School to Age 21?

Reg Weaver, the head of the NEA, the nation’s largest union, recently spoke to the editorial board of the Kansas City Star.

In the interview, Weaver says that the federal law known as No Child Left Behind has some “decent” provisions, including disaggregating data by race and income. “Providing parents with information, that’s a good thing,” he adds.

Has it helped close the achievement gap? “I would say no.”

Weaver also says that the NEA believes “that all the way up to 21 it should be mandatory that kids earn a high school diploma.” But a big problem with American schooling is that the longer a cohort of students stay in school, the worse they do. Why would extending the school career of children in such a system do anything but extend the problem?

In a surprising move, he says that if a person under 21 is put into prison, his release should be conditioned on earning a diploma: “if they are supposed to be released before they graduate, that release would be delayed until graduation occurs.” (And we thought that when a person served his time, he served his time, and should be released.)

While Weaver calls for an expanded jurisdiction of teachers, he reiterated the union’s opposition to merit pay. He brings back the argument that some schools are funded better than others. That may be true, but it would be a moot point if teachers were paid not for the absolute achievement levels of their students, but the gains that those students made under their tutelage.

Source: “Critical Issues for Teachers,” Kansas City Star, Kansas City Star, January 14.

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