In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 8, 2010 / 22 Adar 5770

Uniform standards are not a good fit

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Massachusetts and Rhode Island were two of the 16 finalists named this week in the Obama administration's "Race to the Top" competition for a share of $4.3 billion in education "stimulus" funds. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the finalists on Thursday; those that made the cut have agreed to embrace policies favored by the administration, such as higher caps on charter schools and tying teachers' raises to performance.

Central to the administration's approach to education is its drive for uniform national standards in reading and mathematics. The White House announced last month that it intends to "require all states to adopt and certify that they have college- and career-ready standards . . . as a condition of qualifying for Title I funding." Duncan has reserved $350 million to assist states that consent to common curriculum standards; those that don't will be barred from seeking Race to the Top grants.

The argument for national standards seems straightforward. The No Child Left Behind law enacted in 2002 required the states to establish their own academic standards, but most of them — under pressure from teachers' unions and school administrators' associations — set the bar quite low. In a 2006 report, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation concluded that most states' standards were "mediocre-to-bad . . . They are generally vague, politicized, and awash in wrongheaded fads and nostrums. With a few exceptions, states have been incapable (or unwilling) to set clear, coherent standards." The only way around the states' aversion to high standards, the Obama administration and others have concluded, is to impose uniform national standards, using the federal purse as leverage.

But if the goal is to have more American students get a successful education, it is far from clear that imposing a single set of benchmarks from above is the best strategy for getting there.

For one thing, the political resistance to rigorous academic standards that has been so effective at the state level is likely to be effective at the national level. The teachers' unions and administrators' organizations that oppose higher performance mandates are at least as influential on Capitol Hill as they are in the statehouses. The Cato Institute's Neal McCluskey points out that the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Association of School Administrators, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the Council of Chief State School Officers all make their national headquarters in Washington, DC. Whether in the states or in Washington, McCluskey writes, "the political system is stacked against high standards and tough accountability."

Letter from JWR publisher

Moreover, the very nature of American society — a nation of 300 million that comprises a multitude of ethnic, religious, social, and ideological traditions — argues against the imposition from above of one-size-fits-all education standards. There is no uniform answer to the question of what parents want most from their children's education. "The greater the diversity of the people falling under a single schooling authority," McCluskey observes, "the greater the conflict, the less coherent the curriculum, and the worse the outcomes."

Anyone who called for legislation to establish mandatory national standards for television programming or restaurant menus would be laughed at: No one thinks the government is competent to decide what shows they can watch on TV or what they can order for dinner when they eat out. Is it any less risible to think that government knows best when it comes to your children's education?

Rather than centralizing even more government authority over education, genuine reform would move in the opposite direction. It is parents — not local, state, or federal officials — who should control education dollars. School and state should be separated, with schools being funded on the basis of their ability to attract students and teach them well. The primary responsibility for children's education should be vested in the same people who bear the primary responsibility for their feeding, housing, and religious instruction: their mothers and fathers.

More government control is not the cure for what ails American schools. The empowerment of parents is. No teachers' union, no school board, no secretary of education, and no president will ever love your children, or care about their schooling, as much as you do. In education as in so much else, high standards are important — far too important to hand off to the government.

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Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

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