The Real Cost of Mediocre Education

Yesterday, millions of Americans across the company scrambled to file their tax returns before the midnight deadline in hopes that they’ll receive a substantial refund from the IRS. It was also a day where Americans really thought about all the money they’ve given up to the government or about the places they might spend their refund check. Besides taxes, Americans should also be thinking about the real cost of mediocre education.

From extra remediation classes and lost opportunities due to inadequate skills, Americans are wasting billions of dollars annually.

It’s shocking to know that the amount of time that college students need to spend in remedial courses is rising. From 1995 to 2000, the percentage of colleges reporting that students had to spend at least one year in remedial courses has increased from 28 percent to 35 percent.

Just at the community college level, families spend an additional $283 million to pay for remedial courses every year, and taxpayers foot an extra $978 million. One group estimates that counting lost productivity from students who take remedial courses, poor preparation for college costs the United States $2.3 billion annually. (Alliance for Excellent Education. (2006). Paying Double: Inadequate High Schools and Community College Remediation. Washington, DC: Author)

This is a problem that we can solve. By implementing real education reform, including common, rigorous standards, effective teachers in our classrooms and giving more time and support for learning, our students will be better prepared for college and no longer be required to waste time or money on remedial classes.

Philadelphia’s Charter Schools

Our team will be leading a discussion of the documentary Two Million Minutes Wednesday at Mastery Charter School in Philadelphia. In gearing up for the upcoming event, I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to charter schools. As many of you know, charter schools are founded by parents, educators, community groups or private organizations and they are funded with taxpayer money. Essentially, they operate as deregulated public schools that accept increased accountability in exchange for decreased regulations and requirements.

A colleague of mine came across an interesting working paper published by RAND on “Evaluating the Performance of Philadelphia’s Charter Schools” and I thought I’d share it with you. The paper reports that Philadelphia has seen a dramatic increase in the number of charter schools since 1997. Beginning with only three, the school district now has over 60. The report examines the effects that charter schools have had on student achievement in Philadelphia and its results are quite impressive.

“Charter schools have exhibited an increase in the percent of students reaching proficiency in recent years.”

The report illustrates that the percent of charter students reaching proficiency in math increased from 24.1 percent to 46.7 percent. Student’s proficiency in science also increased from 16 percent to 45 percent.

The creative ways in which charter schools use the additional time is instructive to policy-makers and practitioners around the nation and could explain some of the great achievement results students have gained.