Jim Clark: 33 ways to improve achievement — at no cost
July 9, 2014
Nevada Policy Research Institute's Geoffrey Lawrence has just released a comprehensive study and recommendations that is nothing short of stunning.
Entitled "33 Ways to increase Nevada student achievement with no net increase in spending," it starts with a review of the academic writings on education published by prominent scholars associated with the Brookings Institution, the Center for American Progress, the Cato Institute, Hoover Institution and the nation's top universities.
The study notes that educating a single student to high school graduation in the public school system cost $56,903 in 1970 (in inflation-adjusted dollars).
By 2012, that figure had ballooned to $164,426, but the later graduates scored no better on standardized tests. The study points out parenthetically that, despite those dismal results, Nevada taxpayers are being asked to vote this November for an initiative to impose a gross receipts tax on Silver State businesses with proceeds earmarked for K-12 education which would pour even more money into a system that is not performing well.
The author reports that the weight of credible scholarly authority is "in agreement that an aggressive slate of reform policies is necessary to improve the cost-effectiveness of public spending on education."
How did we get to this point? Excepting the relatively new phenomenon of charter schools, K-12 public education is essentially a governmental monopoly.
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Control of the monopoly has effectively been taken over by aggressive teacher unions. Members' union dues are allocated to candidates for school boards and state legislatures, essentially leaving union leadership in charge of education policy.
Union directed policy implementation has taken the form of mandatory collective bargaining, teacher tenure, promotion (or layoff) by seniority instead of merit, programs of class size reduction, all day kindergarten and mandatory all-day preschool.
Each such policy has as a byproduct the hiring of more teachers, hence increasing the unions' political and financial power.
It should come as no surprise then that independent academics have concluded that the union originated education policies have been demonstrated in most cases to have little or no long term beneficial effect on student achievement. Is there any hope for a turnaround in direction?
Fortunately there is. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has been successful in modernizing Nevada's charter school laws so parents now have wider choices for their children's education.
Sandoval convinced the legislature to provide for the governor to appoint the state superintendent of public instruction.
He will continue to try to implement a tax credit voucher program for minority and poverty students as well as continue to push for a Teach for America program in Nevada schools.
What recommendations does NPRI have for lawmakers? Here is a summary:
1. install a longitudinal data system; 2. Create a merit pay system; 3. permit individuals to negotiate compensation; 4. adopt a defined contribution pension; 5. higher pay for teachers in low-performing schools; 6. Increases based on merit; 6. eliminate tenure; 8. retire the bottom 5 percent; 9 and 10. allow alternative and out of state credentialing; 11. expand Teach for America; 12. eliminate seniority-based layoffs; 13. encourage teacher specialization; 14, 15 and 16: reduce leave-time provisions/reward perfect attendance; 17, 18, 19 and 20: cut class size reduction, full day kindergarten, preschool and advanced degree pay programs; 21: eliminate "school construction prevailing wage" law; 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26: increase school choice thru tax credit scholarships, education savings accounts, school vouchers, parent triggers, and improved charter school laws; 27: use "flipped classrooms"; 28: mandate at least one on line course per student; 29: end social promotion; 30: require students to "read by 3"; 31: incent students with pay for achievement; 32: stagger school start times; and 33: consider changing grade configurations.
Want more details? Go on line to http://www.NPRI.org.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada Republican Central Committees.