If Students Do Not Learn, Schools Should Pay
Jackie Mader of the Hechinger Report recently shared the story "High schools may have to pay for unprepared graduates". These are not laws yet but two states in the Unites States, Mississippi and Maine currently have bills that will penalize high schools with the costs of remedial education in colleges. Those who support the proposed bills claim that higher education should not be shouldering the failures of basic education. When students are unprepared for college, remedial classes are then offered, which cost additional classrooms and instructor salaries. Opponents of these measures cite that failure in basic education is caused by factors other than the school. Passing the burden entirely on the shoulders of secondary schools is therefore unfair especially when the blame can be placed on parents, community and other external factors.
A story like this demonstrates that there is indeed a need to step back and reflect thoughtfully on what basic education really is. Equally worth examining is the question of what college or higher education truly entails. College education, unlike basic education, is not really meant for everyone. College education is not free but even if the government provides higher education for free, it still does not follow that it is for every high school graduate. College is not the only track available for a job or a career.
When secondary schools are failing, the last thing these schools need is a penalty. Cutting the funding which is already insufficient will simply make the situation worse. This analogy of schools to companies where performance is paid with bonuses and nonperformance is punished is simply wrong. To this, I return to the lessons we are supposed to learn from either Korea or Finland. Education reform requires both social and cultural dimensions. It requires collaboration and trust. This is a different type of accountability. It is an accountability that always starts with one self. Basic education, like health care, involves everyone. The responsibility rests on all of us.