National Press Club

Equitable funding rather than test scores, educators urge at NPC Newsmaker

April 25, 2013 | By Ken Dalecki |

More emphasis on equitable funding of schools rather than higher test scores will help to improve education in the U.S., authors of a new book said at a National Press Club Newsmaker briefing on Thursday, April 25.

The four-member panel unveiled "Closing the Opportunity Gap," their new book, which comes 30 years after the release of "A Nation At Risk," a ground-breaking national commission report on the declining state of education. The "At Risk" report helped spark education reforms, including efforts to focus on shortcomings by measuring achievement through widespread student testing.

Test-based accountability, though, has not closed the achievement gap between rich and poor schools, said one of the book's co-editors, Professor Kevin Welner, director of the National Educational Policy Center at the University of Colorado.

Testing now plays an "unhealthy and outsized role" in trying to improve schools, he said.

Professor Linda Darling-Hammond, a co-author and co-director of the Stanford University Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, said there has been little progress since 1983 ``because we haven't addressed the opportunity gap." Schools with up to 50 percent of students living in poverty can perform well, while those with 75 percent or more are failing, she added.

"It is time to pivot from outcome to investment," said John Jackson, president of the Schott Foundation. He asked for greater spending on early childhood education, paid-mentor programs, more support for teachers and other efforts that would have a "high return" by lowering the cost to society of poorly educated Americans.

Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., a former teacher and school principal, called for an increase in spending on students in greatest need and for a greater role for the federal government in school improvement efforts.

Twenty-one authors worked for 22 months on "Closing the Opportunity Gap," which outlines best practices that low-achieving schools can adopt. It calls for reforms such as those made in New Jersey, where more funding for schools in high poverty areas has greatly improved achievement.

Suggestions in the book include greater local, state and federal support for early childhood education; ending segregation in housing, schools and classrooms; more equitable distribution of school resources; greater support for childhood health programs; more tutoring services, and improved classroom facilities.