Spending more money for each student in order to turn around failing schools has great intuitive appeal. But doing so has not produced the desired results. New York State serves as a case in point (“$773 Million Later, de Blasio Ends Signature Initiative to Improve Failing Schools,” The New York Times, Feb. 26).
Although New York ranks near the very top on per-pupil expenditures in the nation, many of its schools continue to fail. Consider New York City under Mayor de Blasio. Despite spending $773 million on nearly 100 low-performing schools on his Renewal program, 75 percent have fallen far short of the hoped-for improvements. Still undeterred, de Blasio now will direct funding to the neediest schools under a new centralized data system called Edu Stat.
I don’t believe anything significantly different will emerge. I say that because so much of any school’s success is dependent on factors beyond the control of teachers and principals. The Coleman Report made that clear decades ago. It’s not that schools don’t matter. But family and neighborhood play a greater role. There will always be exceptions, but they are outliers. I’m thinking now of Jaime Escalante, who performed miracles at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles.
Let’s give greater support to struggling schools, but let’s also get real. Schools are not Lourdes.
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