it to America's children, parents and teachers to reinforce our commitment, not abandon it....

We must expand and fortify the teacher workforce. Researchers agree that teacher quality is the most important factor affecting student achievement. Good teachers can make all the difference in closing achievement gaps for low-income and minority students. The same research also shows, however, that our most at-risk students are often taught by the least prepared, least experienced and least qualified teachers. The No Child Left Behind Act made a commitment that every child would be taught by a highly qualified teacher. To reach that goal, a greater federal investment is needed.

The whole chunk of corned beef is right here.

Now I realize with Good Friday--one of Teddy's favorite days to go boozing--coming around, Teddy's mind is probably somewhere other than educational policy. But let's note a couple of things which suggest that neither "a greater federal investment" nor a greater state investment is going to really help kids trapped in the crappiest of public schools:

1. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is the generally regarded as the most comprehensive measure of student performance over the past 40 or so years, "At age 17 [i.e., among high school seniors], no measurable differences in performance were found between 1971 and 2004 for any reporting metric."

2. In 1970-71, Americans spent $4,000 per student. In 2002-03, we spent $8,468 dollars per student in public K-12 schools. That's adjusted for inflation, and using 2004-05 dollars. So we're spending more than twice as much, with no change in average outcome. More here.

That strikes me as a pretty strong indicator that there's something systemically wrong with public schools. Where else are you paying twice as much for same product you got in 1971?

As for "fortifying" the teacher workforce: In 1970-71, the average teacher pulled down $44,723 in 2004-05 dollars. In 2004-05, they made $47,750. And that's not including other compensation (retirement, health care, summer school teaching pay), which is almost certainly better than it was back then. And as for "expanding" it, the pupil-to-teacher ratio in 1970 was 22.3 students to one teacher; in 2002, it was 16 to one.

This isn't to say the school debate isn't a weird one. According to Gallup, about 77 percent of parents are either completely or somewhat satisified with the schools their kids attend, which surely explains why so little radical change happens. Yet only 45 percent of parents are either completely or somewhat satisfied with the quality of K-12 education overall in the U.S. Go figure.

And fwiw, a majority of Americans, says Gallup, haven't even heard of No Child Left Behind. Of those who have, it's a split decision as to whether it's worth anything. Which sadly probably makes it more likely to get more spending.

 Scroll around here for that and more.

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  • ||

    If only someone had a blog about the voice for school choice...

  • ||

    I put it at 50/50 the next POTUS will be a Democrat. (I know, I live out on the edge) If it is, and the Dems retain control of congress, we'll see the biggest big-government government ever. Of course the Reps will go absolutely ape. And of course, it will be all their fault. They had their chance to cut back Big Brother's reach, but they saw only how they could extend it even farther. Perhaps this will at long last put an end to the myth of small government conservatives, and usher in the libertarian era.

    Well, a man can dream can't he. Besides I don't think it's that unreasonable. Brian says we're in ascendancy, and our righteousness can not help but win the day. At least that's the way I heard it.

  • ||

    "This isn't to say the school debate isn't a weird one. According to Gallup, about 77 percent of parents are either completely or somewhat satisified with the schools their kids attend, which surely explains why so little radical change happens. Yet only 45 percent of parents are either completely or somewhat satisfied with the quality of K-12 education overall in the U.S. Go figure."



    Kinda like how most people are dissatisfied w/ Congress in general, but approve of their Congressperson.

  • Sam B||

    "We need to strengthen our academic standards and assessment methods to ensure that students have the knowledge and skills necessary for today's knowledge-based global economy."

    This seems to me to say "We need to make the tests harder to help our students", which clearly makes no sense.

    Also; want to know how to ensure that teachers are motivated and of excellent quality? How about performance based as opposed to tenure based pay and the ability to fire substandard teachers?

  • Fluffy||

    If verbal skill is 50% of what we're measuring here, there's a reason we aren't seeing greater student success with greater spending. It's because most students don't actually acquire any verbal skills in the schools; they simply earn a credential certifying the verbal skill they already had when they arrived at the school.

