I was intending to write about something totally different this time, but comments made to me by a co-worker inspired me to choose this topic instead. I've had strong feelings about our now sub-standard public education system for years now. I have seen a decline in the quality of education which has led to a noticeable decline in even the most basic skills in our young people.
Larry, the Cable Guy once joked in one of his routines about ordering a meal in a fast food restaurant which totaled $4.81. He said to give the teenager working the cash register $10.01, and "watch the fun begin." He presented it in a humorous way, but he was also commenting on the fact that many young people can't do basic math such as counting back change. Is this a problem with the intellect of today's young people? No, absolutely not. It's a serious indictment of our public schools.
Another very serious indictment of our public schools is how well home-schooled children do in comparison to their public school counterparts. According to a 1997 study entitled Strengths of Their Own: Homeschoolers Across America by Dr. Brian Ray, the 5,402 home schooled students performed significantly higher than public school children. A second study conducted by Dr. Lawrence Rudner of 20,760 home-schooled students showed that those who were home-schooled their entire school-age years had the highest academic achievement. Lest anyone play the race card here, the studies have shown that race is not a factor. Parents do a much better job than the professionals. Home-schooling also blows away the myth MORE MONEY = BETTER EDUCATION. The average cost of a home-schooled child in the Strengths of Their Own study was $546. The average cost per student in public school was $5,325. Yet, the home-schooled children tested on an average in the 85th percentile while public school students scored in the 50th percentile. Getting your money's worth as a taxpayer? I think not.
This leads me to another point. As you know, school systems are continually coming to you, the taxpayer, with their hand out. School boards are constantly wanting to raise property taxes, and in states that allow it, institute a local-option sales tax and keep it going for funding. They lead you to believe that they are really hurting for money and don't have enough fundng to provide an adequate education. No matter how much funding is available, haven't you ever noticed that there never seems to be enough? The idea that school systems don't have enough money is a total myth. Governmental entities as a whole all lead you to believe this. Go get a copy of your school system's budget. It's public information. It will surprise you I'm sure. There's at least one study that showed that school systems spend all they can get. It was published in the School Reform News September 1, 2007.
School children are being indoctrinated with this belief. A twelve year old daughter of a family in our neighborhood came to the door selling to raise funds for her school. We said something about her having to go selling things to raise funds for the school. She replied,"Our school is poor." Just like that. It's unfathomable that this particular school has stooped to this level. Another story: a co-worker told me this week about what he referred to as a scam by the elementary school two of his children attend in a neighboring county. The school announced that it was going to have an "art day" and got the students excited about it. My co-worker thought it was great too and the children would really enjoy it. The students were to spend all day creating artwork. Then, the school said the students' work would be framed, and the best works hung in the school permanently. It turned out none of their work was hung. Anyway, my co-worker was thinking this was an awesome thing to do for the children. Then came part three of the scam: parents could purchase their child's work for $25.00 each. No explanation of where these proceeds were to go, just if the parents didn't "claim" their child's artwork, it would be disposed of. Unbelievable, and my co-worker was very angry about it. He also has a problem with the door-to-door selling to benefit the school. He put it very well when he said that his children were not laborers for the school. I totally agree.
Back to the quality of education problem. In an article written for Hunan Events by Representative Scott Garrett, R-New Jersey, Returning Education to the Basics by Leaving No Child Left Behind, the problems with the No Child Left Behind initiative are outlined. I appreciated the spirit of this initiative, but as Rep. Garrett stated, it "entirely missed the mark. It centralized accountability in Washington with the bureaucrats and appointees at the U.S. Department of Education, completely bypassing the legislators in 50 state capitals, countless township school boards and local elected officials, and -- most importantly -- administrators, educators, and parents allacross the nation. Instead of encouraging teachers to be creative in engaging their students in the classroom, NCLB’s testing requirements have forced teachers to “teach to the test.” Many states have actually lowered their standards in order to maintain their federal funding. NCLB hasn’t encouraged creativity or competition. Instead, it set standards to a lowest common denominator and established a race to the bottom."
