Schools Failing Despite Lots More Spending, Smaller Class Sizes


The AP reports that 48 percent of K-12 schools in the United States are failing to meet progress benchmarks set by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) laws. The good news? That figure is a lot less than Education Secretary Arne Duncan figured it would be (talk about managing expectations).

The findings are far below the 82% failure rate that Education Secretary Arne Duncan predicted earlier this year but still indicate an alarming trend that Duncan hopes to address by granting states relief from the federal law. The law requires states to have every student performing at grade level in math and reading by 2014, which most educators agree is an impossible goal.

"Whether it's 50%, 80% or 100% of schools being incorrectly labeled as failing, one thing is clear: No Child Left Behind is broken," Duncan said in a statement Wednesday. "That's why we're moving forward with giving states flexibility from the law in exchange for reforms that protect children and drive student success."

Eleven states have already got waivers from the NCLB mandates and another 39 are expected to get waivers sooner or later. That will give them more flexibility on delivering education but will cause Vinny Barbarino-like "I'm sooo confused" mayhem, says the AP:

Waivers fix the immediate problem but likely will make it much more difficult for parents to understand how schools are rated because progress will no longer be based on just one test score.

Yeah, maybe. Then again, using more than one test result may also mean that people will get a clearer sense of whether schools are worth a damn. And you know what else? Giving kids an actual possible exit from their public schools would give a greater sense of whether folks think a particular school is good or bad.

Here's the full thing.

Expect this report to be used as a push to finally finally finally spend more on education, despite a general increase in spending on all levels of education (and an increase of the numbers of teachers per student). If the schools stink, it isn't because they are getting more money on a regular basis.

From the Statistical Abstract of the United States:

Watch President Barack Obama talk on the phone and lay out an education vision that deserves a big fat F:

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  1. Our Dear Leader, the Anointed One, Citizen One, is playing the role of Vinny Barbarino:

    “What? Where? Who?”

    1. Bar-Bar-Bar

      1. Signed: Epstein’s mother.

  2. Here’s a blog entry that presents information contradicting Mr. Gillespie’s refrain that schools are failing.…

    In fact, there has been significant improvement in test scores for poor and minority kids over the past 10 years.

  3. The obsession with class size really is a cargo cult. First, there has never been a study that found any correlation between class size and student achievement. Second, the idea that smaller class size produces better achievement doesn’t even make intuitive sense. Giving a bad teacher a smaller class doesn’t make that teacher any better further. Smaller class sizes just reduces the access to good teachers. If you have a good teacher, you want that teacher teaching as many students as possible. Mandated smaller class sizes does just the opposite of that.

    1. because john’s an educational expert now ?

      1. From that great rightwing think tank the Brookings Institute.

        State resources for education should always be carefully allocated, but the need to judiciously weigh costs and benefits is particularly salient in times of austere budgets. Class-size reduction has been shown to work for some students in some grades in some states and countries, but its impact has been found to be mixed or not discernable in other settings and circumstances that seem similar. It is very expensive. The costs and benefits of class-size mandates need to be carefully weighed against all of the alternatives when difficult decisions must be made.…..ingos.aspx

        It is a fucking cargo cult.

        Orin, you might try thinking for yourself once in a while rather than mindlessly doing what you think your betters want you to do.

        1. Your wasting your time, he’s just here to troll.

        2. that story says class size does matter, then says it doesnt.

          1. I used to be a teacher. Believe me, there is no difference between teaching a class of 20 kids and a class of 30 kids.

          2. Alakazoo a majicaroo a derpity derpity doo!

    2. There is a great deal of teachers time wasted on constently have to deal with the one or two discipline problems in the class rather than actually teaching the rest of the kids. That’s much more the problem when it comes to managability than the actual size of the class. Back int he day that was less of a problem ’cause if you acted out you were going to be in trouble in school and when you got home. Try that today and parents will be outside the school waiting to threaten to kick the ass of the teacher who dared to be mean to there little johnny rotton.

      1. That is the real problem. Our schools are bad in no small measure because our parents are bad. That is why school choice is the only thing that will solve any of the problems. If we had school choice, the school could just kick little Johnny out of school and be done with it. With public schools, we can’t do that.

        1. Right. Because nobody will claim that they’re entitled to the service they’re paying for? All school choice will do is convince people they have another guaranteed state entitlement. This will be reinforced by their direct payments.

          1. I’m assuming school choice includes some kind of voucher system, possibly supplemented by other methods of direct payment.

    3. I think that in some classes, small class size can be a very good thing. But it is still a stupid metric to use to judge how effective a school can be. In most subjects, a very good teacher teaching a large lecture class can be great.

    4. I always figured the obsession with small class size was just a make-work scheme for teacher… fewer students / class => need more teachers.

