- Dec 2013
- Beware of watermelons
Since 1980, during the Carter Administration, America’s K-12 education system has come under increasing control by the dictates of the federal Department of Education (DOE) with failing results, taxing states and filtering the money through Washington to return a portion of it back to the states. In 2002, the Bush Administration approved the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act creating punishing amounts of federal paperwork and bureaucracy for local schools, requiring a $1B grant in special funding to help state and local education systems comply. In 2015 Congress enacted new legislation, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), to allegedly overcome the NCLB federal intervention. The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke says, “ESSA does not accomplish these critical policy priorities” to reduce the interference and excessive hours of standardized testing time. The 2016 DOE budget is $70.7B excluding a Presidential request for an additional $75B mandatory funding over ten years for Pre-K education.
What is America getting for federally-funded interference in education? The US spends over 23.2% of per capita income on its students each year, 9% more than Singapore while over 26 other countries that spend less outscore US students. Charles Murray says that even after substantial resources were dedicated to assist minorities over a 10 year period, SAT scores have indeed dropped for Amerindians ( -28%), Latinos (-26%), Blacks (-14%) and Whites (-6%) while substantially increasing for Asians (+54).
Of 64 countries in the International Student Assessment, the U.S. ranks 35th in math and 27th in science. Singapore spends almost half of what the U.S. spends in primary education and about 70% on secondary education while internationally scoring first in math and second in science. Ironically, while more than 1.7M students are now homeschooled, the National Center for Educational Statistics does not produce statistics on the likely difference in achievement between homeschooled students and public education students.
Students in institutional schools are measured repeatedly, however. A typical student takes 112 mandated standardized tests between pre-K classes and 12th grade; by contrast, most countries that outperform the U.S. on international exams test students three times during their entire school careers.
In spite so much testing and measuring, the standards are being manipulated to enhance the illusion of improving student performance. The modern thinking appears to be that "everyone must be a winner." A variation of this is “average is over,” a perverse twist on economist Tyler Cowen’s thesis. In K-12, only children with extremely low I.Q.’s, juvenile delinquents or truants receive average grades, and rarely do students receive D’s or F‘s.1 In most states, students with English as a second language are passed along with C grades regardless of performance. Piereson & Riley note that the Department of Education released data showing that from 1990-2000 high school graduate GPAs rose a third of a point and one public school district in northern California altered student grading so that students scoring above 80% received A’s and students below 20% were given F’s.2