You’ve been granted free access to this subscribers only article.
Editorial: Americans know very little about local school quality
By J.E. Stone
A cheating scandal involving teachers in Atlanta has captured national attention and revealed a profound breach of trust in the public education system.
Thirty-five area educators, including some principals, have been accused of falsifying student test scores and now stand charged with racketeering, theft, and making false statements to law enforcement.
Apologists blame their actions on excessive testing, but that’s like blaming a banking scandal on the auditors. Instead of worrying about fairness for the adults, we should be worrying about these children and their futures.
Many will receive a shockingly poor education, leaving them little hope of earning a family-sustaining wage once they enter the work force.
How could a scam this massive take place under everyone’s nose? Clearly, Atlanta has a problem. But this is just a highly visible instance of a much larger problem. Average Americans actually know very little about the quality of their local schools. Despite the obvious conflict of interest, most people simply accept the soothing reassurances of the schools themselves.
That’s a problem. The only way to actually improve educational outcomes is for parents and local boards to hold schools accountable. And to do that, they need accurate information about student achievement, budgets, program effectiveness, and the like.
But right now, all across the country, parents and local boards are being kept in the dark about such essential matters. Even where there has not been outright cheating as in Atlanta, the information furnished by districts is typically slanted or outright misleading. Successes are hyped, failures rationalized, and statistics are reported with skimpy context.
It’s no secret that too many students aren’t learning. Today, only about 30 percent of children can read at grade level by the third grade. For low-income students, an astounding 83 percent of students fail to meet this mark. And half of the U.S. work force -- about 80 million adults -- lack the educational skills necessary to earn a family-sustaining wage. The future is in jeopardy.
To get a sense of the problem, consider the differences between the scores reported by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and those reported by the states.
Congress created NAEP in 1988 to independently measure national student achievement on a variety of subjects for the Department of Education. Today, it’s considered the gold standard of educational assessment for critical subjects like math, reading, science, and writing.
States, of course, also have their own metrics. The differences are stark and embarrassing.
For instance, the Alabama Department of Education claims 80 percent of its fourth-grade students are proficient in math. According to the NAEP, only 30 percent are actually proficient.
Alabama isn’t unique. Scores are just as inflated in neighboring Georgia -- and that’s in addition to distortions caused by Atlanta’s cheating. The state says over 80 percent are proficient in math, but the NAEP says 40 percent is closer to reality. But wait, there’s more! Much more.
The Maryland Department of Education claims 90 percent of its students are proficient in fourth-grade math. NAEP says it’s closer to 50 percent. California’s Education Department says six in 10 eighth-graders are proficient in science. NAEP’s assessment? Barely above 20 percent. Most states follow this pattern.
As a result of these reporting gaps, parents and board members generally believe their local schools are better than they actually are. And those that do sense problems tend to assume that money will solve them.
But decades of increased funding has produced little improvement. Since the 1970s, the NAEP reports that achievement in core subjects like reading and math has remained stagnant. In fact, constant-dollar per-pupil expenditures doubled between 1971 and 2009, yet reading scores didn’t budge.
In a global economy, the United States will inevitably sink unless parents, school boards, and educators are able to confront the facts, warts and all, but educators fear exposure.
Fortunately, there are sound data out there. Parents don’t have to wait for distant bureaucrats to tinker their way to trustworthy school reports. Right now, they can find detailed report cards at greatschools.org and schooldigger.com.
The Education Consumers Foundation, displays school-by-school data online in easy-to-understand graphics for virtually all states.
These are just a few of the resources available to parents, boards, and community leaders who want to look beyond inflated self-reports and into the facts that can lead to real school improvement.
J.E. Stone is president and CEO of Education Consumers Foundation.
Your Opinions and Comments
7th Generation La Vernian
August 28, 2013 1:56pm
Publius Valerius Publicola
August 28, 2013 12:51pm
Share your comment or opinion on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Section A: General News Archives
American Legion ceremony (May 25, 2016)
Annexation for fire services will be on November ballot (May 25, 2016)
Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts to honor fallen heroes (May 25, 2016)
Camino Real plans Open House events (May 25, 2016)
Chief Hull resigns from Poth police (May 25, 2016)
County sets sights on new tax (May 25, 2016)
Court Update (May 25, 2016)
Editorial: Grim choices have put America in a grave situation (May 25, 2016)
Editorial: On the other side of politics in a world of digital divide (May 25, 2016)
Fire, EMS services — Who’s got you covered? (May 25, 2016)
It’s okay to take control (May 25, 2016)
Letter: Free ride over hard work … a no-brainer! (May 25, 2016)
Letter: Housing Foundation expresses gratitude (May 25, 2016)
Letter: Mainstream media ‘brainwashing’ Hispanic/Latino voters (May 25, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Wilson County Memorial Hospital District (May 25, 2016)