      1. And you were always right.

    5. I think you are willfully ignoring two huge benefits of reducing class sizes:

      1. It lets teachers do less work for the same pay.
      2. It increases the amount of teachers hired, which means more union dues for the teacher’s union.

      1. “more union dues for the teacher’s union”

        Uhg. Unfortunately that’s probably closer to why it happens than than anything else.

  4. The “standards” will be lowered until all schools pass. America is funny. We are a nation of mutts. Retards abound. But, instead of accepting that fact, and letting the retards fail, we spend trillions to bring morons up to idiot level. Then, we say idiot is the new pass. Good job.

    1. Equality can only be achieved by reaching the lowest common denominator.

  5. Once kids get to high school, it’s basically Lord of the Flies. Most students don’t apply themselves to learning and they taunt, tease and bully those that do. The parents either aren’t able or aren’t willing to help with the situation. The administrations don’t really care. The key selling points of school competition to me are that it gives those kids that do want to do well a potential environment to do so and those parents that care the ability to allow more discipline and control in exchange for a more suitable learning environment. The main argument that I hear is “What about those kids and parents who don’t care enough to change, how does it help them?” It doesn’t, tough shit.

    1. I found junior high to be lord of the flies and high school to be better because all of the criminals dropped out by then.

      1. Yeah, I think junior high is when it really starts getting bad. The teachers also seem to give less of a shit whats you start getting to that point.

        1. I’ve heard a number of teachers say that it is almost pointless even to try to teach anything to kids in 7th and 8th grade.

          1. We have bad schools because we have a bad society that doesn’t value education or discipline its children. The answer is to end compulsory education altogether.

            1. sorta like burning down the observatory after spotting metors headed towards earth.

              1. No. It would allow those who do value education to excel. Those who don’t are just wasting time and money and preventing others from succeeding.

          2. Yup. When I used to teach 7th and 8th graders, I spent most of the time just yelling at them.

        2. Here’s a nice anecdote for you.

          My son is in 6th grade which is where junior high starts here. One day he walks into his math class and puts his books on his desk. He then left the room for about 30 seconds to talk to someone in the hall. When he got back to his desk all of his notebooks and folders were missing.

          This is where it gets good. The math teacher asked him why he didn’t turn in his homework. When he tried to explain that his notebooks and folders were gone she just yapped at him that she didn’t want to hear any excuses.

          He never did find his stuff so we ended up replacing it all. Our school system is riddled with the filth of humanity. The best school choice would be the schools in another town but we’re not given that option.

          1. and that’s different than the real world how?

            1. No. It would allow those who do value education to excel. Those who don’t are just wasting time and money and preventing others from succeeding.

            2. I know when I come to work I don’t have to worry about little criminals stealing my things and trying to ruin me. And, if I did have to worry about those things I could find another place to work.

              1. I used to work at a place where I didn’t have to worry about that. Then I went to work for the government.

              2. leave ur shit sitting on the subway & see what happens.

                1. You really are pretty fucking stupid. I’m not forced to go on the subway you stupid fucking monkey dick.

          2. Blaming the victim was SOP at my junior high school.

            1. Same with me. I beat the living fuck out of a couple of bullies in my time. And I was always the one who was in trouble for it. And you it never did me any good with the bullies either. They always came back. They had been taaking beatings their entire life. The ones I gave them were just par for the course. It was hopeless.

              1. I had a different experience than you–once I started going after the guys that gave me shit all the time, that stopped almost instantaneously. Once they started wondering if I was going to go off on a hair trigger at them, they decided it wasn’t worth the trouble anymore.

                1. I am sure it didn’t hurt me. But I went to kind of a rough school full of a ton of white trash rednecks. Those kids just liked to fight.

                  1. And probably got the shit kicked out of them at home every night.

                    Seems like there are two kinds of bullies, emotionally fragile ones who will leave you alone if you stand up to them, and those like John knew who just don’t give a fuck and like to fight.

                    1. I ran into a few bullies who seemed offended that the geek would dare to fight back. Doesn’t the geek know that it’s his place to be an abuse sponge?

          3. My son is in 6th grade which is where junior high starts here. One day he walks into his math class and puts his books on his desk. He then left the room for about 30 seconds to talk to someone in the hall. When he got back to his desk all of his notebooks and folders were missing.

            Dude, NO ONE can be trusted at the middle school level. Even in the various tribes-cliques, people are always stabbing each other in the back.

      2. I’m not so sure about it getting better in high school but it’s definitely starting in junior high now.

      3. Me too. In high school (at least in the better ones), they do a better job of segregating high and low achievers into different classes with Honors Classes, AP classes, etc.

