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  • Morning Bell: Half-Billion Dollar Schools Can't Fix American Education

    At $578 million, the Robert F. Kennedy School in Los Angeles is the most expensive public school ever built in America. It features a high-tech swimming pool, a chic auditorium, vaulted ceilings, luxury amenities and a design aesthetic worthy of a spread in Architectural Digest. ABC News reports that the school is more expensive than the “Bird’s Nest” stadium in Beijing, China, built for the 2008 Olympics, and the Wall Street Journal notes that it cost more than L.A.’s Staples sports center.

    And while a half-billion dollar public school complex would be jarring enough to taxpayers during plush budget times, this public school was constructed at a time when the district faces a $640 million deficit. It’s a red carpet reminder of why California – and so many other states – face severe budget shortfalls.

    But Joe Agron, the editor-in-chief of the school construction publication American School & University, said that “Districts want a showpiece for the community, a really impressive environment for learning.” When asked by the Wall Street Journal whether the school’s plush amenities and architectural flourishes were necessary, Thomas Rubin, a consultant for Los Angeles’ bond oversight committee, was blunt: “Did we have to do that? Hell no. But there’s no accounting for taste,” Rubin stated.

    But it’s neither “impressive environments” nor good taste that will raise academic achievement, boost graduation rates or cultivate a thirst for learning. Nor is it half-billion dollar school complexes. In fact, many very low-performing school districts throughout the country spend tremendous amounts of taxpayer resources on public school facilities and have hefty per-pupil expenditures. In Los Angeles, conservative estimates put per-pupil spending in excess of $11,000; other estimates put the figure closer to $30,000 per-pupil. Yet just 15 percent of 8th grade students are proficient in reading and less than half of students graduate high school. The WSJ notes:

    The K-12 complex isn’t merely an overwrought paean to the nation’s most celebrated liberal political family. It’s a jarring reminder that money doesn’t guarantee success—though it certainly beautifies failure.”

    Unfortunately, the profligate spending on the Robert F. Kennedy public school isn’t an isolated case. Los Angeles taxpayers are also on the hook for a $232 million Visual and Performing Arts High School as well as the $377 million Edward Roybal Learning Center.

    While these schools were constructed in part using $20 billion in bonds approved by Los Angeles residents, the spend now, pay later mentality permeating a public education sector dominated by special interest groups has been bolstered by continual federal bailouts courtesy of the Obama administration.

    These federal bailouts – $100 billion in new money given to the Department of Education through last year’s “stimulus” followed by another $10 billion teacher union bailout this August – prevent states from making the long-term budgetary decisions necessary to ease the burden on taxpayers and create systemic education reforms. What’s needed are meaningful reforms such as those spearheaded by Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, who capped spending on school construction by placing a moratorium on new school bond measures. Governor Daniels explained his decision to the Weekly Standard:

    When we were first campaigning, I started to notice, we’d drive through these rural counties, these very poor counties, and we’d drive up over a hill and on the other side you’d see a brand-new high school that looked like Frank Lloyd Wright had just been there. Enormous gold-plated buildings. It turned out we had higher capital expenditures for educational construction per square foot than any other state. There’d be a bond issue and then the architects and contractors would run amok, spending money on things that had nothing to do with academics. I understand why it happens. The school board likes it because they get to play designer for a year. But we couldn’t afford it.”

    Expensive school buildings and staggering per-pupil spending won’t improve education in low-performing school districts such as Los Angeles. The district may have just spent $578 million on a public school, but if it produces the same poor results that have defined public education in many school districts across the country, would parents choose to send their children there?

    It’s a safe bet to say that given the choice between luxury amenities and literacy, most parents would choose the latter. That is why students are far better served by policies that empower parents to choose a school that best meets their child’s needs, not policies that perpetuate the failed status quo of throwing more scarce taxpayer resources into the monolithic public school system.

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    Posted in Education, Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    63 Responses to Morning Bell: Half-Billion Dollar Schools Can't Fix American Education

    1. Nancy, GA says:

      Can you spell Greece? I knew you could!

    2. James - Longdrycreek says:

      This story of the LA building projects reminds me of Wolfgang Shrivelbusch's "Three New Deals." The 3 New Deals were FDR, Hitler, and Mussolini. Gigantic monuments were built to give the people a sense of greatness.

      A sense of greatness and disregard of the cost or what the building will do to create

      a learning atmosphere for students is unclear. The idea is to build big. Architects and bond planners and administrators want bragging rights.

      Meanwhile, the school house of my grandfather's time in the late 19th century produced students who knew about the world: geography, history, math, etc.

      My aunt in a West Texas High School had 4 years of Latin. A curriculum worthy of a better plan but, interestingly enough, buildings were not the focus: learning was the focus.

      I am pressed to believe the point of these projects if for learning. Merely colossal buildings for bragging rights and feel good for those who benefit directly.

    3. toledofan says:

      I guess when you put it all into perspective, learning is an action that takes individual effort, willingness, dedication and an understyanding of research, so, I just wonder how in the world we had so many smart people throught out our history that were taught in a one room school house from like the first grade through high school? I just wonder if it was because the teachers taught the basic skills of science, reading, writing and arithmetic and the parents taught the kids about life, common sense, values, etc? I guess, for the liberal mind, it just makes sense to continue throwing money and adding administrators and new buildings and when that's not enough doing the same things over again rather than addressing the real problems or facing the reality that family, values, and dedication are the solutions.

    4. Alan says:

      This is a similar situation to the $200 million Newton North High School in Newton Massachusetts.

      An obscene exercise in profligate spending.

      If the expense for this white elephant were confined to the municipality where people choose to live there or not, this obscenity might be so egregious. However, when you add in that municipalities all receive some manner of state aide, it now changes the complexion of the issue. Therefore all people in the state not living in the town are compelled to pay for a school they will never use, never mind visit.

