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Policypaper 1301 b

Policypaper 1301 b

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Published by: Afp Hq on Jan 26, 2013
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POLICY PAPER
January 2013 • No. 1301
A Nation Still at Risk: The Continuing Crisis of American Education and Its State Solution
by Casey Given
“On the personal level the student, the parent, and the caringteacher all perceive that a basic promise is not being kept. More and more, young people emerge from high school ready neither for college nor for work. This predicament becomes more acute as the knowledge basecontinues its rapid expansion, the number of traditional jobs shrinks, and new jobs demand greater sophistication and preparation.” – A Nation at Risk (1983)
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During his rst term in oce, PresidentRonald Reagan assembled some o theUnited States’ oremost educators to study the ailures o the American school systemand provide policy recommendationsor reorm. Chartered as the NationalCommission on Excellence in Education,the group published its ndings in a 1983report that sent shockwaves throughout thecountry and stimulated decades o schoolchange.Although written thirty years ago,
 A Nationat Risk: Te Imperative or Educational Reorm
reads like it is describing thecrisis in American education today. Asevidenced by this report’s opening quoteexcerpted rom the study, public educationhas not improved in the decades hence,as students still “emerge rom high schoolready neither or college nor or work.”For example, the reshman high schoolgraduation rate has only increased by 1.8% since 1983.
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Standardized test scoresamong high school students have alsoatlined over the same time period, withachievement on the National Assessment o Educational Progress (NAEP) dropping by 1 point in reading and increasing by merely 4 points in math since the early 1980s.
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Tese bleak results are perplexingconsidering that no dearth o attentionhas been paid to education reorm since
 A Nation at Risk
. o the contrary, the lastthree decades have seen an unprecedentedamount o policies implemented at theederal, state, and local level aimed atimproving educational outcomes. Fundingis certainly not the issue either sinceeducational expenditures have dramatically increased during the same time rame. In
Students still“emerge romhigh schoolready neither orcollege nor orwork.”
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________________________________________1.
 A Nation at Risk: Te Imperative or Educational Reorm
, National Commission on Excellence in Educa-tion (April 1983), http://datacenter.spps.org/uploads/SOW_A_Nation_at_Risk_1983.pd.2. “High school graduated, by sex and control o school: Selected years, 1869-70 through 2020-21,” NationalCenter or Education Statistics (2012), http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d11/tables/dt11_111.asp.3. “Te Nation’s Report Card: rends in Academic Progress in Reading and Mathematics 2008,National Center or Education Statistics (April 2009), http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pubs/main2008/2009479.asp.
 
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www.americansorprosperityoundation.com
act, schools spend more than twice whatthey did aer adjusting or ination (seechart).
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So, what went wrong? Tis paperseeks to answer this o-asked question by tracing ederal education policy since
 ANation at Risk’ 
s
 
publication and oferingstate solutions.
 A Quarter Century of Failed Federal Education Reform
Since the publication o 
 A Nation at Risk
, the ederal government has beenleading the charge in the education reormbattle. At rst glance, this position may seem perplexing since public schoolingis ocially a unction o the states.But, as with so many other servicesconstitutionally “reserved to the states,”the ederal government bypasses therestrictions through allocating undingto states with regulatory stipulations toencourage its preerred behavior.
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In thecase o education, Washington’s statutory authority today comes rom the Elementary and Secondary School Act o 1965 (ESEA).
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Signed into law by President Lyndon B.Johnson, ESEA most notably allocatesederal unds to schools with a highpercentage o students rom low-incomeamilies in its rst title – hence its populardesignation “itle I unds.” For the rsttwo decades o its existence, itle I undswere not allocated with much regulatory oversight. But, a ew years aer thepublication o 
 A Nation at Risk
, reorm-minded congressmen began to tie itleI unds to perormance requirements,incentivizing states to improve theireducational outcomes.Beginning with the Hawkins-StafordElementary and Secondary SchoolImprovement Act o 1988, Washington tieditle I unds to academic perormance.Schools were held accountable toimproving the academic perormance o every itle I-eligible student under thisact o the Reagan administration.
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I a
________________________________________4. Total and current expenditures per pupil in public elementary and secondary schools: Selected years,1919-20 through 2008-09” National Center for Education Statistics (2012), http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d11/tables/dt11_191.asp.5. United States Constitution, “Tenth Amendment,” Cornell University Law School (1787), http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/tenth_amendment.6. United States Congress, “Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965,” Federal Education Policy History (1965) , http://federaleducationpolicy.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/1965-elementary-and-secondary-education-act/.
7. United States Congress, “Hawkins-Staford Elementary and Secondary School Improvement Act o 1988”.
 
www.americansorprosperityoundation.com
 
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This trendtowardsstandards-based educationculminated inthe No ChildLet Behind Acto 2001 (NCLB),where the ederalgovernmentrequired statesto imposean annualimprovementbenchmarkor profciencycalled “AdequateYearly Progress”(AYP).
school’s aggregate perormance did notimprove among qualied students orseveral years, the local school district wasrequired to intervene by implementing animprovement plan.Six years later, the Improving America’sSchools Act o 1994 took this educationalinterventionism a step urther by requiring states to dene and imposeannual improvement requirements ontheir schools and measure whether they met them through standardized tests. I aschool did not, the state was encouragedto inict corrective action such aswithholding itle I unds or restructuringthe school’s administration.
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Finally, this trend towards standards-based education culminated in the NoChild Le Behind Act o 2001 (NCLB),where the ederal government requiredstates to impose an annual improvementbenchmark or prociency calledAdequate Yearly Progress” (AYP).Although each individual state uniquely dened what score on their assessmenttests met NCLB’s prociency standard,every state was required by the law to have100% o their students procient in mathand reading by the 2013-2014 school year.As a result, states adopted a benchmark escalator where schools were expected tohave a certain percentage o their studentsmeet standards in a given year (e.g. 85% by 2011, 90% by 2012, etc.). I schools ailedto meet the standards or several years in arow, they would receive corrective action– eventually ending in a state governmenttake-over o the administration.Unsurprisingly, this ambitious goal provedto be unattainable, putting schools underconstant threat o state intervention orailing to have near-perect prociency.NCLB thus had a number o unintendedconsequences that severely afected K-12education in the early 2000’s. First, many schools pressured their educators to “teachto the test,” emphasizing skills that wouldbe assessed on the state exam instead otherimportant skills that would not. Second,een states lowered their standard o prociency on their standardized to helptheir schools avoid NCLB’s draconianpunishments or ailing to meet AYP.
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Asa result o the law’s perverse incentives,academic perormance continued to
________________________________________8. United States Congress, “Te Improving America’s School Act o 1994,” Federal Education Policy History (October 1994), http://ederaleducationpolicy.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/the-improving-americas-schools-act-o-1994/.9. Sam Dillon, “Federal Researchers Find Lower Standards in Schools”
Te New York imes
(October29,2009), http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/30/education/30educ.html.

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