    2. Is that really what school is like?

      I guess I just had a really atypical experience of high school. I was a very good student, was friends with people from all sorts of groups from rich preppy kids, jocks, stoners, redneck crazy people, nerds and I honestly never really noticed the cruelty and cliquiness that everyone talks about. I thought that the cool people were the people I liked. Apparently other people had more of the typical experience, but I just never saw it that way.

      1. Mine was the same. I didn’t think it was that bad. It wasn’t great. I would rather be an adult. But it wasn’t horrible.

      2. same here. makes u wonder if these complainers were the dork losers who couldnt get a date.

      3. My experience was the same but my high school graduating class was about 180 people. Everyone knew everyone else.

        The high school my daughter is in now is more like the standard. It’s a pretty tight run ship and each grade has their own vice principals.

      4. Certainly the location matters.

  6. If we just lower the bar far enough, we’ll all be winners.

    1. And it’s the kids with he elevated grades that get hurt when they are unable to compete in the real world. Well as long as the teachers do well, that’s all that matters.

    2. The word “winner” is so judgmental. Let’s just give participation medals to everybody.

  7. The law requires states to have every student performing at grade level in math and reading by 2014, which most educators agree is an impossible goal.



    *shakes head morosely*

    1. Zero defects? That’s a stupid goal.

  8. I think that the biggest problem with schools, especially public schools, is that too much time is wasted trying to tech kids who can’t or won’t benefit from it. This comes at the expense of kids who might actually get something out of it if half the purpose of school wasn’t to serve as a mini prison for kids who don’t want to be there. Raising the dropout age just makes this worse. Any kid who reaches age 16 and isn’t ding anything at school should be encouraged to drop out. I have several friends who did that and have done quite well. School just wasn’t happening for them at 16.

    1. The downside is that public school is the perfect place for parents that don’t have interest in dealing with their kids to send them.

    2. Absolutely. And we need better votech programs and alternative programs. I knew a lot of disruptive criminal types when I was in school. A few of them were just retarded screwups. But most of them had real talent in art of mechanics or other things that they didn’t teach in school. They didn’t have any skills in math or English or the conventional subjects. And were consequently, bored frustrated and disruptive in those classes. But there were things they could do. So why the hell were we wasting their time torturing them in classes where they couldn’t succeed?

    3. Yep. Expel problem students. No surprise that institutions which cater to the lowest common denominator produce shitty students.

  9. we should try the EU model where kids are tracked, votech or college prep, after 8th grade.

  10. This is completely off-topic. Or is it?

    1. Good review but poorly written. 1/5 stars.

      1. I can’t tell whether that reviewer is serious or not. Great review either way.


    Finnish students top international PISA tests. The differences are very interesting, and very reminiscent of what home-schoolers do:

    Finnish students spend less time in school than those of all other industrialized nations. The Finns start at age 7. There is a cultural expectation of parents reading to their children; if Finns are as smart as Americans (and I suspect they are), then this would mean that most Finns are early readers. Children stay with a single teacher for years. The atmosphere is quite informal. Teachers focus extra attention on those who fall behind.

    In short, the Finns don’t pressure-cook their children, and don’t bore them to tears with excess devotion to “seat time” as a measure of effort. Finnish teachers get to know and value their students as individuals over a long period of time.

    1. Also the Finns haven’t imported a large mass of 3rd worlders.

      Diversity, it ruins schools just like it ruins cultures.

      1. Yeah, look at all the Asian and Indian immigrants in America, wining science prizes and becoming doctors and engineers.


    2. It’s an interesting concept, but I’m not sure it would work here, given how mobile our society is and how functionally unstable inner-city schools tend to be.

    3. That was in 2006 – if you trust the BBC.

      In 2009, the PISA rank order was:
      – Shanghai, China
      – Asians in US schools
      – Korea
      – Finland
      – Hong Kong, China

      Obviously there’s absolutely no pattern at all there…

  12. Anecdote: In Germany, where I was stationed eons ago, parents held their children out of kindergarten for as long as possible. The reason was that in 6th grade (or thereabouts) all kids are tested for aptitude. If you don’t do well, you are in the pipeline for technical schools.

    In Texas, parents hold their kids out of school, or intentionally have them fail a grade in the early years. The reason is that they want their kids to be bigger for high school football.

    There was a time when I would have said that Germany had a better system. However, in my dotage, knowing that we are roughly at the end of the republic era, like the Romans in 44 BC, I find that the games are more important.

  13. There’s a HUGE difference between a school that is failing to educate its students and a school that “fails” under NCLB.

    1. It’s no coincidence that school performance has declined the more centralized the education establishment has become.

  14. Get rid of the U.S. Department of Education entirely. Every last employee.

    Let states and municipalities do what they want with public schools, and pay for it themselves.

  15. Man, I remember buying those cards as a kid.

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