      Similarly in Los Angeles, how long before a continuing departure of residents and business put the city in the position of not being able to pay for this school and is faced with filing for bankruptcy? What then? How much of my earnings confiscated for stimulus spending would then go to bail out another outcome of failed progressive politics?

    5. Mike Larson , Chelan says:

      Check out the Chief Sealth International High School in Seattle, Washington. And I didn't make up that name! We just called it Sealth when I went there.

    6. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      This reminds me of ancient Rome, so perhaps the Progressives have regressed us two thousand years. The Curriculum is so bad they need a Temple Of Learning to give it credibility.

    7. Stan W. says:

      CA, if I'm not mistaken, has one of the biggest budget deficits in the nation. Buildings are environmental issues, nice to look at, nice to be in, but really not the purpose for which they were build. I would have rather seen an adequate building with the emphasis on education. Put the bucks into the teachers and quality of education. Years from now, high school will be nothing but a memory. It's where you go to college that'll help you.

    8. Texas says:

      All significant learning is self directed. All one truly needs is the 5 inches between ones ears. In the future there will be no schools as all education will be virtual or tradesman.

    9. Paul Rinderle says:

      Its time to throw the Democrat Party led by Unions out of Education where their obvious intention is to not educate but to foster a dependent welfare system of poor beholden for life voters.

    10. Lee in MD says:

      When I think of the great men and women of science, religion, education, art and philosophy that came from the meager means of the one room school house I wonder what will come of this example of conspicuous consumption. For what was spent they (the educators) will really have to give the students a first class education, and there's the rub these students (in general) have been given life on a silver platter. This edifice is a monument to stupidity not education! It is a monument to the continued attitude of the haves and the have nots. Just curious, how many students from East LA attend, how many from Compton or any of the other areas of that city that are forgotten by LA's 'monolithic public school system'.

    11. Nikko says:

      Johnny STILL can't read, but we can build him a new school to feel good about himself.

    12. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      It is so much worse than that. The Curriculum is twisted against almost every good American thing. To the point, I am looking for a place to post this comment:

      "Look! If you can't cope with being a creative spiritual being at liberty under God? You're crazy!"

      It is an answer to unfair Glenn Beck criticism, like he's crazy. The Curriculum as it exists bends History out of fucus, but it makes it terribly difficult to find context. America was founded by Christian principles, we are legally God's children. America owes God! That is what united us in the first place. The point is the Curriculum makes all this unthinkable for some. Citizen Sovereignty is not taught, the root is unlawful to teach. But the truth is God must be taught else our citizenship cannot be understood.

    13. Jeff in Florida says:

      Yeah OK, but what kind of literacy are we moving fwd into with those "scarce resources"? It’s a safe bet to say that given the choice between promoting homosexuality, or more literacy, the majority of parents would choose the latter. yes, we need policies that empower parents, and also not policies that throw scarce taxpayer resources into homosexual classes, forcing most parents to re-teach children what they are taught in school, or or even keeping them out of school to protect their minds from the developing gay propaganda and indoctrination.


    14. Al Reasin, Conowingo says:

      In Maryland, a state law does not allow the counties to "own" the design of schools build with public money. Therefore each new school is designed independently; no set of designs for counties to pick from for their next school with changes for foundations as needed due to soil composition. I brought this up twenty years ago. Such a waste of public funds in what would normally seem to be a routine area of spending. But, hey, our "betters" know what is good for the yokels they oversee.

    15. C Knight, Falls Chur says:

      I'm torn – on the one hand, I work in construction, love the built environment, and admire great architecture. On the other hand, I volunteer tutoring kids in Washington DC's inner city and their literacy levels are not a pretty sight. Money is better invested in being saved (not adding to a deficit!) or being spent on the human factors that make an education effective.

    16. paul, the villages,f says:

      That school in L.A. is stupid. Within two years those kids will have it a disgrace.There is no control over behavior.The behavior of sume of the teachers is as bad as the students.To spend that much when the financial situation is bad,demands these people should be fired.

    17. Al in Fl says:

      So long as we allow the liberal/progressive philosophy to rule in our education system, look for more such nonesense and a further degradation of our education systems ability to teach. As many have said, until we return to traditional, conservative American values and an acknowledgement of our creator as the basis for our education standards, we will not succeed.

    18. Russell Sebring Fl. says:

      ?A fool and his money (taxes) are soon parted! Are politicians just scam artist. They say what they are going to give you but never tell what you are going to pay. The utopia dream turns into a nightmare. Where in the constitution does it give government the right to dispense gifts to everyone or any group?

    19. Sandra Stephens says:

      On the occasions when driving across the U. S., I have been amazed at the large and beautiful buildings built as paeans to education, while the communities they were in were obviously the poorest in nature. Their environments had not been lifted up by these beautiful buildings. Apparently, the educations received were not benefitting the communities they graced, as the environment remained in abject poverty…

    20. Joseph C, Moore, Cpo says:

      What do Liberals do best? Spend the taxpayer's money. What do they do most ineficiently? Spend the taxpayer's money, Case closed.

    21. Matt Matuszewski; No says:

      This article is a shining example of the type of thinking that has been going on in the minds of school boards, for years, all across this country. My question is, how do these bond issues get approved? where are the voters in all of this? A school district gets the school board it deserves, after all, it is they who elect the members and keep them seated, year after year.

      I have traveled widely in our great country and have lived in ten states over the last thirty years, and I have witnessed this situation arise again and again. Regardless of the size of the community in which I have resided, there always seems to be one individual or group of individuals, with grandiose ideas, that are really just monument builders to their own egos.

    22. Richie Naples says:

      This is just more proof of how they just do want they want to with no thought of

      the Americans they are severing. This just shows that the American can no longer

      sit at home and watch they must get involved before these atrocity's happen.. Just

      changing the guard does not mean its going to be better you must watch and

      be involved .

