Rupert Murdoch: If Schools Were Like 'American Idol' . . . - WSJ.com
There is, however, another hidebound American institution that is also finding it difficult to respond to new challenges: our big-city schools.
Today, for example, the United States is home to more than 2,000 dysfunctional high schools. They represent less than 15% of American high schools yet account for about half of our dropouts. When you break this down, you find that these institutions produce 81% of all Native American dropouts, 73% of all African-American dropouts, and 66% of all Hispanic dropouts.
At our grade schools, two-thirds of all eighth-graders score below proficient in math and reading. The average African-American or Latino 9-year-old is three grades behind in these subjects. Behind the grim statistics is the real story: lost opportunities, crushed dreams, and shattered lives. In plain English, we trap the children who need an education most in failure factories.
Clearly it's not for any lack of money. Over the past three decades, we've nearly doubled spending on K-12 education in real terms. So President Obama was absolutely right to declare the other day that "we can't spend our way out of this problem." Which begs the question: How can we spend so much with so little to show for it?
The answer is that while the system is failing our children, it works very well for some adults. These adults include the leaders of the teachers unions. They include the politicians whom the unions reward with their cash and political support. They include the vast education bureaucracies. In business terms, we have a system that rewards the providers and punishes the customers.
We all know that good schools begin with good teachers. We also know there are many heroic teachers. Unfortunately, our system is set up to protect bad teachers rather than reward good teachers.
In the existing system, we have incentives for almost everything unrelated to performance (seniority, tenure, etc.) and zero incentive for adapting new technologies that could help learning inside and outside the classroom. On top of it all, we have chancellors, superintendents and principals who can't hire and fire based on performance.