If we can’t persuade policy makers to invest in young children on ethical and moral grounds, perhaps economic analysis will be more persuasive. The Rand Corporation has recently released a new report, The Economics of Early Childhood Policy, in which they point out that
A growing body of program evaluations shows that investments in early childhood programs can generate government savings by, for example, reducing the need to provide social services later in life or by improving individuals’ earnings, which then generates more tax revenue.
Might such analysis have potential for moving us away from the “fix it after it’s broken” policies that are at the core of No Child Left Behind?
I am sorry to say that none of these decisions are about evidence. “A nation at risk” was not at all based on evidence, and to the contrary the Sandia Report noted that education was doing quite well, which is why that report was buried by the DOE. “No Child Left Behind” similarly is not based on evidence, but is a political doctrine to hold schools accountable for student learning, and to promote Charter Schools as an alternative private school using public monies. Charter schools can select who they take, leaving the low performing students to public schools.
Of course money spent on education will advantage us all, help the economy, reduce unemployment, reduce incarceration, etc. and all of the research evidence demonstrates that this is true. So why don’t we spend more on education? My guess is that quality education for all will dramatically shift the US social class structure and The Powers That Be don’t really want that.
You’re right, of course, Will. And it’s still so hard for me to give up my hope that rationality will somehow eventually become more evident in these policy debates.
Students in each of my classes are talking of feeling physically ill in these past few weeks as they’ve done the final prep for and then administration of our state tests. The hyper-rationality that has put them in the position of groveling for every point that their students can squeeze out of those tests, the curriculum that they’re forced to teach because someone has deemed it to be “research based”, and the specific threats that they’re under if they don’t make AYP this year — well, those things make me still think that it’s entirely reasonable to expect policy makers to also acknowledge solid evidence that so much of this is so misguided.
Rand is no scraggly bunch of pointy headed academics. So where do they fit amongst the Power that Be?