    23. Suzanne, New York says:

      Wow- our schools don't work. The progressive liberals that run our teachers unions can't produce quality students-from liberal american hating teachers.

      Wow you think thats going to effect our country when our schools mirror or present administration. The dumbing of America + them that can do, them that can't teach or become community leaders.

    24. Peter Lounsbury, Hom says:

      We look more and more like Rome every day.

    25. Bernard P. Giroux, S says:

      There is "…no accounting for…" the pigs at the public trough, who, in their wisdom, have absolutely no idea what they are doing, because they do not have to account for the money. Throwing money at school facilities does nothing to enhance the qualitative aspects of education. Without the necessary discipline at home, without the necessary discipline and accountability in the classroom, without control of the students, this money is to no avail.

    26. Norm Klevens says:

      I probably just one find I must take slight issue with Heritage on the LA shrine of a school campus. And this is not to defend the sham of an education our schools are providing. The location is not suited for a school, but nonetheless it was approved by the liberals in the district. If people are looking for an issue to slap, this is one, but geez, pretty low on my list of priorities right now.

      The unions are holding students back from learning, not the school boards, even the inept one in Los Angeles. This school complex was not built over night; it was in the "works" [planning etc.] for at least five years, when the state was so flush with money, Arnold was trying to give free health insurance to illegal immigrants. Yes, the money was approved then and the project could have been changed. The location is on one of the most prestigious areas in the entire country, where marble faced office and residential towers line the skyline in the downtown district of the city. To place an ordinary appearing school building on it would detract from the area. A school does not belong there, but since it was going to be built, I am glad they made it fit or blend in the area.

      School construction in Los Angeles is booming, it is being accomplished by professional, well established contractors and creating on-going employment for skilled [albeit union] and prevailing wage workers. This compared to the wasteful spending of the Obama so called stimulus spending make sense. As was said, a school is out of place in that location, but since it was to be there, it needed to fit. The residents are not all that well off, they are hard working Americans and they deserve something nicer than a rotting building, as many Los area schools are deteriorating.

    27. KC - New Mexico says:

      I have stated this a few times before – our education system is broken. As a system, we do not understand who the customer is, what the expected outcome is, or how to adequately deliver a product that our society can utilize. We educate about 50% of our students and those are the ones who generally can move on to collegiate work. The other 50% are destined to be paid for by the tax payers through entitlements (medical, food, shelter, etc). The tax payers pay for this through crime and general destruction of the community. So what to do –

      1. Scrap the current system and start over.

      2. Get rid of the union involvement.

      3. Reduce the large administrative organization.

      4. Establish a school day that is dedicated to education in critical areas – math, reading, writing, science, history. The day must be longer than the current few hours of actual education time in the classroom.

      5. Establish a collegiate prep high school and a trade school alternative for all students

      6. Get the legal system out of the education system – bring discipline back into the school.

      7. Utilize a zero tolerance process for all students.

      8. Require parent involvement – this is not a free ride or an entitlement – it is a privilege!

      9. Education provided for only those who pay taxes or a fee structure for the illegal types.

      10. Get the special interest groups out of the education system.

      I am sure there are many more items to this list. One – get the political powers out of the education system – we need the expertise from industry leadership, education leadership.

    28. Dennis Georgia says:

      With all the moneys that have been spent, the students have not improved. A school that cost a trillion dollars is no better than one that cost a milluion. All trhe powers that be say it will improve the learning curve, but I really think all the stuff is for the teachers and their unions.

      Learning starts at home with the parents, then progresses to the schools and the teachers. The teachers must teach, but the stuidents must be willing to learn also. At this trime neither are doing what is expected, but we the tax payers are expected to believe all the fancy schools and privilidges for the teachers will get better grades and graduation rates. It will never happen.

    29. Nancy says:

      I don’t care how much money you throw at a PUBLIC SCHOOL.

      It’s NOT working.

      It is the CONTENT and MARXIST bent that needs to change.

      Standards need to be UPPED.

      Knowledge and the individual need to be returned. Instead we have GROUP THINK, which robs a student of self esteem and confidence. Yes, it is LESS WORK for teachers. Teachers don’t have to teach much and GROUP grades are the norm. Learning within the GROUP, lets the teacher relax.

      Knowledge MUST BE RETURNED. The “process driven approach” doesn’t require knowledge. The “process driven approach” doesn’t require knowledge. The student just needs to know WHERE to get the knowledge and have GROUP APPROVAL ad GET ALONG with the GROUP. RESULTS are NOT important. It’s also called “collaborative learning”. It’s a step child of “cooperative learning”. It doesn’t work and it destroys the individual.

      When you take away true KNOWLEDGE and INDIVIDUALITY, you are life with arbitrary EMOTIONAL outcomes validated by the GROUP instead of timeless truth and encouragement for the INDIVIDUAL to stand up to GROUP PRESSURE when it is wrong.

      I fear these next generations will fall flat in a competitive world. An employer wants STRONG INDIVIDUALS that are RESULT oriented. In the past these folks had no problem working with others. because there was also individual accountability.

      We are destroying what made America great through teaching them to be timid, not have knowledge and be dependent on the “group” to determine how to proceed. Think about it … how many times has ONE INDIVIDUAL made a difference in history? ONE INDIVIDUAL that stood APART from the group and the courage to persuade and do what was right – think about our true history – Patrick Henry comes to mind and so does Nathan Hale.

      Is it any wonder that they also want Nathan Hale removed from our history books? Nathan Hale regretted that when he was caught as a spy for the British that he had only ONE life to give to his country. That type of strong, individual character is being shunned in our education system. They want you to HATE your country and view America as always getting it wrong. It fits in nicely with the Obama apology tour. We don’t want our children mentally seduced with this Marxist ideology.

      So, stop throwing money at schools to expand this horrendous nonsense called “education.” To escape it, offer parents school vouchers. This will shut down many of the Marxist, unionized schools and force them to teach and properly educate kids.

