I’m hearing this from more voices now.

The most recent being columnist Dennis Byrne.

Here’s a way for taxpayers to save billions of dollars while improving education:

Get rid of standardized tests. Get rid of the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires the tests. Get rid of the U.S. Department of Education, which administers the tests. Free us from having to pay for this pointless extravagance.

This should be especially apparent with allegations of adult cheating (Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere) to boost student test scores to meet idealized benchmarks set by legions of “experts.” Those allegations, of course, require the deployment of more legions of experts to hunt down frightened or fed-up teachers and administrators caught in the gears of this Rube Goldberg contrivance.

You don’t need more studies or tests to know that this whole scheme has done little in the years since it was installed as a national priority to quiet the alarms about American students. But the alarms have become more thunderous, requiring the application of ever more stringent and costly measures. It’s as mindless as Dark Ages bleeding; if bleeding off a pint doesn’t improve the patient, take a quart.

Attention-grabbing, but because it so resembles the truth.

Last week I had Dr. Anthony Bradley as a guest on my radio show and this was the topic of conversation for that ‘closer look’ at inner-city schools and the failure of the bureaucracy of education.

As Congress moves toward reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the problem is not that the Department of Education is not doing enough but that it suffers from an acute case of what psychologists call “organizational narcissism.” If they really wish to address America’s inner-city public school crisis, federal education officials must look beyond the boundaries of their own agencies and recognize the crucial role of churches.

Steven Churchill, of the Center for Organizational Design, explains that organizations can have a grandiose sense of self-importance and an inflated judgment of their own accomplishments, leading to “an unreal, self-defeating preoccupation with the company’s own image.” For example, even with overwhelming evidence that, other than family support, church involvement is the most consistent predictor of academic success for inner-city children, the organizational narcissism of the education industry prevents it from tapping into the resources of black and Latino churches.

He made many good points, in fact the hour was loaded with them. The ‘War on Poverty’ has failed. Education reform hasn’t improved our public schools and especially inner-city schools, or access to them. Government programs separated from the influence of families and local churches fail. This is proven and easy to see, for anyone who looks.

In “Faith in the Inner City: The Urban Black Church and Students’ Educational Outcomes,” Dr. Brian Barrett, an education professor at the State University of New York College at Cortland, describes the unique contributions black churches play in cultivating successful students in the inner-cities. He observed that “religious socialization reinforces attitudes, outlooks, behaviors, and practices … particularly through individuals’ commitment to and adoption of the goals and expectations of the group” that are conducive to “positive educational outcomes.”  In fact, back in 2009 Barrett reported that for black inner-city youth who reported attending religious services often, the black/white achievement gap “was eliminated.”

Barrett reports that one of the most important advantages of inner-city churches is that they provide “a community where Black students are valued, both for their academic success and, more broadly, as human beings and members of society with promise, with talents to contribute, and from whom success is to be expected.” Churches also affirm inner-city youth as trusted members of a community that celebrates academic success, and the practices that produce it, which overrides the low expectations communicated at school. Additionally, Barrett highlights the ways in which black churches, because they are equipped to deal with families, are effective at sustaining and encouraging parental educational involvement from the heart as well as providing contexts where youth can have regular contact with other adults for role-modeling and mentoring.

The fact that they don’t or won’t see this at the federal level, while layering on more and more federal jobs in the Department of Education, proves Bradley’s point about the ‘organizational narcissim.’ He also adds that those bureaucrats know that with increased involvement of churches, the Department of Education would lose the lock on control they now have. Never mind that it’s dysfunctional.

“When more government programs came the breakdown of the family,” Dr. Bradley told me. “It fostered a culture of irresponsibility. The whole system needs to be radically restructered. It’s not a resource problem. Throwing more dollars into more technology for classrooms isn’t the solution, clearly. We need to ask better questions. Why isn’t the church part of the educational policy for this administration? Black pastors haven’t been invited into the Obama administration Department of Education planning.” He makes this point in his article ‘Inner-city education fails without the church.’

In 2008, President Obama rightly acknowledged that, “There is no program and no policy that can substitute for a parent who is involved in their child’s education from day one.” This is an indisputable truth. What should baffle every American citizen is that the role of inner-city ethnic churches is oddly missing from the Obama administration’s education reform vision.

Faith-based initiatives work when they are tried. School choice and the voucher system do, too. The principle of subsidiarity works.

Dennis Byrne concludes:

It will take nothing less than a revolution by fed-up Americans to break the hold that this cartel has on our children.

Anthony Bradley concluded, on radio, that…

We need a lay movement to be launched. We need paople to operate out of their convictions that this problem must be solved. We need people in the pews to be at school board meetings to put forward new solutions, backed by data, what’s known to work. And that’s new for us as Americans, because we’re used to coming to the aid of people in crisis in other countries. This is in the crisis category, but it’s happening here.

We need a bailout, from government intervention.

Suddenly, an old television public service spot just came to mind. “It’s ten o’clock. Do you know where your kids are?”

It’s school time, and the same question applies.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....