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Education Reporter

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Education Myths: What Special-Interest Groups Want You to Believe About Our Schools — and Why It Isn't So, Jay P. Greene, Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc. 2005, 224 pp., $24.95

Myths predominate the landscape of public school education, obfuscate reality, and impede progress. Jay P. Greene, from the Manhattan Institute's Education Research Office, alerts the reader to the preponderance of myths that determine educational policy and practice. His book provides data-driven research and analysis to refute each myth, as well as a substantial bibliography to encourage further fact finding.

Even though some of the prevailing myths may on the surface appear plausible and even enticing, careful study documents evidence to factually, unequivocally dispel them. Beginning with "The Money Myth" in chapter 1, Greene presents solid evidence that "the real problem is that increased spending isn't producing significant results."

Greene states: "The assertion that schools need more money is so omnipresent that most Americans simply accept the truth of the claim unconsciously."

School districts pay tuition costs for graduate schools for teachers, and automatically raise salaries for teachers with advanced degrees "even though it is one of the strongest and most consistent findings in the research on teacher quality that these degrees are irrelevant to classroom performance."

When studying resources and recognizing that student achievement and graduation rates do not rise with increases in funding, it is time to consider carefully how best to maximize optimal results. "Inflation-adjusted per-pupil public school spending has doubled in the past thirty years, but test scores and graduation rates are flat."

Among the other myths subject to dismissal are: class size, teacher certification, accountability burden, graduation, segregation, special education, college access, and high-stakes testing. School shortcomings and failures are often blamed on the "Myth of Helplessness." This blames society and problems such as poverty, drugs, and poor parenting skills, for lack of success.

The "Exeter Myth" challenges the belief that private school test scores are superior because they have more money and are exclusive in student selection.

The "Draining Myth" purports that charter schools and vouchers drain support from traditional public schools, and contribute to their demise.

We are reminded to let the facts inform us, even though powerful special interest groups seek to maintain the mythology and defy logic and scientific basis.

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