    30. LESTER 82ND ATLANTA says:


    31. Nancy says:

      Please pardon my typos.

      I am very passionate about this. I failed to spell check it. Don't let my typose distract from the message. What I have stated is the truth.

    32. Don Fleming - Chicag says:

      As a retired teacher who was criticized for a "new" idea when my school at that time was going to expand and spend millions – - – - -

      I suggested – - – and still believe in this direction – - – - we build the social interface facilities like and Theatre, Baseball and Football fields, Labs for science

      and such but then buy each child a complete computer system connected only to the school and discontinue the expense of classrooms where primarily reading and testing go on. That would force teachers, students, parents and the community to "ACTUALLY" be involved which is as it should be. This monument to BIG spending is further evidence that we need to do something = = new !!!!

      The Old way does not work people – it does not work.

    33. Kelly, Nevada says:

      It does not follow that "if we build it they will pass". Bigger schools with more amenities just give students more distractions.

    34. randydutton says:

      To paraphrase Thomas Rubin: "There's no accountability, if you have good taste". Isn't that the progressive mantra? Live for today, and blame Bush tomorrow.

    35. Ben C. Ann Arbor, MI says:

      Ah, what "other peoples money" can buy.

    36. Bruce J. Kolinski says:

      I guess this is one of the more obvious reasons why enlightened Californians feel entitled to the money of the heartland's less enlightened, who somehow don't have the vision to spend educational dollars on childish penis envy.

      Surely the rest of us unwashed ought feel privileged to sell our SUV's in exchange for higher taxes, so that Californians will not risk being inconvenienced by something as parochial as fiscal responsibility.

    37. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      I attended high school in the late 1970s and early '80s. I graduated in 1980. My 30th

      reunion was just last month. I don't know what it was back then but it wasn't as high

      as it is today. Education is a state job—-not a job for the federal government. That

      said, the feds should play as little a role in education as possible. However, since the

      creation of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, in the 1950s, under

      Eisenhower, then the creation of the Department of Health and Human Services, and

      the Department of Education, under Jimmy Carter, that hasn't been the case. Obama

      wants to centralize education. That's what they have in Europe. It's what was in the

      former Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and is currently in the PRC, the DPRK, and the

      Union of Miyanmar, (Burma). Why? Because dictatorships want to train children for

      war and desensitize them to the suffering. Welcome to the USSA, (United Socialist

      States of America).

    38. Judith in Michigan says:

      I'm curious as to what the official language of this school is. And how many illegal kids attend this "school". I would also like to respectfully request that when we taxpayers in "fly-over" country are forced to bail out bankrupt California, the cost of this obscene shrine to Progressive Elitism is deducted from the check.

    39. Mrs. Causley says:

      It's like purchasing the most expensive cable tv package, while trying to sell your tv to buy food.

    40. craig says:

      Just shows another of a myriad of ways that California is racing towards the bottom of everything. This place used to be a great place to live in, but now it is progressing rapidly toward becoming an award winning horror show. A lot of our cities look like they are heading toward anarchy which is likely to become commonplace as more and more police are being laid off as many areas travel down the road to total insolvency. We had better dump the Democrats in November if we are to have any hope to keep the state from financial collapse. I would not want to be around here when that happens! We are becoming more and more like a third world banana republic every day!

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    42. Warren Lyckman Hills says:

      My early education, one thru 6, was in a 2 room country school house with two teachers one in each room, who knew how to teach and also had to start the fire in the furnace in cold weather. All of my siblings went through the same 2 room school house with 2 teachers. All gradusted from high school, one became a Registered nurse, 3 graduated from college, 5 served in the Military during WW2 and Korean conflict and have all made our own living without welfare help. The Los Angeles monstrosity is just another nail in the final Romanization of this once beautiful country

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    44. Sage , MI says:

      As a veteran home-school mom with over 20 years in the trenches, I can assure you that a superior education can be achieved with very little money. Thomas Edison received his education at home illuminated by lamplight. It takes real commitment, something the secular world is sorely lacking in.

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    46. Teacher Joe, in Los says:

      If this were the districts' only error I'd be happy. The hubris some members of the LAUSD school Board is exceeded only by thier ignorance. I am especially referring to Ms. Garcia, and LaMonte.

      Other Districts Beware:

      We were in need of good leadership when the Board chose to go outside of education to find two consecutive superintendents – former Governor Roy Roemer and former Admiral David Brewer

      The schools referenced in the article were the products to these two men.

      What a mess they caused.

      Roemer was so stupid he honestly thought every student in a grade should use the same exact textbook … regardless of the student's current reading level. The former govenor bloated us with bureaucracy (what else would a head bureaucrat do?). The Admiral just wasted our time and money – Paid $300K plus ~ 50-70K for his housing allowance and expense account – yet he needed an additional assistant Supt. to TEACH HIM the job!

      … and I can't get the DIstrict to collect parent's email addresses for me!

      … the parents break the school's rules and text their kids during school!

      … the parents lie like rugs and their kids do the same.

      … the principal moves me into a room that's 35% smaller than the one I'd been in and I have to give 100+ hours of MY TIME moving myself this summer (hey, how many of you in the private sector have to MOVE YOURSELF when the boss says you're changing locations).

      … 10 years ago the District stopps holding back failing students.

      Most (80%) of my D students now fail

      Sixty % of my C students drop to D's

      Forty % of my B students drop to C's

      … I spend Winter or Spring vacation time to make and send home packets of missing/undone homework. Less than 25% of parents make their kids do this late work!

      … The District doesn't like that so many kids get "F's"

      It must be my fault, so they instruct me to stop teaching every 15-20 minutes to make sure everyone knows what I have taught.

      My dilemna: If I do it their way I'll finish only 1/2 of the curriculum. If I fix their directive they think they're ideas are brillant and send me another stupid thing to implement.

