Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Another State's Standards Bites the Dust?

According to Michigan's Mackinac Center for Public Policy, state school officials are considering lowering state education standards in response to the federal "No Child left Behind Act."

State Board of Education members are debating whether or not to lower Michigan's education standards, in order to keep Michigan schools off federal "failing schools" lists.

New federal regulations, part of President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act, require states to set improvement standards for schools and sanctions for underperforming schools. The program developed by Michigan will affect how the state uses federal funds for education.

The State Board is torn between wanting to maintain existing standards and not wanting the sanctions generated by schools listed as "failing." Under current standards Michigan has the most "failing" schools in the nation: 1,513.

"By lowering standards, we increase the flow of federal money into Michigan and protect a significant number of schools," David Plank, a Michigan State University professor who studies K-12 issues told the Lansing State Journal. "On the negative side, we want our kids to achieve higher levels. To scale that back in exchange for money is not a legitimate bargain."

Perverse incentives work. A law where the consequences mean that Arkansas has zero failing schools and Michigan has 1,500 is bound to have unintended consequences--every state strives to be Arkansas.

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