My name is Lindsey M. Burke. I am Senior Policy Analyst for education at The HeritageFoundation. The views I express in this testimony are my own, and should not be construed asrepresenting any official position of The Heritage Foundation.American education has room for improvement. On international math assessments, Americanchildren rank in the middle of the pack on measures of student performance, falling behind their peers in the Czech Republic, Estonia, and Slovenia.Here at home, there is ample evidence that K-12 education is in a state of crisis. Since the 1970s,academic achievement has remained relatively flat. Math achievement has increased onlynominally,
and reading achievement has been completely flat for the past 40 years. Not only has academic achievement remained flat, but academic attainment has also beenstagnant. Graduation rates today hover around 73 percent, essentially unchanged since the 1970s.Sadly, in many of our nation’s largest cities, less than half of all students graduate high school.There are other signs that America’s education system is failing to meet the needs of millions of students: one-third of students need remedial coursework when they enter college, and theachievement gap between White and minority students, and between low- and upper-incomechildren, persists. According to the new
Global Report Card
developed by University of Arkansas researchers, “achievement in many of our affluent suburban public school districts barely keeps pace with that of the average student in a developed country.”These failures have persisted despite significant growth in the federal role in education over thesame time period. What began with President Lyndon Johnson’s Elementary and SecondaryEducation Act of 1965, and the idea of compensatory education by spending taxpayer dollarsthrough federal education programs, quickly morphed into Washington becoming involved insystemic education reform. Instead of simply targeting federal dollars to low-income districts inan effort to improve outcomes for poor children, federal policymakers began creating education programs designed to dictate school policy.In the years to follow and throughout the 1990s, numerous niche programs were created, greatlyincreasing the size and scope of Johnson’s original Elementary and Secondary Education Act.President George W. Bush’s tenure included the eighth reauthorization of Johnson’s ESEA, the No Child Left Behind Act. Today, NCLB is a 600-page federal law that leaves virtually no aspectof school policy off-limits to Washington.Yet, despite all of this growth in federal involvement over the past half century, we have seenlittle in the way of improved outcomes for children. In fact, this involvement has produced theexact opposite effect: academic performance has stagnated, schools have become more opaqueabout student results, and parents are often left in the dark about their child’s educationaloutcomes. Now we have Washington’s latest attempt to “fix” what ails American education. While thearchitects of the Common Core state standards might have planned for the effort to be voluntary,federal policy and dollars quickly became intertwined with the push, resulting in significant pressure on states to adopt this one-size-fits-all approach to what is taught in local schools.