If I Could Wave a Magic Wand

Robert W. Sweet, Jr./Former Reagan White House Staffer – Education reform has been a topic since antiquity. In the past two centuries, there has been a revolution in teacher education during the late 1800’s, dumping phonics in the 1920’s, compulsory schooling in the 1940’s, federal involvement in education funding in the 1960’s, forced busing in the 1970’s, teachers unions vice grip on tenure today, family disintegration in the cities, and apathy from parents.

The result has been devastating for our children, and continues unabated as our worldwide position in education quality declines even more.   

Rather than cite the obvious by noting statistics on illiteracy, inadequate teacher preparation, poor teacher quality, the inability to terminate incompetent teachers, top down “solutions” from Washington, DC to name a few, I will suggest some straight forward reforms that if implemented would transform student achievement and lower costs of educating our children dramatically.  

I do not underestimate the difficulty of making these fundamental changes in education in America, but unless we take dramatic action, nothing will change…illiteracy will continue to increase, spending will expand to heights never imagined, and our children will be deprived of the bright future we all desire for them.  Here they are:

1.     Repeal all compulsory schooling requirements, state by state:

2.     Repeal all teacher tenure laws:

3.     Insist that systematic phonics instruction methodology be implemented in all early elementary grades;

4.     Inform all schools that sight word/whole language instruction is toxic and against the clear findings of quantitative research;

5.     Make online schooling, i.e. virtual schools, available to all school children;

6.     Require that all prospective elementary school teachers pass a competency test on graduation to include a measure their knowledge of the research based findings on reading instruction;

7.     Reduce and ultimately eliminate all federal funding for education programs by reducing the USDOE budget by 20% each year over five years.  [National Statistics may be kept under contract by the states collectively]

8.     Return all education policy decisions currently being made at the federal level to the states, to be consistent with the U.S. constitution.

The result of these changes would be a dramatic decrease in per pupil cost nationally. it would result in the virtual elimination of illiteracy; it would place parents once again in their rightful place as overseers of their children’s schooling. 

Robert W. Sweet, Jr./Former Reagan White House Staffer  Sequoia6@me.com


  1. Jo-Anne Gross

    Thank You Mr.Sweet-your explicit suggestions are well taken-better than"we have to do better"and here are billions of dollars.

    Why doesn`t anyone get that teachers in K-3 are untrained to teach Reading-like plumbers who do not know pipes and valves.
    That mess can be visualized easily-that`s what`s going on in the minds of confused children taught by confused teachers.

  2. Donald Potter

    Mr. Sweet's recommendations represent many years of experience in education from the federal to the local level. It is the voice of experience, reason, and common sense. Everyone interested in significantly improving education in America would do well to pay attention. Perhaps the important recommendation, and the most likely to be overlooked, is his censure against sight words and whole-language, both of which continue to retard the reading achievement of millions of young Americans.

  3. Bruce Deitrick Price

    Excellent list, Mr. Sweet. But I'd suggest moving the first two–so very ambitious–toward the bottom.
    Sensible reading instruction and teacher competency would almost do the job. I'd add Constructivism and Reform Math to any list of undesirables.

  4. Dr, Patrick J. Groff, Professor of Education, Emeritus, San Diego State University an Diego S

    Dear Bob: I much endorse your needed list of reforms. Please join me in trying to improve the fairnes of the manner in which teachers in schools that enroll children from higher- and lower-income families. It is quite apparent that teachers in the first group are always said to be "better" ones. The only fair way to resolve this issue would be to transfer the first group of teachers above to schools of the latter group, and vice versa.

  5. Doug

    Here is a far better list:

    1) Shift huge amounts of education funding from the suburbs to the inner city and other poverty areas.
    2) Reduce the child poverty rate fron 20% in the USA to 4% like Finland.
    3) Slowly upgade the education requirements for teachers like Finland where 2 master's degrees are usually required.
    4) Begin compulsory education at age 2 when children are toilet trained.
    5) Upgrade teacher pay so that teachers are paid more than engineers so that we can attact the best to teaching.
    6) Continue to have all work rules negotited with the teachers' union. Test results are much stronger in strong union states.
    7) Abandon goofy ideas like voucher and charters and help the neighborhood public school the pillar of democracy.
    8) Retain local democracy

  6. John Vettel

    Doug, I'm afraid you've been smoking a controlled substance. The writer of the article is spot on target. You appear to be a part of the problem.

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January 26th, 2011

Staff Reporter EducationNews.org

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