The DeHavilland Blog

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Is NCLB like a subprime loan?

Interesting article here comparing the requirements of NCLB to the backended interest rate increases of subprime mortgages.

When NCLB went into effect in 2002, many state departments of education assumed that it was a fleeting thing - that surely by 2008 or 2009, requirements would have been eased, and there would be no need to take the steps required to dramatically increase academic performance rates. So they rigged the system, promising very modest improvements for the first several years of the law, and huge increases in the latter half. (Really pronounced differences - like 1% improvements in each of the first several years, followed by annual improvements of 10% or more each subsequent year.)

Since the law hasn't been revised - and isn't likely to be for some time, with neither candidate calling for dismantling it, and with education taking a back seat to more pressing issues in the immediate future - they're now on the hook to produce these huge gains.

And it's happening just as we're experiencing an economic meltdown of sorts, affecting K-12 budgets in just about every state (in some cases dramatically). Which really puts them in a bind: for those schools and districts who repeatedly fail to make promised improvements, there won't be enough resources for remediation or reconstitution. But at the same time, states can't really opt out of NCLB - Title I is an important revenue stream, and opting out means not being eligible for participation.

What happens next? I don't know - but I've heard people use the phrase "perfect storm" more than a few times, and it may be appropriate from the look of things.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

What in the world...

Alright, I thought we were in for a downturn, but this is getting ridiculous.

The Dow is down almost 40% from its high just one year ago. Housing hasn't found its bottom, which means the 16% of homeowners that are upside-down (owing more than their houses are worth) will soon be joined by others; and states are taking drastic actions, including slashing budgets (Nevada just cut its budget by 14%!) and firing thousands of employees.

I knew that K12 funding couldn't keep going up at the rate we have been, but I was honestly expecting a flattening followed by a slow decline (due to pressures from Medicare and Social Security). But with the severe chaos in the market - turmoil that will literally take years to work through the system - what happens to K12 spending rates?

Just as importantly, how will schools and districts respond? Some states have already seen cuts and spending freezes, while others have put off addressing the issue by tapping into rainy day funds (now depleted). What next?

And not to pile on, but we should also remember that this is happening at a time when schools are expected to post dramatic gains in student proficiency. In the early years of NCLB, schools set very low improvement goals, with dramatic increases all set for the last few years (by which, surely, the law would have been changed). Well, here we are, seeing greater percentages of schools failing according to those what happens now? Do we reconstitute huge numbers of schools just as budgets are being shattered?

I don't have any answers - but I feel for those, educators and students alike, who are caught in this maelstrom.