Seriously… is this good enough?
The latest round of tests administered to Wisconsin public school students show less than half of students in grades 3 through 8 scoring proficient or better in English/language arts and math, benchmarks that haven’t been surpassed in the previous two years either, according to results released Tuesday by the state Department of Public Instruction.
DPI officials also released scores from the ACT exam, required of all high school juniors and used in college admissions to test student readiness. In the fourth year of this mandate, the composite ACT score for 11th-graders was 19.7 out of a possible 36, down from 20.0 in the previous school year.
“By and large, we have some consistency arising,” DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy said. “There is not a lot of change.”
Maybe it is. Maybe the test scores reflect an accurate portrayal of the spectrum of intelligence innate in Wisconsin’s kids. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe our education system is failing too many of our kids.
If one accepts the latter supposition, then what are we going to do about it? And no, “spend more money” is not the answer. While that is an easy answer for politicians, the data shows that spending more money does not drive better results. So what else?
School Choice Wisconsin points out that Choice Kids are consistently scoring better.
Data released today by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) shows that again this year, students in the Parental Choice Programs are outperforming their peers. As with all test data, a one-year snapshot has limitations but the trend of higher scores for students on a voucher is great news for students and taxpayers.
“All three Parental Choice Programs, comprised predominately of low-income students, outscored their full-income counterparts across the entire state in public schools on the ACT,” Jim Bender said. “Combined with the Forward Exam, these results highlight superior outcomes at a fraction of the cost to taxpayers.”
And I would point out that most Choice School spend less per student than public schools. Granted, the data is skewed because it stands to reason that parents of Choice kids are generally more involved in their kids’ educations and parental involvement improves educational outcomes. But those parents were just as involved when their kids were forced to attend public schools. Perhaps more choice is part of the answer to allow parents to find the best learning environment for their kids.
What else? Pay teachers more? I’m all for that if they are delivering better outcomes. But why would we pay more money to the same people and expect different results? The only reason to raise teacher pay is to attract better teachers.
Better curriculum? Perhaps. We have certainly seen multiple experiments over the years, but the results still seem to stay stagnant.
More time in school? All year school and longer school hours would give kids more opportunity to learn. That would come at the price of less time for extracurricular activities, family time, work, etc. Are we willing to do it?
Or do we revert to the position that the results we are getting for the gobs we spend on education is “good enough?” Despite all of the bloviating from politicians and advocates, the lack of serious reform year after year leads me to believe that we have accepted these results as good enough – even if nobody wants to admit it.