  • ||

    adjusted for inflation but at current dollars?

    witch isit?

  • ||

    Great post, Nick. A lot of good info in there.

    Although we've more than doubled real spending since the early '70s, we've gotten nothing extra for our money.

    So why is no one pissed?

    Maybe because we're lying to them.

    Even though achievement is flat or lower, grades are up!

    No wonder we suck.

  • ||

    adjusted for inflation but at current dollars?

    Inflate old dollers into current dollars . .

    The result is adjusted for inflation and in current dollars; got it now?

  • Paul||

    Liberals love 'no child left behind'. They just don't like the president who gave it to us. No Child Left Behind creates all kinds of new levers to power at the federal level. Any opportunity for Congress to fiddle with you kids education will not be missed, no sireebob.

    NCLB is great, it just needs more federal control, money, and regulations to make it work. More is better, right?

  • LarryA||

    Most of us in Congress know that a retreat to mediocrity is wrong.

    Retreat is the wrong direction. A system that fails to teach so many students to read needs to advance to reach "mediocrity."

    To meet the demands of the 21st century, we have to expand opportunity for all and keep our commitment to leaving no child behind.

    What we actually need for the 21st century is to challenge the best and brightest. They'll make the most difference.

    We know the law has flaws, but we also know that with common-sense changes and adequate resources, we can improve it by building on what we've learned.

    Translation: Bigger budgets.

    We owe it to America's children, parents and teachers to reinforce our commitment, not abandon it....

    If a government program isn't working, try, try again with more funding.

    We must expand and fortify the teacher workforce. Researchers agree that teacher quality is the most important factor affecting student achievement. Good teachers can make all the difference in closing achievement gaps for low-income and minority students.

    This translates into "every teacher must obtain a real education school certified degree and become a member of the union."

    To reach that goal, a greater federal investment is needed.

    Where "investment" = "funding and control."

    No Child Left Behind = No Child Gets Ahead

  • ||

    Liberals love 'no child left behind'. They just don't like the president who gave it to us. No Child Left Behind creates all kinds of new levers to power at the federal level. Any opportunity for Congress to fiddle with you kids education will not be missed, no sireebob

    Uhmm, I'm a liberal and I hate it.

    I don't like the emphasis on standardized testing and the perverse incentives it creates and I don't like taking control away from the local level. But please feel free to tell us all more about what "liberals" like and dislike

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Kennedy didn't mind leaving Mary Jo behind. Of course, she wasn't a child.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Uhmm, I'm a liberal and I hate it.

    There's two of you?

    Sorry, the comment wrote itself.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Under NCLB, a failing school can totter along spewing uneducated students into the world for twenty years so long as it makes a teensy little bit of progress each year. If the education establishment was serious about education it would be intolerable to allow two full generations of students to be sacrificed along the way while the educrats try to figure out how to educate.

  • Sam B||

    "Retreat is the wrong direction. A system that fails to teach so many students to read needs to advance to reach "mediocrity.""

    Well said LarryA.

  • Sam B||

    After multiple paragraphs of rhetoric and empty bromides:

    "In the weeks ahead, those opposed to doing what it takes to leave no child behind will do everything in their power to impede our progress. Don't let their rhetoric fool you."

  • ||

    Also; want to know how to ensure that teachers are motivated and of excellent quality? How about performance based as opposed to tenure based pay and the ability to fire substandard teachers?

    i don't know any teachers worth their salt who are against this idea - even unionized (horror!) ones. the opposition is that student testing is a piss-poor method of evaluating teacher performance.

  • ||

    i don't know any teachers worth their salt who are against this idea - even unionized (horror!) ones.

    You don't know any teachers "worth their salt" who are opposed to eliminating tenure? You and I know completely different teachers.

  • ||

    So Nick "Sober as a judge" Gillespie has to make fun of Teddy Kennedy's fondness for the bottle. Hey, he's Irish, dude! Cut him some slack! Yeah, that "old-fashioned family Easter" that ended up at the "Au Bar" didn't work out so well. So what! That was years ago, man! And, as Jack Germond so sagely observed at the time, "You want him to drink alone?"

