- K-12 Education
- Higher Education
- Who We Are
A major political and substantive divide in education policy is the question of what to do for kids stuck in persistently low-performing public schools. Republicans are generally quick to see the market as a powerful change agent. But to date, the evidence indicates that it takes more than market forces to improve public schools. While choice plans have sometimes resulted in modest gains in achievement for participating students, they have not yet generated the transformational changes that advocates promise. Democrats, on the other hand, favor various public initiatives to "turn around" failing schools. Yet these efforts have an inconsistent record, too, and, even in good circumstances, lengthy timelines make them almost meaningless for parents.
The No Child Left Behind Act contained the seeds of a compromise, requiring low-performing schools to offer students tutoring at public expense. Called "Supplemental Education Services," or SES in Washington jargon, the idea gave Republicans an education marketplace and Democrats a school-improvement strategy other than vouchers. But SES has been hamstrung because the same low-performing school districts it ostensibly is intended to hold accountable are also expected to administer it. Predictably, the districts have proven sluggish about enforcing a program that essentially redirects money they would otherwise control entirely. A Department of Education analysis found that in 2004-2005, of the 2.4 million students eligible for tutoring during that school year, only 19 percent actually participated. Further, the Bush Administration left quality control up to the states, and while some providers are excellent, and evaluations of the program have found some modest results, even supporters say quality is wildly uneven and states are not rigorously policing quality. …
Read the entire article in the spring 2008 issue of Democracy.