Academic journal article Education Next

Credible Cassandras: This Time, Perhaps, the Sky Really Is Falling. (from the Editors)

Academic journal article Education Next

Credible Cassandras: This Time, Perhaps, the Sky Really Is Falling. (from the Editors)

Article excerpt

High-school graduation rates are slipping? Can this be? Or is Chicken Little at it again?

After rising for more than 100 years, reports Duncan Chaplin in our lead feature, graduation rates started to slip during the 1970s. By the turn of the century, the graduation rate had dropped 7 percentage points from its high-water mark of 77 percent in 1969.

Surprisingly, the drop has gone practically unnoticed, mainly owing to the growing use of General Educational Development (GED) certificates. This certificate is awarded upon passage of an exam provided by the GED Testing Service of the American Council on Education, The most popular measure of graduation rates equates the GED with a high-school diploma, lulling observers into believing that graduation rates are higher than ever. Yet in the marketplace, the GED is not worth much more than the bubble sheet on which most of the answers are marked.

Maybe we shouldn't care. Maybe high school is not for everyone and the country does not need so many educated workers. The United States, moreover, has enjoyed robust economic growth despite our educational deficiencies. This issue's forum dives into the debate over the link between education and economic growth. Eric Hanushek argues that human capital is crucial to long-term gains in economic productivity and growth--and shows how poor the U.S. standing in the world actually is. Meanwhile, William Easterly, in a fascinating discussion of education policy in the developing world, cautions against building human capital simply by throwing money at schools. The massive expansion of education in poor countries during the past four decades has failed to produce the expected surges in economic growth.

Yet it is dollar tossing that is now being mandated by judges, says Michael Heise. In a number of states, lawsuits are filed-- and decisions handed down--that require states to up their education spending in the mistaken presumption that more money equals better schools. All these lawsuits are riding high on the back of the standards and accountability movement-even though Michael Cohen shows that states have been slow to implement their accountability systems.

Our research section contains a pair of striking articles. Joseph Guzman's findings cast doubt on the value of bilingual instruction as practiced in America's schools. …

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