  • Sam B||

    downstater,

    1) That may be true, but many teachers are not at all "worth their salt."

    2) Individual teachers may be against these things, but the unions that represent certainly push for them hard with seemingly little internal opposition.

    I think one of the big problems here is that in the mind of the average Joe what is good for the union is good for the teacher and what is good for the teacher is good for the student, therefore these unions ultimately have the students best interest in mind. Any brisk reading of the history of teachers unions will show that is FAR from the case.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    I hear if this goes well, Kennedy's next venture will be to provide equivalent funding for parochial schools, such legislation tentatively entitled No Child's Behind Left.

  • Xmas||

    Good teachers can make all the difference in closing achievement gaps for low-income and minority students. The same research also shows, however, that our most at-risk students are often taught by the least prepared, least experienced and least qualified teachers.

    Well, that's sure going to win him votes with the teachers, won't it. Who am I kidding? TK will be my senator forever. He'll kept up and running by The Honorable Edward Moore Kennedy Cyborg Wing and Brigham and Women's Hospital.

  • ||

    No one really wants to put the blame where it really belongs. The kids first, parents second. The kids take little or no responsibility for their own education. They don't want to do the reading and homework assignments. They don't really care about learning. They don't understand the importance of their own participation, and the parents either don't understand that importance or/and can't get it across to the kids. Many parents are not smart enough to help with the homework.

    The kids are not that concerned, and the parents are clueless or frustrated about how to motivate them. It sounds so much better to blame the schools and government than the kids and their parents.

    I graduated from college last year, I did college later in life. That worked in my favor because I was ready to learn. I placed sole responsibility on myself to learn.

    My experience opened my eyes to how bad the average student really is. I was one of a few people that actually read the assignments and turned in all of the homework. I took a vested interest in my own education. If I didn't understand something, I used whatever resources at my disposal, school library, city library, the Internet, whatever. I didn't wait for knowledge to come to me, if I didn't know something I needed to, I was proactive. I made sure I found out.

    I guess I could have done like most, not do the work, take no responsibility for my education, then blame the teacher, school and government.

  • ||

    MP,
    You don't know any teachers "worth their salt" who are opposed to eliminating tenure? You and I know completely different teachers.

    my post was in response to the notion of tenure-based pay/motivation as opposed to tenure as an academic protection.

    so if you're referring to teachers opposed to tenure-based pay, then yes, apparently we know completely different teachers.

    why would someone employed as a teacher have a different allergen to watching a do-nothing coworker getting paid more than a person in any other profession?

    Sam B,

    of course not all teachers are worth their salt. the union support for tenure-based pay and against performance-based pay doesn't change the fact that student test scores are poor measures of teacher performance.

  • Nick Gillespie||

    Alan,

    Who says I was making fun (hiccup)? I was merely suggesting a reason for the general lack of attention to facts in Teddy's op-ed.

  • ||

    What is a good measure of teacher performance?

  • ||

    No one really wants to put the blame where it really belongs. The kids first, parents second. The kids take little or no responsibility for their own education. They don't want to do the reading and homework assignments. They don't really care about learning. They don't understand the importance of their own participation, and the parents either don't understand that importance or/and can't get it across to the kids. Many parents are not smart enough to help with the homework.

    The problem I have with this is that I remember when I was a kid. I didn't enjoy learning and homework, nor did I understand what an education meant for me and my future.

    I don't think it is fair to fault kids for being kids. Kids aren't supposed to want to learn or go to school, and are supposed to want to do fun things.

    I did well enough in school, not because of some profound love of learning but because I was afraid of the consequences of doing poorly. (Grounding, loss of privileges/freedoms, having my mom check up on me all the time etc) I also didn't like the idea being thought of as not smart and feeling like I let my mom down when I didn't live up to the potential she and others adults believed I had.

