So, the Nation's Report Card
for 2005 has just been released. So far, evaluations of the data seem to show the only negative thing is that reading and math proficiency have remained more or less flat during this administration. However, since the federal government really doesn't have that much power to influence the quality of education in the states since the overwhelming majority of funding is local, you can't really blame the administration for any specific failing. Education, despite what politicians say, is not that much of a national issue except in terms of raw funding and things like school lunch programs.
The most striking thing about the national report card is how it is just total bullshit. A study of educational achievement that identifies no real problems and no really significant differences state to state is on its face, totally worthless. If you look at the data, previous trends showing higher scores and better education in midwestern states are flattened out, and I belive this is actually purposeful. You see, it has to do with the beautiful political strategy of introducing pointless standardized tests to assess students' "proficiency" in various topics. They apply this pointless test, and find, well, nothing much.
Additionally, the politicians that employ these so-called measures of accountability are cynically exploiting schoolchildren to pad their accomplishments, as was seen in Virginia in the last decade. First you introduce a bullshit test that no one is prepared for. All the results are totally crappy, and the politician who introduced says, "Look at the state of our schools! The previous administration failed Our Children! Blah blah blah!" The next year teachers teach to the test (and/or they weaken the standards) and scores dramatically improve. The politician then says, "It's an education miracle! Look at what my administration did!" Meanwhile, by any meaningful metric of success nothing significant has changed, except the kids have gotten better at taking pointless standardized tests.
This is the source of the so-called "Texas Education Miracle" that Bush used in 2000 to represent himself as a champion of education. In fact, the Texas educational miracle was one of the greater frauds perpetuated against the American people by a state government. Bush's accountability scheme, rather than actually changing anything, focused on pointless measurement and threats of loss of funding rather than real improvement. The result? Texas schools hide their massive dropout rates rather than honestly addressing them. Bush claims a reduction in drop-outs from 40% to 1% in 4 years, but they couldn't hide the data for long. An independent study of graduation rates by the conservative Manhattan Institute found the real graduation rate in Texas is somewhere between 57-67%. Real success in education usually takes a decade to appear, and any claim to the contrary should be immediately suspect.
Check out this map of a real metric of educational success. The lesson? Try to educate your kids in the hard-core red states and there is a high probability they will never graduate.
Data compiled from
Greene, J.P., High School Graduation Rates in the United States, November 2001
(Revised April 2002), The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.
Also see:Michael Dobbs, Education Miracle Has a Math Problem:Bush Critics Cite Disputed Houston Data, The Washington Post, November 8, 2003.
And Dan Rather, The ‘Texas Miracle’, 60 Minutes II, August 25th, 2004.