"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Shattering Education Policy Myths

Liberal extremists, like Frances Fox Piven and William Ayers, more than predict violence, they call for it. Rioting in urban centers is predicted as the economic recovery remains jobless and those on the receiving end find their public entitlements running out. An article in The American Thinker claims that cities often hold off these explosive reactions by padding their budgets to supply education-related employment. The article goes on to list several options cities have to drastically cut their education budgets without necessarily affecting the number of jobs. It seems hard to imagine the suggested steps being implemented in today’s liberal public policy environment, but certain financial realities may ultimately lead to some of their adoption.

Dire predictions for the consequences of not maintaining established education systems is the eternal mantra of the left. But ask Thomas Dolusio of the Bethlehem PA school district whether such predictions are accurate. When he took the job as Superintendant of Schools in 1992, the district had a bilingual education program required by Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. He found that, under this program, it took non-native speaking students an average of seven years to complete their high school education. If his district wanted to continue to receive federal funding for education they would have to continue this obviously failing program. Superintendent Dolusio decided there had to be a better way.

He ended up moderating a racially heated debate in the district that ultimately led to the establishment of an English immersion program in the schools. At the time, eleven states outlawed such programs and federal funding was immediately lost if schools did not provide native language instruction. Mr. Dolusio prepared his district for this loss. They developed a budget that would continue to run the schools without the federal funding and it seemed the predictions of utter failure were "premature". Cries of “leaving minority students behind” and “sentencing them to a life of failure” died off as the district’s statistics showed that students learned basic subject material faster once they were able to be taught in English. Mastery of the material produced renewed interest in school and drop out rates of non-native speakers declined. The number of such students who went on to college also increased. And the district benefitted from an overall reduction in spending on education with no observable loss in student performance. In short, the federally mandated program was holding these students back. Soon other districts were coming to Bethlehem to find out their secret and thus began the end of required bilingual education.

Were more school districts willing to take the hard steps necessary and the leap of faith required to make policy changes that the public has been advocating for, despite the dire predictions of failure or violence, we might see more success stories in education.

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