K-12: Unequal resources? No, unequal reading.

The big noise in education centers is on this claim: if only we had equal funding, we could have equal results.

Change agents, social justice warriors, and the Education Establishment complain endlessly about the injustice of some schools and neighborhoods having bigger budgets than others.

A good argument can be made that this complaint is dishonest.

First of all, there is little correlation between money and quality in education.  Total expenditures on K-12 more than doubled from 1970 to 2005, but reading scores remained flat.  Spend all the billions you want – there is no guarantee that anything will change.

Second, failing schools, far from taking constructive action to fix the situation, continue those practices that give the worst results.  It's as if the top educators do not truly want improvement.  They want an excuse for endlessly demanding bigger budgets.  These budgets, by the way, may not make students more successful, but they will certainly make administrators wealthier.  (As the song goes, "my God, how the money rolls in.")

The obvious answer is to find better classroom methods and thereby teach the kids to read.  Instead, we hear the same basic complaints over and over.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, said: "I am frustrated and angry about the inequality that denies many of our students a great education[.] ... We are [one of the richest nations] in the world, yet we have not ensured that all students, regardless of ZIP code, have the well-staffed and well-resourced schools they need. We know a well-rounded education offers students a way out of poverty, yet the schools serving the poorest students are often impoverished."

Anya Kamenetz, lead education blogger for NPR and the author of The Test, lamented "continued tacit acceptance of deep racial and social segregation across most of our school system, from prekindergarten through colleges and grad schools. All this year we have been hearing eruptions of despair across the country from students who have climbed the heights of elite education only to brave chilly winds of hostility and aggression."

You see that complaints focus on alleged discrimination, racism, and injustice.  There's never any scrutiny of the methods used or demands that these methods be improved.

Professional educators cannot possibly be so oblivious.  They surely have heard of the Reading Wars.  Essentially, there's a contest between Phonics (which emphasizes the letters and their sounds) and Whole Word (which focuses on memorizing the shapes of the words).  The Education Establishment sometimes pretends that this choice is like that between gasoline and diesel.  No, it's a much more drastic choice, like that between abusing drugs and not abusing drugs.  Most studies prove that Phonics works faster and better.  (Jean Chall's The Great Debate, 1967, shows that of 27 studies from 1920 to 1965, Whole Word was found superior by only one study.)

Think for a moment about students learning history, geography, and science.  If schools don't teach very much content, which is all too typical, you end up with a child who's by and large ignorant but otherwise healthy.

It's different with reading.  When children don't learn to read immediately, all the rest of their studies is subverted.  How can you study geography and history if you can't read such words as river, mountain, oceanVirginia, England, Europe, etc.?

But the situation is even more dire.  In the typical public school, a child is expected to memorize 50 to 100 sight-words in first grade.  This is a piddling number in a language like English, but that's not the main problem.  For many children, this task is difficult or impossible.  They fall behind; they know they are failures.  They develop emotional problems and lose interest in school.  Next, slow progress will suddenly jump the child to different tracks known as remediation and intervention.  Title I provides lots of money.  All the school has to do is generate defective students, obviously a potential evil incentive.  Many millions of children spend the second, third, and fourth grades caught in a tar pit they can't understand.  They are bounced around among assessment experts, counselors, psychiatrists, tutors.  They are labeled dyslexic, ADHD, learning disabled, and functionally illiterate.  (My God, as you can imagine, how the money rolls in.)

We see why only one third of American fourth-graders are rated "proficient" in reading.  That means that two thirds are trapped in an underworld of low literacy and falling self-esteem.  But the money keeps flowing to everyone involved in maintaining this wretched system – teachers, tutors, and all the other technical experts all the way up to the psychiatrist who prescribed Ritalin to the long-suffering children.

Here, it seems, is the really ugly truth.  The less sophisticated the parents and community leaders are, the less the children will be defended against the abuses heaped on them by an unchecked Education Establishment.  Ergo, the poor neighborhood is suffering not from a lack of money – not primarily.  It's suffering from an abundance of people who will take advantage of weakness to pursue ideological schemes and, I suspect, to create more Democrat voters.  (Meanwhile, my God, how the money rolls in.)

If all these complainers were serious, they would demand comparative testing among various instructional methods.  Let one school district try systematic phonics; let another district try Whole Word.  If ed schools were the least bit serious, they would make sure future teachers know how to teach reading.  (It's a big and revealing outrage that most young teachers do not know how to teach reading.)

The big need is for more people to protect these children, not spend more money on them.  Where are the Chamber of Commerce and the local newspaper?  Where is Bill Gates when he could be useful?  Where are local colleges and universities?  Where are rich people?  The forces that should be defending children against predatory ideologues are curiously sleepy and indifferent.  Kids are left to be bullied and exploited.

This has all the appearances of a scam.  You complain aggressively about what is not the central problem even as you deliberately under-educate or pretend-educate lots of students.  When they perform poorly on tests, you announce that the real problem is not enough money.  Give us more money.  When this strategy works and more money is delivered, you have no reason to worry whether children learn to read.  After all, it seems you have turned illiteracy into a successful business.

Bruce Deitrick Price explains theories and methods on his education site, Improve-Education.org.  For info on his four new novels, see his literary site, Lit4u.com.