    As for reading and homework...I HATED reading. It wasn't until I became an adult that I grew to love reading. As a youth I used to say "why read when you can watch the movie?" It is the nature of childhood and immaturity.

    I agree that lots of parents shoulder the blame though. Many of them can't/won't be bothered to follow up and make sure the kids are doing well, and none of them are making sure that there are consequences to doing poorly. It seems that a lot of parents (not all, but more than I rememebr when I was growing up) want to be "buddies" or "friends" with their kids rather than wanting to be the responsible adult and teach their kids right from wrong.

  • ||

    What is a good measure of teacher performance?

    well, you've asked the million dollar question! i don't pretend to have definitive answers. however, i do generally think they should be measures within control of the teacher. not dependent on whether the teacher gets stuck with a class of students who don't show up, don't do their work, are excused by their parents and then subsequently fail despite the teacher's full and conscientious preparation.

    i'd point you here for one excellent (though not perfect) way of measuring teacher performance without using student test scores.

    http://www.nbpts.org/

  • ||

    But if the children are all educated, who will we imprison?

  • ||

    i don't know any teachers worth their salt

    I'd agree if you stopped here.

  • ||

    my post was in response to the notion of tenure-based pay/motivation as opposed to tenure as an academic protection.

    Thank you for the clarification.

  • ||

    Kennedy didn't mind leaving Mary Jo behind.

    Thanks, TWC. I feel that karmic justice requires that every utterance by the Tedster should be met with a reference Chappaquiddick, but I couldn't come up with one. Yours is a masterpiece.

  • ||

    Thank you for the clarification.

    hey, no problem! i often find myself not being very clear when posting.

    I'd agree if you stopped here.

    yes, of course it's all moot for the ruggedly self-educated. abe lincoln, candlelight and all that, right? ;)

  • ||

    Like, Ted Kennedy had a car accident back before I was born, and used to drink.

    Can be one of the cool kids now?

    Grow up.

  • ||

    """I don't think it is fair to fault kids for being kids. Kids aren't supposed to want to learn or go to school, and are supposed to want to do fun things. """"

    To me, this is the heart of the problem. We want to excuse the kids for not taking education seriously.

    If we start from kids shouldn't want to learn or participate in class, and that they should do "fun" things. It's a losing battle. Money becomes irrelevant, and we shouldn't consider teachers as failures because the class wasn't "fun" enough.

    Don't get me wrong, I understand what your saying. I did very lousy in jr high and high school. I didn't want to learn either. My mom blamed the school and teachers. Only when I was dedicated to the cause during college, and made myself responsible, did I do well.

    My commitment to education is what took me from a C,D, and F student in high school to straight A student in college. Hell, I dropped out of high school!! It was not the quality of teacher, and school, nor the amount of taxpayer money the school received that made the difference. It was this student's attitude towards learning.

    My point is we can not expect any real gains in education by ignoring the root cause. Paying teacher more, extending school hours, dumbing down tests, will not solve the problem.

    Of course how to get an 10 year old interested in a given subject is a tough question. I doubt any federal law will solve that.

  • ||

    ...must resist temptation to make fun of Teddy K...

    Seriously, the USA spends about a zillion times more on its schools than most of those countries whose children handily outperform ours academically. Which suggests that the problem is not one of funding.

  • ||

    "Like, Ted Kennedy had a car accident [and left his female friend dead at the bottom of a river] back before I was born, and used to drink. Can be one of the cool kids now?" - joe

    Sure, as soon as TK serves out a prison term for manslaughter.

    "Grow up." - joe

    You first. Of course, it's no big deal when a member of Team Blue does something wrong. It's only the Team Red guys who deserve castigation, right joe?

    Admit it, Team Blue & Team Red are in a dead heat for "numbers of scoundrels." The only difference is that the manslaughter and Klan-affiliated guys are on Team Blue, while the man-boy love association text messengers and insider trading. Both have their share of influence peddlers and voter fraud.