      I have a plan to fix our schools. No one wants to hear it.

      In my second year of teaching in 1979 (I taught 5 years – spent 12 in the pvt. sector – and have taught for the last 15 years), I said:

      "No one thinks they can run General Motors simply because they drive a Chevy – but anyone who has ever driven past a school thinks they know how to run education."

      Neither Democrats NOR Republicans have the answers.

      (I do)

    47. Austin in Mahomet, I says:

      Hi. I'm a 16-year-old senior at University Laboratory HS in Urbana Illinois, and my grandparents are devoted subscribers to the Morning Bell's daily newsletter. That's how I first heard about this article and its issues. Frankly, I think that it's absolutely ridiculous that California is spending more than a half billion dollars on new facilities that service at most 3,000 students at any one given time.

      My high school is small (three floors 50 yards long laid out in a straight line), old (it was built as a veteran hospital for survivors of World War ONE), and falling apart (literally). However, we have some of the best scholars in the state of Illinois, even the country. The average ACT score is about a 31-32, just for perspective. We're consistently in the 20 Newsweek Public Elite; the only institutions that can match our stats are private schools on the East and West Coasts.

      We, on the other hand, get most of our funding from parent and alumni donations (no private school tuition) and get NO tax money. And somehow, we're outscoring schools that cost about 100 times as much to build as ours? This is completely unbelievable.

      The root of the problem (as many have guessed and said) is not the size of the education budget, it's the complete lack of motivation in my generation. I have friends at different public schools that don't give a rat's rear about their grades, or even about graduating because they can just get a job flipping burgers at a McDonalds down the street. There are obviously no easy solutions to this problem, but I think that part of the problem is

    48. Austin in Urbana, Il says:

      Hi. I'm a 16-year-old senior at University Laboratory HS in Urbana, Illinois, and my grandparents are devoted subscribers to the Morning Bell's daily newsletter. That's how I first heard about this article and its issues. Frankly, I think that it's absolutely ridiculous that California is spending more than a half billion dollars on new facilities that service at most 3,000 students at any one given time.

      My high school is small (three floors 50 yards long laid out in a straight line), old (it was built as a veteran hospital for survivors of World War ONE), and falling apart (literally). However, we have some of the best scholars in the state of Illinois, even the country. The average ACT score is about a 31-32, just for perspective. We're consistently in the 20 Newsweek Public Elite; the only institutions that can match our stats are private schools on the East and West Coasts (and get to charge massive tuition).

      We, on the other hand, get most of our funding from parent and alumni donations (no private school tuition) and get NO tax money. And somehow, we're solidly outscoring schools that cost about 100 times as much to build as ours? This is completely unbelievable.

      The root of the problem (as many have guessed and said) is not the size of the education budget, it's the complete lack of motivation in my generation. I have friends at different public schools that don't give a rat's rear about their grades, or even about graduating because they can just get a job flipping burgers at a McDonalds down the street.

      There are obviously no easy solutions to this problem, but I think that part of the issue is that the government is sacrificing the education of its truly gifted for the sake of the students that just don't cut it. No Child Left Behind? No Child Pushed to Succeed. Look at the world's education rankings (how delightfully vague…). Consistently, Finland ranks near the top. Why? They start their schooling around the same age as we do, but they are much more intensive about it.

      Also, at the end of their high school careers, teenagers take tests to see if they're ready for their equivalent of college. If they are, they go to the university and learn (with many perks included, minus the massive and excessive freedoms). Finland is taking the cream of its crop and turning them into perfectly churned butter: citizens instilled with a love of learning and ones that will pass that trait on to their children. In America, so many of our adults are involved in unskilled labor, gangs, or just don't care about their child(ren)'s education. That's the big problem. Tackle that, and America will be moderately intelligent, if not brilliant, again. If we don't… dark times lay ahead indeed.

    49. Drew Page, IL says:

      Over a half-billion dollars for a K-12 school complex. Sure, why not? It's only money. Of course California doesn't have any, but I'm sure Mr. Obama will come to the rescue with more bailout money.

      This isn't the only California foolishness that the rest of America will have to pay for. They believe in 'sanctuary cities' and have no problem with illegal immigration. How many businesses have fled California because of the outrageous state taxes? Do you think that California might have been better off financially had they been able to keep those businesses in the state? But why worry about that when there are so many other states that still have money. Apparently California is a firm believer in Mr. Obama's goal to spread the wealth, from your state to theirs.

    50. Ed Davin, Punta Gord says:

      I suggest a visit to the Little Red School House in Sudbury, MA where one teacher taught all age groups in a single small building. The older kids helped the younger ones and they all learned to read, write and do math proficiently at a tiny cost per student.

    51. Billie says:

      If the members of government had to use their brains to think, they wouldn't consider spending other peoples money on cosmetics.

    52. joseph says:

      http://www.jesussaveorphan.org please do any help and poor ngos

    53. rose says:

      Why can't we just 'dump' California from the Union and let them keep on muddling in their own mess?

    54. Joe Kansas City says:

      Education starts with the parents! Parents must instill in their children two things: the importance of education and values. Values will teach the child to sit down, shut up, and to pay attention to their teachers.

      Without values being taught at home, these children distrupt the learning environment for all of the other children. No fancy building can combat this problem.


    55. Anita Dragoo, Coupev says:

      As I wrote in my memoir, Not in Kansas Anymore: A Teaching Career that Spanned the Globe, page 292: "(Education is) not about money—fine buildings, state-of-the-art technical equipment, longer classroom hours. While those things are nice to have, the key is teamwork, not confrontation, among parents, children, teachers, administrators, and the community. It’s about attitudes regarding ethics, morals, individual responsibility for success or failure—attitudes which cannot be legislated by state or federal government. It’s about those people who are immediately involved getting together and talking, deciding what their hopes and dreams for their children and for the future should be, and reaching a consensus regarding curriculum, discipline, and goals that will enable them to achieve those dreams."