The big noise in education centers is on this claim: if only we had equal funding, we could have equal results.

Change agents, social justice warriors, and the Education Establishment complain endlessly about the injustice of some schools and neighborhoods having bigger budgets than others.

A good argument can be made that this complaint is dishonest.

First of all, there is little correlation between money and quality in education.  Total expenditures on K-12 more than doubled from 1970 to 2005, but reading scores remained flat.  Spend all the billions you want – there is no guarantee that anything will change.

Second, failing schools, far from taking constructive action to fix the situation, continue those practices that give the worst results.  It's as if the top educators do not truly want improvement.  They want an excuse for endlessly demanding bigger budgets.  These budgets, by the way, may not make students more successful, but they will certainly make administrators wealthier.  (As the song goes, "my God, how the money rolls in.")

The obvious answer is to find better classroom methods and thereby teach the kids to read.  Instead, we hear the same basic complaints over and over.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, said: "I am frustrated and angry about the inequality that denies many of our students a great education[.] ... We are [one of the richest nations] in the world, yet we have not ensured that all students, regardless of ZIP code, have the well-staffed and well-resourced schools they need. We know a well-rounded education offers students a way out of poverty, yet the schools serving the poorest students are often impoverished."

Anya Kamenetz, lead education blogger for NPR and the author of The Test, lamented "continued tacit acceptance of deep racial and social segregation across most of our school system, from prekindergarten through colleges and grad schools. All this year we have been hearing eruptions of despair across the country from students who have climbed the heights of elite education only to brave chilly winds of hostility and aggression."

You see that complaints focus on alleged discrimination, racism, and injustice.  There's never any scrutiny of the methods used or demands that these methods be improved.

Professional educators cannot possibly be so oblivious.  They surely have heard of the Reading Wars.  Essentially, there's a contest between Phonics (which emphasizes the letters and their sounds) and Whole Word (which focuses on memorizing the shapes of the words).  The Education Establishment sometimes pretends that this choice is like that between gasoline and diesel.  No, it's a much more drastic choice, like that between abusing drugs and not abusing drugs.  Most studies prove that Phonics works faster and better.  (Jean Chall's The Great Debate, 1967, shows that of 27 studies from 1920 to 1965, Whole Word was found superior by only one study.)

Think for a moment about students learning history, geography, and science.  If schools don't teach very much content, which is all too typical, you end up with a child who's by and large ignorant but otherwise healthy.

It's different with reading.  When children don't learn to read immediately, all the rest of their studies is subverted.  How can you study geography and history if you can't read such words as river, mountain, oceanVirginia, England, Europe, etc.?

But the situation is even more dire.  In the typical public school, a child is expected to memorize 50 to 100 sight-words in first grade.  This is a piddling number in a language like English, but that's not the main problem.  For many children, this task is difficult or impossible.  They fall behind; they know they are failures.  They develop emotional problems and lose interest in school.  Next, slow progress will suddenly jump the child to different tracks known as remediation and intervention.  Title I provides lots of money.  All the school has to do is generate defective students, obviously a potential evil incentive.  Many millions of children spend the second, third, and fourth grades caught in a tar pit they can't understand.  They are bounced around among assessment experts, counselors, psychiatrists, tutors.  They are labeled dyslexic, ADHD, learning disabled, and functionally illiterate.  (My God, as you can imagine, how the money rolls in.)

We see why only one third of American fourth-graders are rated "proficient" in reading.  That means that two thirds are trapped in an underworld of low literacy and falling self-esteem.  But the money keeps flowing to everyone involved in maintaining this wretched system – teachers, tutors, and all the other technical experts all the way up to the psychiatrist who prescribed Ritalin to the long-suffering children.

Here, it seems, is the really ugly truth.  The less sophisticated the parents and community leaders are, the less the children will be defended against the abuses heaped on them by an unchecked Education Establishment.  Ergo, the poor neighborhood is suffering not from a lack of money – not primarily.  It's suffering from an abundance of people who will take advantage of weakness to pursue ideological schemes and, I suspect, to create more Democrat voters.  (Meanwhile, my God, how the money rolls in.)

If all these complainers were serious, they would demand comparative testing among various instructional methods.  Let one school district try systematic phonics; let another district try Whole Word.  If ed schools were the least bit serious, they would make sure future teachers know how to teach reading.  (It's a big and revealing outrage that most young teachers do not know how to teach reading.)

The big need is for more people to protect these children, not spend more money on them.  Where are the Chamber of Commerce and the local newspaper?  Where is Bill Gates when he could be useful?  Where are local colleges and universities?  Where are rich people?  The forces that should be defending children against predatory ideologues are curiously sleepy and indifferent.  Kids are left to be bullied and exploited.

This has all the appearances of a scam.  You complain aggressively about what is not the central problem even as you deliberately under-educate or pretend-educate lots of students.  When they perform poorly on tests, you announce that the real problem is not enough money.  Give us more money.  When this strategy works and more money is delivered, you have no reason to worry whether children learn to read.  After all, it seems you have turned illiteracy into a successful business.

Bruce Deitrick Price explains theories and methods on his education site, Improve-Education.org.  For info on his four new novels, see his literary site, Lit4u.com.