Local control

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Local control is inextricably tied with "school finance," another topic heading in the education section of the dKosopedia.

Any dKossack interested in these issues should read the works of Jonathan Kozol.

The federal government should insist on results, but encourage innovation and experimentation. The federal government should also provide subsidies for poor schools. A proposed three-part plan for radical education reform:

(1) 48 percent of federal education money should be given to schools with students whose household incomes are at least one standard deviation below the mean. (This is approximately the bottom 34% of schools.) No strings attached. Motivation to spend the money wisely would be provided by parts 2 and 3 of the plan.

(2) 48 percent of federal education money should be given, no strings attached, to schools whose student academic achievement is at least one standard deviation above the mean. (About the top 34% of schools.) The kicker: student achievement should be defined as IMPROVEMENT FROM THE PREVIOUS YEAR. Schools with affluent, white populations may have the highest test scores, but will find it difficult to improve every year. Schools that figure out how to improve the performance of currently under-performing students would benefit most from this incentive funding. This incentive will most powerfully reward improving the performance of poor, minorities, immigrants -- in short, the Americans who most need better education.

(3) The remaining 4 percent of federal education money should be spent studying top-performing schools and educational methods in America and around the world, and disseminating the results. This can include sending teachers and principals on fellowships and internships to study high-performing schools or aid low-performing ones.

What criteria should be used to measure year-to-year improvement? Test scores should certainly be part of the answer, but perhaps not all of it. Can writing skills be measured on a mass scale? The SAT is currently attempting to do so, but its judging criteria are suspect. Perhaps the criteria should include proficiency on a musical instrument and student obesity rates, to encourage participation in band, orchestra, and PE.

Note: Under this plan, schools with average demographics and average performance would receive NO federal funds. This would be controversial, to say the least. But the feds can't pay for everything -- paying for successful innovation and to help the poorest are the most important priorities.

A significant increase in the overall amount of federal education spending would be good, but perhaps not necessary.

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