Memorial Day office closures (May 25, 2016)
One viewpoint: Making Floresville marketable with recreational facilities (May 25, 2016)
Parish plans Cemetery Ceremony (May 25, 2016)
Police arrest man in case of burned body (May 25, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 25, 2016)
Police ticket six for violating cell phone ban (May 25, 2016)
Post 539 service (May 25, 2016)
Poth electric vehicle users could be in for a shock (May 25, 2016)
Poth High School students earn awards (May 25, 2016)
Severe storms shred Wilson County (May 25, 2016)
SSCA ceremony (May 25, 2016)
Teacher salaries, student lunch prices on the rise (May 25, 2016)
Tejano music to fill the air during Labor Day event (May 25, 2016)
Turner: New businesses coming to Floresville (May 25, 2016)
Berger earns Ph.D. from Columbia University (May 18, 2016)
Brahma Happenings (May 18, 2016)
Burning body spurs murder investigation (May 18, 2016)
Can I negotiate? (May 18, 2016)
Court Update (May 18, 2016)
Editorial: Narrow views promote intellectual, moral dry rot (May 18, 2016)
Editorial: The political climate in America goes from bad to worse (May 18, 2016)
Falls City ISD’s new K-12 building almost complete (May 18, 2016)
Floresville parks master plan would relocate ball fields (May 18, 2016)
Floresville parks plan wins council approval (May 18, 2016)
Foundation awards $9K in grants (May 18, 2016)
Foundation opens health grant process (May 18, 2016)
Graco recalls booster seats (May 18, 2016)
Grass fires on the rise (May 18, 2016)
Letter: An open letter to Congress (May 18, 2016)
Letter: Illegal immigration: Who will laugh last? (May 18, 2016)
Letter: What Hispanic vote? (May 18, 2016)
Lone Star Greys to meet (May 18, 2016)
Meeting Watch: La Vernia City Council (May 18, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Poth ISD (May 18, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 18, 2016)
Police recover one of two stolen trucks (May 18, 2016)
Register for free watercolor lesson (May 18, 2016)
Stockdale campus to get upgrade soon (May 18, 2016)
Stockdale City Council approves electronic payment processing (May 18, 2016)
TAMU-SA matches student scholarships (May 18, 2016)
Time to make plans to attend Jubilee (May 18, 2016)
Want fire protection? Attend May 19 hearing (May 18, 2016)
Acme Gold Buyers marks fifth year in Floresville (May 11, 2016)
All Veterans Job Fair (May 11, 2016)
Cemetery group to meet (May 11, 2016)
Children’s Alliance enhances care services (May 11, 2016)
China Grove mayor, police chief trade barbs at meeting (May 11, 2016)
Commissioners lukewarm toward hot coffee at library (May 11, 2016)
Competency and integrity (May 11, 2016)
Court Update (May 11, 2016)
Coy to get Ranger Cross (May 11, 2016)
Cub Scout Roundup (May 11, 2016)
Donate blood in May (May 11, 2016)
Editor: Trump’s candidacy sets in motion affliction in future elections (May 11, 2016)
Editorial: The voters have spoken — well, some of them have! (May 11, 2016)
Former Sutherland Springs VFD considered as a substation (May 11, 2016)
Free caregivers class starts May 26 (May 11, 2016)
Information sought in Walmart theft (May 11, 2016)
Lack of super majority vote keeps Clean Water Rule flowing (May 11, 2016)
Leetter: The government is a terrible investor (May 11, 2016)
Letter: Injection well site is near river, creeks (May 11, 2016)
Letter: Stop being negative (May 11, 2016)
LV youths win new wheels at Bike Rodeo (May 11, 2016)
Meeting Watch: La Vernia ISD (May 11, 2016)
Mineral rights workshop set (May 11, 2016)
Miss LV Pageant, Bluebonnet Parade, graduation fill La Vernia calendar (May 11, 2016)
New Wilson County justice center nears completion (May 11, 2016)
Personalized brick for Veterans Memorial (May 11, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 11, 2016)
Precinct 3 primary runoff is May 24 (May 11, 2016)
Rangers to honor Lorenz (May 11, 2016)
Rohrs takes over Floresville athletics (May 11, 2016)
Tanneberger qualifies for Executive Club membership (May 11, 2016)
Voters respond: One bond passes, another fails (May 11, 2016)
Wednesday morning crash injures nine (May 11, 2016)
AACOG plans public meeting (May 4, 2016)
Accident injures two drivers (May 4, 2016)
AgriLife offers tips to protect from Zika, other mosquito-borne diseases (May 4, 2016)
Behind the lens: Solitary stillness (May 4, 2016)
Celebration Mass June 12 (May 4, 2016)
Cemetery association meeting (May 4, 2016)
Condos are fine, but do your research (May 4, 2016)
Court Update (May 4, 2016)
Crime Stoppers aids police anonymously (May 4, 2016)
DA, DPS bust nets 86 charges (May 4, 2016)
Debate over citizens comments dominates Floresville council (May 4, 2016)
Dwellings At Home offers lodge, ranch furnishings, more (May 4, 2016)
Editorial: Overbearing city council threatens boards’ independence (May 4, 2016)
Editorial: Taking personal responsibility will bring possibilities (May 4, 2016)
Editorial: Trump is the same old song with one more verse (May 4, 2016)
FEDC tables recommendation of master parks plan (May 4, 2016)
FELPS tornado repair continues as FEMA help stalls (May 4, 2016)
Floresville Chamber Luncheon May 18 (May 4, 2016)
Hall of Fame inductees: Joe Kotwig, Malcolm and Beverly Talley (May 4, 2016)
Letter: Alamo Colleges: A bust for Floresville (May 4, 2016)
Local nursing homes plan Senior Olympics May 9-13 (May 4, 2016)
Look twice for motorcycle riders (May 4, 2016)
Lyssy’s vault earns gold, sets records! (May 4, 2016)
Medicaid, CHIP application assistance (May 4, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Wilson County Commissioners Court (May 4, 2016)
National Day of Prayer May 5 (May 4, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 4, 2016)
Ramirez promoted to colonel (May 4, 2016)
Reserve a seat for SA Tea Party (May 4, 2016)
Tanneberger tops in sales (May 4, 2016)
Treviño prepares to take reins of East Central athletics (May 4, 2016)