    56. Bob Rose, MD (retire says:


      There has never been a published study to see if fluency at writing the alphabet in K-1 facilitates the acquisition of literacy and prevents reading problems. Neither has there been a published study to see if fluency in delivering correct answers to simple addition facts in second-grade leads to subsequent mastery of arithmetic and science. I personally have ample evidence that both of these possibilities are true.

      The "establishment" doesn't want to see such studies, because they believe the brains of problem students are "different". Journalists don't want to upset education professors, school psychologists, or teachers' unions because of circulation. Politicians don't want to "go there" because of votes. However, such studies are simple, cheap and easy. The problems with our schools are immense and of over-riding importance. It is time to think of our country, and not of personal gain.

      Please read the following carefully, and act responsibly!


      Bob Rose


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      12/05/2010 00:27:00 EducationNews.org

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      Maria Montessori

      5.12.10 – Bob Rose, MD – I started a yahoogroups listserv and recruiting a number of "whole language" teachers to help test Maria Montessori's 1912 postulate that making young children "expert" at writing the alphabet would make them "spontaneous" readers


      During the school year of 2002-2003 I started a yahoogroups listserv and recruiting a number of "whole language" teachers to help test Maria Montessori's 1912 postulate that making young children "expert" at writing the alphabet would make them "spontaneous" readers.

      To my delight, there turned out to be a very strong correlation between how many letters of the alphabet first-graders could write in a timed, 20-second period of time and how good their reading skills were. To my delight, there was a very strong correlation. However, the Whole Language Teachers did not believe in "setting specific achievement goals", and I was asked to unsubscribe from the list.

      During the following school year (2003-2004) I created my own yahoogroups listserv and recruited another group of five kindergarten teachers willing to submit correlation data between alphabet-letter writing fluency and reading skills. Children were identified by ID numbers, rather than by names, to keep the study ethical.

      There had been 94 students in the Whole Language "control" group, and I got a total of 106 student correlations from the five "experimental" kindergarten teachers, all of whom had also gotten very strong correlations between writing fluency and reading skill.

      I immediately emailed the editorial offices of over a dozen well-known education journals, asking if they would be interested in me submitting a write-up of our study for possible publication. I got only two responses: one said, "That couldn't possibly be true", but the editor of the Harvard Educational Review enthusiastically invited my submission. I wrote up our study and had it sent in three days later. (In March, 2004). A few months later I received a standard letter of rejection from them.

      Since then I have emailed copies of "my manuscript" to HUNDREDS of educational psychologists, journalists, education professors, politicians and school superintendents. Though I received a few informal polite replies, no one seemed to take my idea seriously.

      During the second half of the 2008-2009 school year I recruited a number of different kindergarten and first-grade teachers to my listserv. All who participated again saw positive correlations, but it was decided to wait until this present (2009-2010) school year to repeat the study and see if we could get enough data to publish a meaningful meta-analysis onto the internet.

      So far (5/5/10) we have data from three first-grade teachers at a Catholic private school in an upper middle-class Midwestern city. The data from these three teachers involve a total of 60 first-graders. Not only is there a correlation between alphabet-writing fluency and literacy, BUT EVERY ONE OF THESE CHILDREN IS NOW ABLE TO READ. (We got baseline data last year from a first-grade in one of the most affluent and academically successful elementary schools in the state of Pennsylvania. NOT ALL of their first graders were readers, though there was indeed a correlation between writing fluency and reading skill).

      At this Catholic school teacher # 1 wrote she had the children practice writing the alphabet three days a week. (We had recommended five minutes each school day). Her class's writing fluency rates ranged between 63 and 123 letters-per-minute (LPM), and her median student wrote at a rate of 72 LPM. Teacher # 2's median rate was 75 LPM, and the median rate for teacher # 3 was 84 LPM.

      A kindergarten teacher in our study wishes to be identified as "Mary Jane from rural South Carolina". She tells us that 93% of the children in her school receive subsidized lunches, and as of early May, 2010, only two of the children in her kindergarten are not yet readers. The principal of a highly successful elementary school in Atlanta had once told me on the telephone that children should learn to read in kindergarten, not in the first-grade.

      Some years ago the retired archivist of the Calvert School (a private elementary school in Baltimore, Maryland), sent me a copy of a privately published booklet published in 1996, the centennial of the founding of the school. The original headmaster, G. Vernon Hillyer, wrote that, "If you teach children to write, you needn't bother teaching them to read". In his first-grade (the school had no kindergarten), children simply learned to write the sentence, "I see a tree". Thereafter they learned to write, "The tree is green". After about three months, all the children were literate, and then began to study a formal curriculum and to write meaningful essays. Twenty years later, he wrote that the school had never failed to teach a normal child to read and write.

      In traditional Russia, children were taught literacy at home, before they began school. In Russian, as in English, various letters are pronounced differently in normal colloquial speech than they are written. As a matter of fact, there is not word for "to spell" in Russian. Instead, if one wishes to ask how a word is written, one just asks, "How is that written by syllables". For example, the word "govorit" (he speaks) is colloquially pronounced "guvareet". When asked how it is written, one answers: "Goh-Voh-REET".

      In other words, one basically doesn't learn to read in Russian, one learns simply to write. And anyone can read anything anyone can successfully write! (I studied Russian for three years in college, and this way of learning to write in Russia is confirmed by several people educated in Russia whom I have known in the past.

      We appreciate this May 1st, 20101data from Ardis, which we'll consider "end-of-the-year" data, even though a nice lady at the Michigan Board of Education just told me on the telephone that the children in Macomb Count, Michigan, adjacent to Detroit, will actually probably be attending school into sometime in June.

      In the past Ardis, a kindergarten teacher, has told us her school has a high number of the children of immigrants in her class. I'm waiting to hear by direct email from Ardis whether she wants any particular restrictions placed on her identify and location, and/or can she give us any more graphics about her class.

