Low Scores Bedevil Other High-Spending Efforts

Published October 1, 1998

Much like Kansas City, Missouri, St. George’s County, Maryland, underwent a 12-year effort to raise academic achievement levels in a group of nearly all-black schools. The Maryland effort was also born out of a federal desegregation effort, and court-mandated funding increases were intended to equalize the quality of education for minorities.

Despite the infusion into St. George’s County schools of nearly $100 million–spent on guidance counselors, computer labs, cultural programs, fields trips, and class size reductions–a Washington Post analysis last October revealed that test scores in the targeted schools remained well below the state average.

In California, the 284-student elementary school district in Sausalito has a student-teacher ratio of 12-to-1 and spends more than $12,300 per student each year–nearly three times more than the state average. Yet its test scores are the lowest in Marin County. Although the district has special instructors for art, drama, science, and computers, Sausalito parents send their children by the hundreds to private schools.

If money is not the problem in Sausalito, low expectations for the district’s predominantly black students may be. Barry A. Kaufman, dean of the school of education at Dominican College in neighboring San Rafael, told Education Week that minority students in Sausalito schools are not adequately challenged.

“It’s treated like a plantation system,” said Kaufman. “There’s no effort to create a high-achieving instructional environment.”