Can’t Afford to Invest in Education? Good Luck to Our Future

Sat, January 29, 2011

Changing the World, Democrats, Republicans

This week, the Washington Post reported on a top-performing school in Montgomery County, Maryland that is failing under the warped guidelines of No Child Left Behind. It reminded me of a post I wrote about a year ago after another article talked about how other schools really are failing.  Read the recent story here and my post from a year ago and then ask yourself two questions — How can Sarah Palin and other conservatives claim we can’t afford to invest in our kids’ educations and why hasn’t the Obama administration moved faster?

It’s no secret that George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind policy was hardly a success.  But when I read this article in the Washington Post, I just about spit my decaf coffee across the keyboard onto my computer screen:

“More Third-Graders Struggling with Reading Skills”

According to the article, two-thirds of third- and fourth-graders in Virginia and Maryland rank at the “below proficient” level in their reading skills.  And it’s not like “proficient” is all that great because to get schools to be in compliance with NCLB over the few last years, many schools lowered the test scores needed for students to achieve a rating of “proficient” on the standardized tests for both reading and math so schools wouldn’t lose their funding the keep teaching our kids.

How is this even possible?

Public schools in Virginia and Maryland, especially the ones in the close-in Washington, D.C. suburbs, are supposed to be some of the best in the country.  I’m lucky.  My fourth-grader is reading above her grade level and is comprehending what she’s reading — she’s understanding the words, the stories and the underlying meaning in books.  But over 60 percent of our kids are not.

President Obama needs to get moving on this right away.  I understand he has a lot on his plate right at the moment, but if we think the economy looks bad now, I don’t even want to think about it in 15 years if our kids can’t keep up with their other school curricula because they’re reading skills are so poor.

And I have to ask — where was Laura Bush while our kids’ reading was going down the tubes?  She was supposed to be the First Lady who championed reading, right?  I understand that maybe she didn’t want to get into it with George about their now-apparent disagreements on reproductive rights and gay marriage. But I think she could have made time for a little pillow talk on some real education reform.

I know that’s all ancient history now and it’s up to the Obama administration to set things right.  But if things don’t change soon, I’m afraid we’ll see too many adults diving into The Pet Goat rather than some nice Charles Dickens or something from the Bronte sisters.

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2 Responses to “Can’t Afford to Invest in Education? Good Luck to Our Future”

  1. Daisy Says:

    It’s a scary world in education. When I tested benchmark reading levels in September, seven of my fourth graders were reading at a first grade level. Only one qualified for special education. I referred three others; only one made it. The others were “gray area” kids; with IQs in the 80s, they do not qualify for special education, but still struggle every single day. These kids take the same tests that their gifted classmates take for NCLB. How is this helping them learn, prepare for their future?

    It’s not.

    Sorry for the rant – this is a raw spot. I see the struggles first hand, and fear the future.

  2. Emily Says:

    While my daughter has always tested above grade level for reading, she has only since last year (she is now a 9th grader) become a real reader. We are of course thrilled. Some of it was because they were made to read at least 20 minutes a night – kind of sucked the fun out of it. Last year while she did have to do that her English teacher had them reading good books (and poetry) for school and it really turned her onto that reading can be very enjoyable. She is now very enthusiastic about books. I was afraid that she wouldn’t become a reader until college so I’m very happy it’s now when she’s starting high school.

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