  • ||

    Should have read:

    Admit it, Team Blue & Team Red are in a dead heat for "numbers of scoundrels." The only difference is that the manslaughter and Klan-affiliated guys are on Team Blue, while the man-boy love association text messengers and insider trading are on Team Red. Both have their share of influence peddlers and voter fraud.

  • ||

    Tom- I suspect most kids hate learning and reading because they have been taught to associate those things with being stuck in a desk and droned at all day.

    Personally I loved reading and learning, and still do. But I never made the mistake of assuming that school and learning were equivalent.

  • ||

    I suspect most kids hate learning and reading because they have been taught to associate those things with being stuck in a desk and droned at all day.

    Number 6 -- I'll agree with that.

    But I think a big part of learning (and part of life) is learning to have the discipline to do even mundane and boring things. This hasn't changed even as I became an adult. I still have to do drone-like things, like paperwork or status reports etc. That's part of life.

    I don't expect kids to want to do homework, I expect them to understand that it is an obligation that must be done, even if it is boring or mundane. Life is full of mundane/tedious things that must be done and it takes discipline and practice to continue to do those things that no one likes to do but nonetheless has to be done.

    I hated reading, but I did like learning certain subjects -- in Jr High I loved math and civics classes and even econ. Where was I gonna learn these things if not at school?? When would I learn about history or learn proper grammar if I wasn't forced to do it in school?

    I don't think it would be appropriate to excuse a kid for not learning subjects because they are taught in a boring way or in a drone like environment. Life is full of times when you have to do shit in less than ideal settings.

  • C. Castle||

    "Where else are you paying twice as much for same product you got in 1971?"

    Healthcare maybe?

  • Old guy||

    "Where else are you paying twice as much for same product you got in 1971?"

    Sex. And a bargian at that.

  • ||

    ChicagoTom - I always thought the reason human beings failed to learn things (assuming they were of sound mind) was more to do with the techniques employed. Schoolroom learning approaches are often self-defeating, in my experience. And droning at someone is the least effective way to teach.

    I'd think it would be more useful to train people in critical thinking skills and creative problem-solving in as entertaining a manner as possible.

    Unless, of course, your real goal is to sufficiently institutionalize someone to the point that they can stand/sit still all day long, like a prisoner or a soldier standing watch. Heck, even now, when I'm at work, I can go to lunch, grab a drink or a snack, or take a bathroom break when I need to, without permission. When was the last time you were in a grade school that allowed that?

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    RC, you're welcome. I agree with your assessment of karmic justice.

    GWB's sole redeeming quality is to refer to Kennedy as Chappy. Source? Why, the Man In Black, of course.

  • Paul||

    But please feel free to tell us all more about what "liberals" like and dislike

    Props to you, then. I'm glad to have met a liberal who disagrees with Ted Kennedy (and other Democrats) on this. I can only hope there are more of you. Alas, I'm afraid that liberals are learning to like NCLB. Which is why they ask for "changes" to the law, not repeal. To wit: http://www.cnn.com/2007/EDUCATION/03/15/congress.no.child.ap/index.html?eref=rss_education

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Joe, if Kennedy had JUST had a car accident and had actually given up drinking he might be forgivable. It's not about growing up, it's about a man who killed someone, either on purpose or by accident, who because of his connections, stature, money, what have you, faced absolutely no consequences.

    Killing someone while drunk driving is typically about a four year stint in prison, which leaves you with a felony conviction and, if I'm not mistaken, that means Teddy wouldn't be eligible to sit in the US Senate.

    Meantime, Teddy has about as much moral high ground to lecture America on virtue as Jimmy Lee Swaggart. I'm thinking that if I was kicking Swaggart around that nobody would think to tell me to grow up, that was before they were born. And all he did was a hooker.

  • z||

    School is in session 9.5 months a year. During that time there are 4 whole weeks of break, 2 weeks of holidays, and an assorted week of snowdays. But since 7 weeks off in 9.5 months isn't enough, teachers get 2 more weeks of vacation time, plus enough sick leave to take another day every other week. I'm sorry, this is not a full time job.

