Today, the Washington Post’s Emma Brown reports on the U.S. Department of Education’s draft regulations implementing the Every Students Succeeds Act, the law that replaced No Child Left Behind. It appears that these rules are the best most recent example of why the federal government should not have a role in public education.
The legislation still requires that schools test children in reading and math in grades three through eight and once in high school. But educational institutions can also include other measures that would impact the one letter grade that the school receives. For instance, the ranking can be impacted by, according to Ms. Brown, whether advanced course work is available and how many students are chronically absent. The report card would also have to reveal “data on per-pupil expenditures; the percentage of students enrolled in preschool programs; the rate at which high school graduates go on to enroll in higher education; and the percentage of English learners who become proficient in the language.” Look for other factors to gradually seep in including parental and student satisfaction scores and the availability of after school clubs.
The problem here is that so much of the information that is going to be required to be shared can easily be manipulated by local school districts. For example, the CATO Institute’s Adam Schaeffer demonstrated years ago that public school systems uniformly underestimate the amount of money it costs them to educate a child, often by a factor of 50 percent. In other words we have now gone from a system in which schools are assessed on objective data to one in which subjective judgements will be made. How much of the letter grade that is left up to interpretation will most likely not be revealed to parents.
It is obvious that in an effort to junk a law that no one really liked we have replaced it with a tremendous mush created by committee. No wonder the Founders excluded Congress from having a part in regulating public education in the U.S. Constitution. It appears that they knew exactly what they were doing.