Myths are powerful ideas that explain reality and influence our actions. Jay Greene has an important piece on the myths that prevent us from making our education system work.

The first is the money myth:

“If people know anything about public schools today, it’s that they are strapped for cash. Bestselling books, popular movies, and countless lobbying groups portray urban schools as desperately underfunded, and editors of the New York Times write without fear of contradiction that “providing quality education for all America’s children will take…a great deal of money.” Bumper stickers declare, “It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.” No matter what aspect of education is being debated, activists generally find the solution in more school spending.

“This is the most widely held myth about education in America–and the one most directly at odds with the available evidence. Few people are aware that our education spending per pupil has been growing steadily for 50 years. At the end of World War II, public schools in the United States spent a total of $1,214 per student in inflation-adjusted 2002 dollars. By the middle of the 1950s that figure had roughly doubled to $2,345. By 1972 it had almost doubled again, reaching $4,479. And since then, it has doubled a third time, climbing to $8,745 in 2002.

“Since the early 1970s, when the federal government launched a standardized exam called the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), it has been possible to measure student outcomes in a reliable, objective way. Over that period, inflation-adjusted spending per pupil doubled. So if more money produces better results in schools, we would expect to see significant improvements in test scores during this period. That didn’t happen. For twelfth-grade students, who represent the end product of the education system, NAEP scores in math, science, and reading have all remained flat over the past 30 years. And the high school graduation rate hasn’t budged. Increased spending did not yield more learning.”

Other myths: teachers are underpaid, the problems of poverty and class are insurmountable, and reducing class size is essential to reform. Read the whole article