      Ardis included two interesting remarks in her report. One is "I have to admit I haven't kept up with the fluency training during this second semester as much as I did last year." The other important comment is "Every single person [i.e., kindergartner} is a reader - there are no struggling or non-readers this year".

      At any rate, Ardis' data of May first indicate there were 26 kids in her kindergarten. One has moved away, and of the remaining:

      Four students wrote the alphabet more rapidly than 40 LPM. There reading levels were, respectively, high, average, high and high.

      Eight students wrote at between 30 and 39 LPM. In descending LPM order, their reading levels were high, high, high, high, very high (3rd grade level), low average, low average and average.

      Eleven students scored between 21 and 27 LPM. Again, in decreasing order of LPM, their reading levels were: medium, high, high, low average, low average, medium, average, low average, high, very very high [3rd grade level; autistic], (this student's LPM was 21) and average.

      Two students scored only 18 LPM. Their reading levels were high and low average.

      Nancy, an Ed.D kindergarten teacher, also from Macomb county (part of metropolitan Detroit), just provided us with the following data:

      Two of our 26 students scored better than 40 LPM and both rated as "above grade level" in reading skill.

      Two students scored 39 LPM, and that are also "above grade level".

      Five students scored between 30 and 36 LPM. In decreasing order of LPM rates, they were rated

      "above grade level", "below grade level", "above grade level", "above grade level" and "at grade level" respectively.

      Eight students wrote at between 21 and 27 LPM. Each of these eight were rated as "at grade level", in my opinion of their reading ability.

      Five students wrote at 15 LPM. Of these, one was "at grade level" and the other four were "below grade level".

      In the fall of 2009 the average LPM rate in my class was 7 LPM. At present it is 28 LPM.

      Historically, many authorities on the subject of literacy instruction have stressed the importance of adequate practice in printing alphabet letters. The first-century Roman writer and rhetorician, Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (ca A.D. 35-98?) wrote that with regard to becoming literate, “Too slow a hand impedes the mind".

      In 1912, Maria Montessori wrote, in effect, that teaching young children to print letters is easy, that it is easy to teach children to read after they have practiced printing alphabet letters, but that it is difficult to teach children to read if they have not practiced writing them.

      Marilyn Jager Adams noted that prior to the onset of the twentieth century the “spelling drill” was the principal means of inducing literacy for several millennia.

      I believe that the cumulative suggestion of our repeated on-line meta-analyses supports the idea that making children fluent at writing the alphabet during the first two years of school will be an important advance in the teaching of literacy throughout the world. We hope this summary will be relayed to K-1 teachers everywhere via the internet.

      I think the importance of our findings is not in the strength of this on-line research. To be scientifically valid, studies must not only be reproducible, but reproducible by different experimenters.

      The most outstanding result of our research is having learned that no one, in spite of vast sums being spent on "literacy research", has ever done and published a study to see if Maria Montessori's postulate holds true for Anglophone children, or whether it does not!

      Bob Rose, MD (retired)

      Jasper, Georgia

      email: rovarose@aol.com

      Add to: del.icio.us | Digg

      Comments (1 posted):

      Patrick Groff on 14/05/2010 07:52:10

      Dear Dr. Rose:

      I was pleased to see your revelation of the fact that most young children in the U.S. are denied an effective manner in which to develop their reading abilities. This practice is so notorious that I call it a form of academic child abuse.

      Your comments also lead me to the conclusion that the public needs to be informed that professors of reading education are the major cause of the failure of American children to read commpetently. I hope in the future that you will add that truism to your other pertinent remarks.

      Patrick Groff, Professor of Education Emeritus, San Diego State University.

      [For commentary on this essay on the Houston Examiner, please go to http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-11062-Houston-

      Yesterday I got an enquiry from a PhD educator in Scarsdale, NY. I think this is going to turn out to be very newsworthy!

      Bob (rovarose@aol.com)

    57. Jack Rough Columbus, says:

      My father and his six siblings attended a one room school house near Mount Vernon, Illinois. President of a major construction equipment company, a Phd. english professor, an editor at time life, a ceramic engineer at libby owens, a manager of horse racing tracks, a neuclear engineer and a graduate and admiral in the navy. Why is it that we think fancy schools make the student? I also attended a small school, third, fourth and fifth in one room, learned more in that class in one year than the next three. Attitude and demands cause learning to accelerate beyond the norm. Where are the expectations that encourage learning?

    58. Henry says:

      Our education system has become a racket. Books that cost $100 for grammer school, and much much more for college for one year. A big racket. Our teachers have screamed for more money, more benefits for years. Poor old teachers. They work nine months plus every holliday off. They do the same lessons year after year. SO WHERE IS THE POOR OLD HARD WORKING TEACHERS? Then we have all the bloated school systems making big money to push the governments programs like no child left behind. Our schools have become a racket.

    59. Albany, NY says:

      I am just finishing a book that is FASCINATING regarding education (yes, I know that that isn't usually a subject that people call fascinating, but trust me, this one is) called "A Thomas Jefferson Education" by Oliver DeMille.

      You do not need fancy buildings to fix our education system, you need a better approach. Read that book and I'm sure that you'll agree!

    60. Stacey Kannenberg says:

      Empowering and inspiring parents, kids and teachers to be engaged and enthralled with education remains the solution! Why do kids in underdeveloped countries thrive in one room buildings doing math problems in the sand? They are hungry for knowledge and thirst for a better life! In America, we have grown fat, lazy and complacent so much so that we think money can “buy” success without completely overhauling a failing system!! We spend over a trillion dollars on education that doesn’t add up inside the classroom where it matters the most!!

