Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dumbing-Down of America

Fifty years ago this October, Americans were jolted by the news that Moscow, one year after drowning the Hungarian Revolution in blood, had put an 80-pound satellite into Earth orbit. In December, the U.S. Navy tried to replicate the feat. Vanguard got four feet off the ground and exploded, incinerating its three-pound payload. America was humiliated. Khrushchev was Man of the Year. Some of us yet recall the Vanguard newsreels and the humiliating laughter.

Stunned, America went to work to improve education in math and science, and succeeded. The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores of high school seniors began to rise, reaching a high in 1964. However, test scores for high school students have been falling now for 40 years. In 1984, the Reagan administration issued "A Nation at Risk," documenting the deterioration of American public education.

More trillions of dollars were thrown at the problem. And if one judged by the asserted toughening up of courses and rising grades of seniors, it appeared we had made marvelous progress. On March 4, The Washington Times reported: "In 2005, 17 percent of graduates had completed a 'standard' curriculum, 41 percent completed a 'midlevel' curriculum, and 10 percent completed a 'rigorous' curriculum. Fifteen years earlier, the percentages were 9 percent (standard), 26 percent (midlevel) and 5 percent (rigorous). Grade point averages (GPA) increased, as well. The average overall GPA increased from 2.68 in 1990 to 2.98 (virtually a B level) in 2005.

However, it is all a giant fraud, exposed as such by the performances of high school seniors on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exams known as the "nation's report card." An NAEP test of 12th-grade achievement was given to what The New York Times called a "representative sample of 21,000 high school seniors attending 900 public and private schools from January to March 2005." What did the tests reveal?

-- Since 1990, the share of students lacking even basic reading skills has risen by a third, from 20 percent to 27 percent.

-- Only 35 percent of high school seniors have reached a "proficient" level in reading, down from 40 percent.

-- Only 16 percent of black and 20 percent of Hispanic students had reached a proficient level in reading.

-- Among high school seniors, only 29 percent of whites, 10 percent of Hispanic students and 6 percent of black students were proficient in math.

This is only the half of it. Among the kids whose test scores on reading and math were not factored in were the 25 percent of white students and 50 percent of black and Hispanic kids who had dropped out by senior year. Factor the dropouts back in, and what the NAEP test suggests is that, of black kids starting in first grade, about one in eight will be able to read at the level of a high school senior after 12 years, and one in 33 will be able to do the math. Among Hispanic kids, one in 10 will be able to read at a high-school senior level, but only one in 20 will be able to do high-school math.

Yet, as columnist Steve Sailor writes on, the Bush-Kennedy No Child Left Behind Act mandates "that all children should reach a proficient level of academic achievement by 2014." We're not going to make it. We're not even going to come close.

Why are so many Americans ignorant of the depths of failure of so many schools? As Sailor explains, it is due to government deceit. "Not surprisingly, practically ever single state cheats in order to meet the law" mandating a rising academic proficiency. "For example, Mississippi ... recently declared that 89 percent of its fourth-graders were at least 'proficient' in reading. "Unfortunately, however, on the federal government's impartial National Assessment of Education Progress test, only 18 percent of Mississippi students were 'proficient' or 'advanced.'"

Hence, a huge slice of the U.S. educational establishment is complicit in a monstrous fraud that, if you did it in business, would get you several years at the nearby minimum security facility. This is corruption. Teachers are handing out grades kids do not deserve. States are dumbing-down tests to make themselves look good. Voters are being deceived about how much kids are learning. There is no real moral distinction between what teachers and educators are doing on a vast scale and what professional athletes do on a smaller scale when they take steroids to enhance performance.

As The Washington Times noted, according to the Digest of Education Statistics, spending for public education, in constant (inflation-adjusted) dollars, rose from $6,256 a year per student before "A Nation at Risk" to $10,464 in the 2002-2003 school year. Taxpayers have thus raised their annual contribution to education by a full two-thirds in real dollars in a quarter century. More than generous.

Under George W. Bush, U.S. Department of Education funding has risen 92 percent in six years, from $35.5 billion in 2001 to $68 billion in 2007. Sinking test scores are what we have to show for it. Taxpayers are being lied to and swindled by the education industry, which has failed them, failed America and flunked its assignment -- and should be expelled for cheating.


Why governments should run schools -- NOT

A cautionary tale from the Australian State of NSW

PRINCIPALS have resorted to conducting a survey of up to 300 public schools to uncover a 10-year backlog of maintenance problems that the NSW Education Department has been fighting to hide. Public schools have been forced to put up with 10 years of stinking, blocked toilets and threadbare carpets and four years of termite infestation and raised asphalt in playgrounds, the survey by the Public Schools Principals Forum has found.

The State Government is refusing to release a document which reveals how school maintenance programs were suspended at a time it was pouring $1.6 billion into the Olympic Games. In a document called the Asset Maintenance Plan, written in 1998, the Education Department estimated the cost of repairs needed in schools around the state and rated them in order of priority. But nine years later the department still insists it is secret and has refused repeated freedom-of-information requests to release it, and rejected the Herald's request last week.

When asked whether money had been diverted from school maintenance and capital works to the Olympics, the Minister for Education, Carmel Tebbutt, said it was a "popular theory". She admitted that repairs had been delayed to make way for other priorities within the state budget over the past 10 years. And she acknowledged that school maintenance was a problem with "a backlog we haven't managed to get on top of". "It has caught up, and we need to address it. That's why we have put in an extra $120 million over four years on top of our existing commitment," she said.

The department refused to release the Asset Maintenance Plan, 1998-2003, after The Sun-Herald lodged a freedom-of-information request for it in 1999. It claimed then, as it did last week after the Herald lodged another request, that the document was exempt because it had been prepared for submission to cabinet.

In 1999, Brian Chudleigh, then the chairman of the Public Schools Principals Forum, raised concerns about the poor physical state of public schools and questions about how much maintenance spending for schools had been put on hold to build Sydney's Olympic stadiums. Mr Chudleigh, who was principal of Robert Townson Primary School, said it was "the best-kept secret in town". "All principals were told back then was that there is no money for school repairs," he said. "We invested millions in the Olympics and perhaps that's why so much of the school infrastructure has been allowed to run down."

The president of the Secondary Principals Council, Jim McAlpine, said the public should know how much money earmarked for education had been spent on the Olympics.

Mr Chudleigh, once again the chairman of the Public Schools Principals Forum, which conducted the survey, said principals were insulted by the low priority the Government had given to basic repairs. Last week the Government pledged $158 million over four years on equipping each school with an interactive whiteboard. It will spend an extra $120 million over four years to tackle maintenance problems. "It is no good to put icing on the cake like whiteboards when we don't have the fundamentals in place," Mr Chudleigh said.

According to the survey of principals, Blaxland Primary School in the Blue Mountains has put up with leaking roofs since 2004 and Kempsey High School has been battling termites for close to four years. Newbridge Heights Primary School says its sewer has been blocked for up to 10 years. Muswellbrook Primary School has complained of leakinging demountables for seven years.

Mr Chudleigh said that at his own school a child had tripped over worn-out carpet and hit their head on a desk. Since the department subcontracted its maintenance about 10 years ago, carpets had become threadbare and painting infrequent. "Instead of replacing carpets, they began patching them with any colour they could get their hands on," he said. Ms Tebbutt said the extra maintenance funding brought the total for maintenance for 2006-07 to $214 million.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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