Education Standards 101

In the recent report noted by AP (Oct 29, 2009 – Report: States set low bar for student achievement) there are no earth-shattering revelations.

It has been known for some time that education standards set by each state vary widely.

However, this information is probably not something about which most Main Street USAers are particularly aware.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), part of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), produces “The Nation’s Report Card” outlining findings of annual student assessment. State standards were compared to the NAEP standards in determining the differences.

Here are a few facts reported by AP:
• Thirty-one states deemed fourth-graders proficient in reading when they would have rated below basic on NAEP. Mississippi’s standards were lowest, and Massachusetts’ were highest.
• Seventeen states deemed eighth-graders proficient at reading when they would have rated below basic on NAEP. Tennessee’s standards were lowest, and South Carolina’s were highest.
• Ten states deemed fourth- and eighth-graders proficient at math when they would have rated below basic on NAEP. Tennessee’s standards were lowest; Massachusetts had the highest fourth-grade math standards, and South Carolina had the highest eighth-grade standards

The standards (from highest to lowest) are: Advanced, Proficient, Basic, Below Basic.

Thus, when states are reporting students as Proficient, when in fact they are Below Basic, there is definite cause for concern.

Before continuing, please be advised that Basic does not necessarily mean that a student knows their “basics.” That word is misleading. Students testing at Basic are not at their grade level. More than likely they are one to two grades below, possibly more for older students.

What is amazing is that 60% of the states report students in 4th grade as being Proficient when they are actually Below Basic, or substantially below their grade level.

To revert this President Obama, Secretary of Education Duncan and a host of others are calling for Educational Reform. A much vocalized part of this reform are things like longer school days and perhaps no or much shorter summer vacation.

Main Streeters, it is NOT reform (i.e., to change to a better state, form, etc.; improve by alteration, substitution, abolition, etc) that is needed.

It needs to be reiterated that what is needed to halt the decline in our educational prowess is, quite simply and remarkably, to return to the basics: Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, formerly known as the 3 R’s: reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic.

The National Institute of Justice claims that 85% of juvenile offenders have problems with reading, writing and basic math and that well over 65% of adults in prison are functionally or marginally illiterate.

The 3 R’s must be slammed back in with a vengeance.

Get rid of philosophical beliefs that a child’s self esteem is hurt if they are told that they have failed, so pass them to the next grade and make them feel good.

Yeah, they’ll feel “good.”

But they cannot read.

They cannot write.

They cannot perform basic math problems.

How irresponsible is it to not provide the best education possible and, instead, point fingers at teachers, at parents, at administrators, etc., to avert the blame.

Wake Up Everybody!

We are ALL to blame. We ALL allowed this slow transition to mediocrity.

And we are paying for it. Every day, in every way.

Campaign to get the 3 R’s back in our schools. Accept nothing less. Vote out anyone who opposes the idea. And have them take the 1895 8th Grade Final Exam from Salina, KS, and watch as they score below 50%, probably between 30-40%.

Tell them that back in 1895 we taught the 3 R’s, had summer vacations and that Main Street USA enjoyed a very high level of educational competence.

Over For Now,

Main Street One

Longer School Days, The Solution?

First President Obama states that children in the U.S. need longer school days.

Then Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who is in Philadelphia visiting schools with Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton, says (per the Philadelphia Inquirer): “Our school calendar’s based on a 19th century agrarian economy. I’m sure there weren’t too many kids in Philadelphia working in their parents’ fields this summer.”

The above statement by Duncan is true; school in America is based on an agrarian calendar. Summer was a time for children to assist their family in the fields, harvesting, and the like.

Don’t get me wrong; I do not particularly have an issue with children attending school longer.

And I do know there are researchers that say adding even short amounts to of time to a curriculum, such as math, raises test scores.

What I take exception to is that the root of America’s educational crisis is NOT a short school day.

Witness, we have been on the agrarian calendar for education since schools were formed.

The U.S., under this system and schedule, did lead the world in education for decades and decades.

Thus, changing the school day schedule or the number of days in school is not the answer. It may help some, but it is not THE answer.

What is?


Pure and simple, the basics of education.

The Three R’s: reading and ‘riting and ‘rithmetic.

Youth today have not learned their basics. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

National test scores, as collected and averaged by the National Center for Education Statistics, show slight, only slight, increases in reading and mathematic scores in all grade levels of students tested the last four decades.

The vast majority of students cannot perform a multiplication table.

Whole word reading displaced phonics as the way to teach students to read, despite the fact the National Reading Panel (which reviewed over 100,000 studies on reading) states unequivocally that the use of phonics is the best way to accomplish this task.

Student comprehension is low, as dictionaries, which used to be in classrooms in mass quantities, have all but disappeared from the educational scene.

Main Street USA, the problem is NOT the number of hours a child spends in school.

The problem IS what and how our children are being taught while they attend.

And this problem has been staring us in the face for decades.

Our youth need to be taught the basics.

Teaching those basics is the best way to halt student dropout, of which there are 3,000 students who leave school PER DAY.

“In Philadelphia, for instance, about half of all students cannot read or do math on grade level. The dropout rate hovers around 50 percent as well,” states the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Keep in mind that the National Institute of Justice reported that 85% of all juvenile offenders lack basic reading and math skills.

Food for thought.

Over For Now,

Main Street One