Bounded by the confines of a tightened budget, legislators have been unable to quell swelling concern regarding education. Educators decry cuts to public schools, fearing that their institutions will no longer be able to operate at their expected standards without monetary support from state governments.
The implication seems to be that education requires money. Certainly, teachers must be paid, and facilities must be maintained, and books must be purchased.
But at some point, expenditures begin to border on frivolity. Some things can be taught without the aid of advanced technology. The structure of an atom, as depicted by chalk and blackboard, is no different when the image is projected onto a screen from a high-definition monitor. George Washington, who, by most printed accounts, was our first president, does not suddenly become the second when history is instead recounted in a computer E-book.
Yet, we often lead ourselves to believe that a lack of funding towards education is the greatest contributor to our regressing educational standards. In actuality, the United States spends approximately $9000 per pupil in public secondary schools, as documented by Reuters and the Washington Post. The amount far exceeds the average of most industrialized countries.
Regardless, studies conducted by UNICEF and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development indicate that the Great Britains and Finlands and Canadas of the world are rapidly racing ahead of us academically.
Since American education is not underfunded by international standards, legislators should blame our methods, not our money. The No Child Left Behind Act creates many flaws in the public education system.
The law mandates that the federal government awards funds to public schools based on their performance on standardized tests. Unfortunately, because standards are created on a state-by-state basis, many states have intentionally lowered their standards in order to receive more federal money.
Admittedly, some states, such as Louisiana, have not been adversely affected by the legislation, as student test scores are comparable on both federal and Louisiana-specific exams.
In most other states, however, a tremendous discrepancy exists. In Mississippi, one of many offenders, 89% of fourth-graders passed a state-mandated reading proficiency test. The study, conducted by USA Today, revealed that only 18% of these same students passed the national equivalent, the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
While the No Child Left Behind Act was written with good intentions, it has only provided incentives for states to lower educational standards, an adjustment that directly harms our children. Many available solutions, not limited to the implementation of a national curriculum, would eliminate these loopholes and hold states accountable to the students, not to the dollars.
It is certainly important to provide adequate funding for our schools. But we cannot shower money on our problems, blindly applying dollar bills as though they are bandages for the holes in the system.
Money is powerful, but it is far less potent when the underlying methodology is woefully inefficient. America must think smarter before working harder. By repairing the academic system, the United States can erect a solid foundation upon which American education can be restored to its full and former glory.
This opinion was written by Jason Wu. The views of this author do not reflect the views of the Temple City Voice or its staff. It was published in the Temple City Voice on May 29, 2009.