For School Reform, Is New Investment Enough?

ANGELA PASCOPELLA's picture
Friday, April 6, 2012

In an interview at The Atlantic's " Jobs & Economy of the Future: Educating the Next Generation to Compete" Town Hall , U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pressed his case on the urgent need for America's public schools to "get better faster than we ever have."

But when it comes to the costly School Improvement Grant (SIG) program, a key plank in the Obama administration's efforts to fix public education, there is no specific framework for measuring whether the initiative has succeeded or failed. What, exactly, qualifies as "better?" How much time do students, teachers, and school communities have to satisfy the demand for "faster?"

Almost from its inception, No Child Left Behind was pilloried for setting what many educators (not to mention statisticians) argued was an unrealistic goal: that 100 percent of the nation's public school students would be proficient in reading and math by the 2013-14 academic year. The SIG program seems to be drifting at the other end of the spectrum, having set expectations that individual schools will improve -- using test scores, attendance, and other measures -- without a clear understanding of what will constitute success at a national level.

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