NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Policymakers Should Stay Out of the Classroom

April 7, 2015

The latest edition of the "Nation's Report Card," shows that only 38 percent of 17-year-old students are proficient in reading, with 27 percent lacking even basic skills. Obviously the frenzied activity since the first Nation at Risk declaration in 1983 has done little to adequately address the core reasons for insufficient, properly focused engagement in high-value academics. It is not that the reasons are hard to grasp, says NCPA senior fellow John Merrifield.

They have all been noted in a piecemeal fashion, including especially:

  • Weak, often poorly targeted, incentives for educator effectiveness and parental involvement.
  • Classroom composition policies that minimize student engagement.
  • High rates of out-of-subject-field teaching.
  • The micro-management of professional educators.
  • Teacher tenure, combined with high rates of teacher burnout.
  • Misleading, boring curricula and textbooks.
  • Discipline problems coupled with related regulation and lawsuit fear among educators.

Policymakers should reduce instructional challenges and create tangible incentives to deliver the highest quality, correctly targeted instruction by letting parents decide the schools where public funding will support their children. They are much closer to classrooms and their children. Empowered with information and full control of the money earmarked for their children's schooling, parents can work with principals and teachers to provide localized incentives, identify their children's educational tracks, and choose the teachers skilled in the instructional approaches that best fit the needs of their children.

Source: John Merrifield, "Improving America's Classrooms Through School Choice," Friedman Foundation, March, 23 2015. 


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