Not So Fast

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In this day of catchy headlines and alarmist rhetoric, Lou Dobbs is a stalwart. Dobbs’ article: “How to save our failing schools,” would suggest that his pen would deliver a panacea or at least provide informed insight into a comprehensive solution to meet the needs of our schools. Instead he takes time to point out the obvious and well documented issue of the high school dropout rate, and labels it the single failure of our school system.

Dobbs suggests that it is the dropout rate which is the failure of our schools. I would contend that this is an important–albeit confusing–measure, but we must also be mindful of the success of those who do graduate. What skills do they bring to college or the workforce?

Universities and employers have found that many of our graduates are deficient in the skills necessary to succeed and too often require remediation. Simply making it out of school is no savior for our youth. Students can learn. The question is how and what do we teach them? How do we keep them engaged and sufficiently challenged? How do we prepare them for a globally competitive 21st century world?

Dobbs contends that the United States spends a larger percentage of its total GDP on education than just about any other country in the world. That is incorrect. The U.S. spends 1.5 percent of its total budget on education, but those nations which outperform the U.S. on the TIMMS test spend considerably higher percentages.

Nations such as the Netherlands, Japan, and Australia spend a minimum of 7.2 percent of their total expenditures on education. A reasonable person would conclude that there is a benefit to placing a higher financial priority on America’s schools. Not to mention both of the solutions which Dobbs briefly highlights at the end of his article require substantial financial resources which many cities and states simply do not have.

The issue of high dropout rates has reverberations throughout our society and Dobbs does allude to a serious issue, but he stops short of addressing the real problem. Our schools must address methods which teach all students, keeping them engaged with rigorous curricula that is relevant to them and their lives after graduation. Our school system has served its purpose up to now, but the world is changing. Our schools must change too.

If you want to receive information on this and other education issues via e-mail, don’t forget to join ASCD Educator Advocates. As we’re known for saying: We are educators. We know what works. Together we can make a difference.

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