  • ||

    The average pay for all teachers is $47,750, or is that just starting teachers? That's about what allegedly underpaid teachers in the Chicago Public Schools are making to start.

    I checked up all of my teachers from high school (who haven't been given cushy retirement buyouts) and the vast majority are making six figures. Peanuts compared to what a CEO at a large, multinational corporation makes after 15 years in the job.

  • Sam B||

    downstater,

    I think we misunderstand each other, I don't mean firing teachers based on student test scores, that of course falls short. I meant more along the lines of a teacher whom a principle knows to be terrible but can't fire because of the insanely arduous process (brought about through teacher's unions) involved in doing so). It's anecdotal but there have been cases where teachers who were accused of sexual abuse remained in classrooms because union rules forbade their being removed.

    "Of course how to get an 10 year old interested in a given subject is a tough question. I doubt any federal law will solve that."

    I think a LACK of federal laws would show us a solution very quickly.

  • Sam B||

    "Peanuts compared to what a CEO at a large, multinational corporation makes after 15 years in the job."

    Well if the CEO of a multinational corporation is your standard I think you'll find quite a few paupers in this world.

  • ||

    "Most of us in Congress know that a retreat to mediocrity is wrong."

    Well hell, most of Congress has yet to advance to mediocrity, let alone retreat to it.

  • ||

    Using the average in this sense is something of an abuse of statistics. The distribution is more important than the strict average.

    For example, what percentage of teachers are making what after 10 years in the field vs. others with equivalent levels of education? What are their starting salaries compared to the rest of society?

    There are two reasons for looking at it this way:

    1) The average doesn't account for long-term trends in an individual's salary. Example: If I pay everyone, regardless of how many years they work for me, $50k/year indexing against inflation. The average is higher than what teachers are making, but I will quickly lose qualified people because they will be sucked away by other industries.

    2) Related to point #1: The economy outside of teaching has changed. The question is what could they have made in the 1970s if they did not go into teaching vs. what they can make today without going into teaching.

    I've made the point before. A level one software engineer has a median salary, according to salary.com, of over $50k/year. If someone has the skills and background to do this what is the financial incentive to go into teaching? In ten years, that gap looks even larger.

    Now, for a programming class or a math class, would you want someone who wasn't qualified for this position?

    This is ignoring the factors such as how much teachers need to do today in terms of paperwork, stresses of the job, relative education levels, or other such related issues.

  • ||

    1. If the kids don't want to learn, there's very little that a teacher can do. Sometimes I think we should bring back something tedious and laborious as an alternative--if you don't want to go to school and do well, it's back out to the farm with you and 12 hours a day of lifting bales of hay.

    2. The teaching profession used to be able to get away with low salaries because it was one of the few careers available for women. As soon as the doors opened up, the teaching profession would have had to increase salaries dramatically if it had wanted to remain competitive. It didn't.

    3. The silliness of "educational" credentials. Strange how I, as a grad student acting as TA, was considered perfectly fine to teach a bunch of undergrads, but someone teaching math in high school has to get a whole bunch of extra credentials in order to be "qualified."

    4. Anti-intellectualism in the US. 'Nuff said.

  • ||

    yes, of course it's all moot for the ruggedly self-educated.

    Believe me, I have no fantasies of being "ruggedly self-educated" ... more "poorly self-educated in bits and pieces"

    I would like to be able to sit back, Garrison Keillor-style, and talk about the great simple things that public education has given me.

    But it would be a lie.

    It doesn't matter if you're teaching to a test or to a curriculum or to a cereal box when you have teachers who think that Cleopatra was an African-American.

    I didn't care whether I get art or music or social studies when I lived in fear of being interrogated and jailed for saying the wrong thing.

    When my history teacher said "I don't know why kids have to learn this stuff" and my English teachers looked at the literary books I was reading and said "Why would you read THAT?" I really don't think we're looking at some sort of profound inspiration that's going to be stifled by regulations.

  • Ted Kennedy||

    Most of us in Congress know that a retreat to mediocrity is wrong.

    But the voters keep re-electing us anyway.

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