12 Aug The Nation’s Public Education Report Card A.K.A. The Emperor’s New Clothes
Do you believe that in the course of 33 years, an improvement of anywhere of 1.5% to 4% on public education average reading scores is significantly different? The experts (?) at National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) believe this to be true and state it on their website.
Between 1971 and 2004, nine year olds reading performance on a scale of 1 to 500 grew from 208 to 219 an increase of 4% while 13 year olds reading performance jumped 4 entire points on that same scale from 255 to 259. To learn about the dismal performance of 17-year-olds who did not grow at all – 0% growth from 285 to 285 over 33 years, requires further reading beyond the first page. After reading about these experts patting themselves on the back, I was reminded of the childhood story, The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen
If you are not familiar with this story, an emperor hires two weavers to weave and sew for him some new clothes. Unfortunately, all the weavers do is to pretend to weave and take the emperor’s money. As the weaving continues, the emperor sends in his trusted advisors to check on the progress. Even though they can’t see anything, the trusted advisors don’t want to appear stupid and agree that the cloth is the most beautiful that they have ever seen. The day comes for the Emperor to showcase his new clothes and as he walks through the town, the voice of a young child cries out: “The Emperor is naked. He isn’t wearing any clothes.”
The weavers in today’s education arena are those individuals who take taxpayer’s dollars and continue to deliver invisible results while the Emperor is organizations such as NCES that promote insignificant results as significant. And, we, the taxpayers are the young children who say, “Hey, the results aren’t there.”
To put public education performance in the proper content, let’s use the analogy of a business. What business with 3 separate departments could survive with 0%, 1.5% or 4% growth over the course of 33 years? What financial institution would advertise that this business is making significant growth and is a good place to invest your dollars? Public education likes to echo the phrase “Education is not business.” However, many school corporations have multi-million dollars budgets. This is BIG BUSINESS and growing bigger every year with less than acceptable results.
Presuming a business could stay in business with annual growth of 1% per year, over the course of 33 years, the business would grow 33%. In reviewing the data from the most recent report card, some African minority students (age 9 readers) did actually grow 17% and progressed from 170 to 200. Thirteen-year-old black students gained 22 points from 222 to 244 for an increase of 10%. For seventeen-year-olds black students, their progress was similar from 239 to 264 or 10%. However, a review of the Levels indicates that any student under 300 lacks the skill set to understand complicated information. Given that today’s business world where these young people are going to work is all about knowledge and to secure knowledge demands the ability to not only understand complicated information (Level 300), but to learn from specialized reading materials such as technical reading as identified in Level 350, the U.S. potential workforce is in serious trouble.
By researching the dollars spent per student in 1971-72, the expenditure was $4,479 in 2001 dollars and this almost doubled by 2003 to $8,019 per student. And yet, during that same time frame with all the dollars being spent and not invested, performance was honestly dismal, flat and insignificant when we thoroughly read the Nation’s Report Card. And yet, public educators continue to wonder why competition from charter schools and private schools have increased on one hand and then on the other have the audacity to ask for even more money. What is wrong with this picture? With all the dollars being invested in each child and with flat scores, requesting more money seems a bit ludicrous unless of course your are a weaver weaving invisible clothing.
Until, educators and politicians realize that performance has more to do with internal beliefs specific to learning and that meeting the needs of the customers those being the students, parents and taxpayers comes before their own needs, public education in America will continue to be the Emperor in his new clothes paid for by your tax dollars.
P.S. Did you wonder like me why the scale is to 500, but the level descriptions are only to 350? I am sure the experts have a significant explanation.
Copyright 2005(c) Leanne Hoagland-Smith, http://www.processspecialist.com
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