"Here’s just one example: A school in my district that is consistently cited in publications as one of the top performing schools in the State of New Jersey was actually placed on the Department of Education’s highly publicized “early warning list.” But, this is not an underperforming school. In fact, every year, nearly 100% of the students graduate and go on to attend college and the school’s average combined SAT score hovers at 1100. This is a school bursting at the seams with motivated teachers, students, and parents. But, it was put on the warninglist because one student did not meet NCLB’s requirement for what they deemed was 'adequate performance.' This is not an isolated example."
"It’s important to note that all 50 states have taken some form of action, whether it is legislative or legal, against No Child Left Behind. You can view this link to see what specific action your state has taken. It’s clear that states are speaking in unison that they don’t believe NCLB is meeting the needs of their children. But despite the state action taken, NCLB does not allow states to opt out of these federal education mandates unless they are willing to give up the federal education funding that goes with it. I want to give states the ability to opt out without loss of their taxpayers’ federal funding." This is the type of extortion to which Washington has always resorted to force issues on the states."
Dr. Walter E. Williams, who is a professor of Economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, wrote an article entitled What's Wrong with Education? Click on the link to the article. It's very revealing. I'll hit only a couple of high points here. The first will be a direct quote:
"Here are some test questions. Question 1: Which of the following is equal to a quarter of a million? (a)40,000 (b) 250,000 (c)2,500,000 (d)1/4,000,000 or (e)4/1,000,000? Question 2: Martin Luther King, Jr. [insert the correct choice] for the poor of all races. (a) spoke out passionately (b) spoke out passionate (c) did spoke out passionately (d) has spoke out passionately or (e) had spoken out passionate. Question 3: What would you do if your student sprained an ankle? (a) Put a Band-Aid on it, (b) Ice it, (c) Rinse it with water."
"Having reviewed the questions, guess which school grade gets these kind of test questions: sixth grade, ninth grade, or twelfth grade. I'm betting that the average reader guesses: sixth grade. You'd be wrong. How about ninth grade? You'd still be wrong. You say, "Okay, Williams, I can't believe they're twelfth grade test questions!" Wrong again. According to a School Reform News (9/01) article "Who Tells Teachers They Can Teach?", those test questions came from tests for prospective teachers. The first two questions are samples from Praxis I test for teachers and the third is from the 1999 teacher certification test in Illinois. And guess what. Thirty-one percent of New York City public school teachers fail teacher certification tests. According to the Chicago Sun-Times (9/6/01) 5,243 Illinois teachers failed their teacher certification tests. " UNBELIEVABLE!!! I'll move on.
"The Chicago Sun-Times a<SPANCLASS=CORRECTION id="">lso reported that, "One teacher failed 24 of 25 teacher tests - including 11 of 12 Basic Skills tests and all 12 tests on teaching learning-disabled children. Yet, that teacher was assigned to teach learning-disabled children in Chicago. That's classic the blind leading the blind."
"Most of these inept teachers are graduates of the nation's schools of education. Unfortunately, for the most part, schools of education, either graduate or undergraduate, are home to students who have the lowest academic achievement test scores when they enter college and they score the lowest among college graduates taking tests, such as GRE, MCAT, or LSAT, to enter professional schools. If we're really serious about improving public education, we'd shut down schools of education. There is absolutely no relationship between teacher quality and having graduated from a teacher's college and being teacher certified. There may even be a negative relationship as suggested by the fact that students who are home-schooled by parents who've had no teacher training have achievement scores higher than 85 percent of all other students."
"Another serious education problem isthe fact that many teachers have little or no training in the subjects they teach. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 36 percent of public school teachers -- 972,000 teachers out of 2.7 million nationwide - didn't major or minor in the core subjects they teach. In other words, there are teachers teaching math and science who might not have taken a single class in those subjects."
This is very alarming and is an indication that if you must have your child in a public school, you as a parent have to stay very actively involved in his/her education. You as a parent must continually hold school officials accountable. This situation also makes one wonder about the state of tomorrow's workforce. Just think about the areas of engineering, technology, and medical practice that we all depend on every day. There needs to be a turnaround, and quick.
By the way, it was a home-schooled boy that won the National Spelling Bee this year, and will be taking calculus at the University of California at Berkeley this fall. He's thirteen years old.