15 October 2010

Take this simple survey!

Today, a simple, short post, about why schools subject their students to crappy state achievement tests.

It's the money, stupid.

Ok, well, thanks for reading, and I'll be back later with more.

What's that? You'd like a little bit more of an explanation? Ok, but only because I'm generous.

Schools in most states are financed locally, another hold out from the Northwest Ordinance of 1785. Historically, this caused massive funding inequities. Starting with LBJ's "Great Society" programs of the 1960s, the federal government attempted to fix some of these inequities, especially through programs such as Title I.

The federal government told you how to spend the money (actually, on what types of things you could spend the money on), but if you qualified for the money, you generally got it.

All of that changed with the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001. That legislation tied federal money to a state's willingness to subject it's schools to the tests I ranted about on Wednesday. So, you logically ask, if the tests are so onerous, why not just ignore the mandate.

It comes back to that local funding. You see, schools are loath to raise taxes, in those states in which they can, and in many states, schools have to ask the voters to approve increases in taxes. Schools know that you can only go that well so often, so they take those federal funds, and the strings that are attached. The strings are, in this case, the tests.

How much money is it, you ask? In 2004, the most recent year I can find decent information for (Thanks, Census!) (page 9) the federal government contributed just over 41 billion dollars to American schools. This seems like a lot, and then you realize that in fact, it's only 8.9% of total school funding.

So, we've changed everything we do as educators to chase 8.9% of our funding. Better yet, that includes money for schools that receive a much higher percentage of their funding from the feds. So, lots of "well-off" schools actually change everything they do and make their students dumber (remember this?) for less than 10% of their funding.

In essence, I think that state departments of education have clicked on a banner ad, which asks them to take a simple survey (the test) in exchange for which they have the chance to win $10,000 (the pittance of federal funding). Now, I'm guessing that you never click on those ads. Why are our educational "leaders" clicking on them?

1 comment:

  1. They click on them because a) the vast majority of Americans have no clue about the intricacies of budgetary politics and don't realize that its only 9% coming from the feds which means b) politicians and their ilk can play the game of "XXX is missing out on millions - elect me instead" - millions/billions...its only one letter different, must be the same