    61. William Irving, Madi says:

      Yes, half-billion dollar school buildings do not guarantee good education. As a liberal, I'm even smart enough to know that. But the Wall Street Journal points out that the Robert F. Kennedy School cost more than L.A.’s Staples sports center as if that, by itself, were a bad thing. Look at the equation here! Ridiculously expensive public school facility – palace for spoiled, over-paid athletes and their fans willing to spend ridiculous amounts of their disposable income in order to live vicariously through them. I did just a little arithmetic and discovered that as expensive as RFK is, the negative financial impact on each Los Angeles area taxpayer per year is still less than the cost of taking one's self and a date to ONE L.A. Lakers game! If it that were not true, if I must waste hundreds of millions of dollars, I'd waste them on the school in a heartbeat. But apparently that's just me.

      And as often with so-called "think tanks" with a political agenda, The Heritage Foundation is supporting its position with half-truth. I am reminded of a quote often attributed to Mark Twain, but actually uttered first by 19th-century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." Yes, it is certainly true that Los Angeles Unified School District spends at least $11,000 per pupil per year. Where I live, Madison (Wisconsin) Metropolitan School District in 2010 admits to spending "over $13493 per student." I say, so what? I might even buy that the $30,000 per pupil figure Lindsey Burke attributes to "other estimates" proffered by presumably only she and God know, may be closer to the accurate figure.

      What THF doesn't say is that much of the expenditure per pupil in L.A. includes ear-marked Federal Title Programs unrelated to core curricular classroom instruction. Likely the most relevant to L.A. is Title III, or " Language Instruction for Limited English Proficient Students and Immigrant Students." LAUSD recognizes 92 languages spoken as the first or only language in the homes of their student population. According to Professor Vyacheslav Ivanov of UCLA, there are, NOT including differing dialects which may exist within a single language body, at least 224 identified languages spoken in the homes of Los Angeles County. Conforming the requirements of Title III alone is uniquely and HUGELY onerous to LAUSD.

      Also, due to the social problems shared by Los Angeles and every other American multi-ethnic, multi-cultural megalopolis, the cost of conforming to Title IV, including programs for preventing violence in and around schools; and preventing the illegal use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco by young people; and the support of "21st Century Community Learning Centers" – a program that "provides services, during non-school hours or periods, to students and their families for academic enrichment, including tutorial and other services to help students – particularly those who attend low-performing schools – to meet state and local student academic achievement standards" (quotes are directly from description of Federal Title IV, Part B), is a weight upon the fiscal neck of LAUSD that detracts from moneys that relatively wealthy, relatively – if you excuse the expression – "lily-white," "W.A.S.P." districts like my home city of Madison, Wisconsin use for teaching core curricula to a culturally and socio-economically more homogeneous student population. Take away the money LAUSD must spend on non-core curricular, federally mandated (though NOT always federally funded) programs – what cynics might call "social engineering," on a disproportionally large percentage of "difficult to teach" students who either don't speak English well or at all, or who live in troubled domestic situations, and the expenditures per pupil on "meat-and-potatoes" classroom instruction dip well below the figures quoted by THF. In short, big urban area school districts – and I think LAUSD more than any other – are running with lead boots on.

      I know, I know…. what about that palatial RFK school? Why didn't they spend the money wasted on that white elephant for teachers, etc? Well, like everywhere else, school moneys for instruction, for building erection, for building maintenance – are raised by separate tax levies, kept separate, and spent separately. In the case of LAUSD, they had a ton of money set aside from various sources public and private for the building of RFK. But not a CENT of that could be diverted to – say – hiring the teachers and staff needed for the maximum and best use of the new facility, or even for textbooks, paper or pencils.

      The bottom line is, Californians, like Americans everywhere else, want a world-girdling imperial-scale military force to insure our defense against our ever more numerous enemies, First World public infrastructures, including streets, bridges and highways, lots of clean potable water, clean air, reliable 24/7 electricity, high-speed Internet and telecommunications grids, garbage pickup and recycling, and First World public services like professional-quality police, fire, emergency medical, and yes, PUBLIC EDUCATION. The trouble is, we want all this at Third World prices. We don't see taxation, as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes put it, as "the price we pay for civilization," we see it as most conservatives and others on the right do, as "punishing the successful."

      I did a little more checking and discovered that at the beginning of my life – the early 1950's – corporations and individuals bore 50% of the total tax burden (federal, state, local) respectively. By 2008, the latest year for which figures are easily available, corporations now bear only about 14% of the total tax burden, while individuals now bear the other 86%!! Years of corporate tax breaks, corporate re-chartering to off-shore tax havens, tax incentives driven by interstate competition for jobs, the erosion of anti-trust laws, etc., as well as decades of effective and powerful special-interest lobbying, have managed a HUGE transfer of wealth toward the top and a similarly huge transfer of tax burden to the bottom – us regular, middle-class, tax-paying citizens. The end result is that government services nearly all of us want regardless of our political affiliation – including quality public education available to all – are being starved while at the same time, we the public feel over-burdened because we continue to pay a higher percentage of our income in taxes in order to make up the shortfall created by corporate tax avoidance and the federal, state and local tax policies that have enabled it.

      I've already admitted being a liberal, but unlike most liberals (I think), I'm OK with individuals – even rich ones making over a quarter-million a year – paying lower taxes. But I think it's past time the federal government close corporate tax loopholes and shelters, and state and local governments decide as a collective that it is in everyone's best interest that corporate America – especially the huge multi-nationals – be asked – be REQUIRED – to pay their share once again, and support the public infrastructures and stable democratic institutions that enabled them to grow and become hugely successful in the first place – by supplying them with generation after generation of an educated, high-quality workforce, and fostering a large prosperous middle class majority eager to buy, and able to afford, their products and services.

      Yeah…. THAT'S going to happen… More likely, I fear, America will continue to march resolutely forward into the Nineteenth Century.

    62. San Jose CA says:

      Did the school help w/ drop out rates for 2011?

    63. bruce beyor says:

      Those that can DO and those that can't TEACH!

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