Education Re-reform

At first glance a lot of what is proposed by President Obama in his education reform plans looks promising.

Sure, there were a few questions people would ask, such as, if, in order for a state to qualify for federal funding they would have to adopt and certify that they have “college- and career-ready standards in reading and mathematics,” how is that defined?

What exactly does “college- and career-ready standards” mean?

Would those be nationally set standards to which all states must adhere?

Perhaps those questions are easy enough to answer.

One thing is certain, our educators must get back to the basics – teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. There are far too many middle and high school students these days reading and performing math far below their grade level in school.

Yes, students must be prepared for the 21st Century. Do not the basics above underscore being able to learn these skills?

Thus, while President Obama is seriously increasing funding for pre-school and early year school children, something effective must be done for current students, those graduating high school in 2011, 2012 and so on.

More importantly, in an article by The Associated Press, there was an interesting point brought up:

“Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, a nonprofit think tank, said Obama deserves credit for seeking higher academic standards. But she said his proposal would pay states for proposing programs, not showing success.

” ‘The outcome of how well kids do is when we see graduation rates and the careers kids are going into,’ Allen said. ‘It’s not in the input side. It’s on the output’.”

The point Ms. Allen brings up is something that many people would have missed.

She is totally correct. That states merely propose programs should not be a deciding factor for anything, other than, perhaps, initital federal funding. But the results should be evident almost immediately and, thus, results should be the guiding and dominant factor.

One other point to bring up is that, per the AP article, “Obama wants to expand the federal government’s role in education, which traditionally is a state and local responsibility. His approach has been to use the federal purse as leverage to encourage states to adopt his ideas.”

The federal government is using taxpayer dollars to fund education “which traditionally is a state and local responsibility.”

Why cannot the feds simply get agreement on a national standard and let the state and local education agencies perform their job?

We do not need more oversight and regulatory bodies at the federal level, which there would have to be to ensure compliance, especially over the potentially 15,700 school districts that exist in America.

Food for thought.

Over For Now.

Main Street One

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