Schoolhouse Crock Part II: Education Stimulus Cash in Exchange for Data

Call it No Child Left Behind version 2.0. Yesterday Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that the second wave of stimulus funds, approximately $16 billion would be tied to schools reporting more data.

As the New York Times reports:

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told the nation’s governors on Wednesday that in exchange for billions of dollars in federal education aid provided under the economic stimulus law, he wants new information about the performance of their public schools, much of which could be embarrassing. . ..

To qualify for a second phase of financing later this year, however, governors will need to provide reams of detailed educational information. The data is likely to reveal that in many states, tests have been dumbed down so that students score far higher than on tests administered by the federal Department of Education. It will also probably show that many local teacher-evaluation systems are so perfunctory that they rate 99 of every 100 teachers as excellent and that diplomas often mean so little that millions of high school graduates each year must enroll in remediation classes upon entering college. Such information, Mr. Duncan’s letter said, “will reveal both strengths and underlying challenges.”

Yes, just like the data that states were required to report under No Child Left Behind (NCLB)proved to be embarrassing. From NCLB data reporting requirements, we learned that thousand of schools are low-performing and that low-income and minority student have low levels of proficiency in reading and math.

Yet, these same states that report that “transparent” data under NCLB continue to get billions in federal aid. So, I’m a little skeptical that requiring yet more data from states, as if we didn’t already know what the problem is and where the low-performing schools are located, will just be more of the same.

We have reams of independent reports that reveal exactly the kind of information Secretay Duncan is requesting. Right now I could go to the Fordham Foundation and find out how states proficiency rates compare to proficiency rates on the NAEP, the nation’s benchmark for student achievement. Right now I could find out from every state the number of students that must take remedial coursework in college.

All the federal government is doing is requiring governors to report to the feds what we already know. There is no word on requiring actual changes in student performance in exchange for the money. If states aren’t embarrassed enough to change their behavior already, reporting that 100 percent of teachers are rated as competent hardly seems like the data point that is going to do the trick. Like the No Child Left Behind the stimulus bill does not require actual change before states receive the stimulus money.

The bottom line is states may be more embarrassed, but kids will remain in failing public schools and we will have spent another $100 billion.

I wrote about the ineffectiveness of the No Child Left Behind and how states and schools game the system here, here, and here.