It came as a great relief recently to learn that, at least where public education is concerned, size doesn’t matter.
Marshall University researcher Michael Hicks is to be commended for his independent critical approach to the current educational dilemma: school size vs. quality education.
“I wouldn’t at this point provide a recommendation for school consolidation,” said Hicks, charging that educators have misused the term “economics of scale” when discussing school size and its effects on learning.
Hicks concluded from his study that it is “impossible to say whether big schools or small schools cost more to operate” and that “school size also has no impact on student performance.”
The state School Building Authority recently discussed Hicks’ report, “School Consolidation and Educational Performance: An economic analysis of West Virginia High Schools.”
It came as no surprise that someone has finally stood up and declared that “the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.” Hicks found that the age or size of a high school did not make a statistically significant difference in students’ standardized test scores. Family background was the major influence in student learning. That stands to reason. Children tend to rise to the level of parental expectation, good or bad.
But the main conclusion of his study is that more quantitative studies need to be done—by independent researchers, not necessarily the academics on the state payroll in Charleston or Washington, or any other government bureaucratic agency.
The sad truth about the American education system is that it seems to be running itself. And it’s out of control. Way out of control.
Just look at the recent NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND scenario. What the recent government mandate hasn’t yet had time to reveal is that the Department of Education for years has been running a charade in much of the country, deceiving itself and others about the value of its government-owned-and-operated education system.
Perhaps the ugliest DOE secret is how the clandestine government agents encourage decent classroom teachers and administrators, gradually and naturally, to evolve into liars about their contributions to public education.
What is more, some of the logic applied to school consolidation and standardized testing “would get you bounced out of an undergraduate course in economics,” Hicks concluded in his analysis of the faltering national education system.
Because the West Virginia school funding formula allocates money to county school systems based on the number of students, the amount of money each county receives is not affected by how much it costs the county to deliver services, Hicks said.
And though improvements in test scores are mediocre at best—put into the paperwork mix because government case workers need high success numbers to justify their salaries and validate their promotions—it’s doubtful if many—or any for that matter—have ever served in the classroom with children.
It has been estimated that it would cost the nation $5 billion a year to reduce the current class size by only five students across the country. The average class size could be reduced dramatically if county and state department officials would consider returning to the classrooms where they belong, instead of hiding away in plushy offices far away from the bedlam of students.
If each executive or supervisor would agree to teach only one class per semester at any school of their choice, the average class size could be reduced without any additional cost to taxpayers. We doubt if that will ever happen, however.
Like parasites, the bureaucratic agents have attached themselves to the body of education, where they continue to suck away the tax dollars that could be better spent on teaching Johnny how to read, write, and work on math problems.
Hicks, meanwhile, summed up his findings this way: “What is an elegant term for misrepresenting the facts? I would have to look it up in my Clinton dictionary.”
Top o’ the morning!