Sunday, September 13, 2015

Lessons for Taxpayers from Record Low SAT Scores

Nearly 1.7 million high school students took the SAT college aptitude exam this year—a record high. But the good news appears to stop there. According to Bloomberg Business:

Students in the high school class of 2015 turned in the lowest critical reading score on the SAT college entrance exam in more than 40 years, with all three sections declining from the previous year [math, writing, and science].

The SAT reports on the percentages of students earning College Readiness Benchmark scores, indicators suggesting a strong likelihood that they will pass college-level courses in core subjects. The results indicate alarming numbers of students are not prepared.

Less than two-thirds of American college-bound high school students earned benchmark scores in English (64 percent), dropping to below half in reading (46 percent), math (42 percent), and science (38 percent). Less than one-third of college-bound students (28 percent) earned benchmark scores in all four core subjects.

Some might be tempted to blame such low scores on the growing number of English learner students taking the SAT. This is a mistake because frankly, a significant majority of native speakers aren’t performing well in core subjects either. According to the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, just 36 percent of eighth grade public school students are proficient or better in English and math, dropping to 33 percent in science and 27 percent in writing. (Eighth grade is the latest level for which scores across subjects and student groups are available.)

Obviously, student learning doesn’t seem to improve once they enter high school—even though average per-pupil spending now exceeds $13,000.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Over a corresponding 50 year period, presidents and DC politicians have all promised a federal “fix” to poor educational performance, staring with LBJ’s Great Society programs.

Major programs of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, dubbed No Child Left Behind by President George W. Bush, have not worked after decades of tinkering. Case in point:

– By 1984, illiteracy will be eliminated. That didn’t work.

– By 2000, high school graduation rates would reach 90 percent. Nope.

– Also by 2000, American students were supposed to be global leaders in math and science. That didn’t work, either.

– By 2014 all students will be proficient in reading and math. Nope again.

Rather than learning from history, we’re allowing Congress to reauthorize the NCLB/ESEA rather than simply ending it and returning funds to taxpayers. Even worse, most states recklessly signed on to Common Core long before the standards were even finalized.

And as far as I can recall, not one Common Core advocate has ever explained why this time we should expect different–much less better–results from continued federal “leadership” in education.

What we should be doing is putting parents in charge of their children’s education dollars by enacting education savings accounts, or ESAs. So far five states have done so: Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Nevada. Under such programs parents use funds the state would have sent to public schools for their preferred education providers instead, including private, online, or home schools, as well as tutoring and other services. And, leftover funds can be used for future expenses such as college.

Parents’ chosen providers have to get real results or risk losing students to other providers that will. Competition for students and funding works. Heavy-handed “accountability” mandates and more empty promises from government don’t.

Until we put the real experts back in charge of education, namely children’s parents, we can expect more over-promising and under-delivering from politicians in our states and Washington, DC, and worst of all, more under-performance from students who haven’t mastered basic subjects.


Settlement in Suit on Dogs in College Housing

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday that it has reached an agreement with the University of Nebraska at Kearney that will assure the right of students with psychological difficulties to have support dogs in campus housing. The department sued the university over the issue in 2011.

The settlement requires the university to change some policies and to pay $140,000 to two students whose requests for support dogs were denied. “This is an important settlement for students with disabilities not only at UNK but throughout the country,” said a statement from the principal deputy assistant attorney general, Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “Assistance animals such as emotional support dogs can provide critical support and therapeutic benefits for persons with psychological disabilities."

The university has denied any legal wrongdoing in the case, and has maintained that it was only this suit (and a judge's earlier ruling on it) that clearly said that the Fair Housing Act applies to housing run by colleges and universities. The university also said that the settlement preserves the right of a college to inquire about the need for having a support animal.


San Francisco School Makes All Bathrooms Gender Neutral

There’s nothing wrong with single-stall, gender-neutral bathrooms, per se, but the problems come when schools declare all their facilities “gender neutral” spaces in the name of transgender rights. Miraloma Elementary in San Francisco stripped the gender segregation from its bathrooms that service its students in Kindergarten and first grade.

The school’s principal, Sam Bass, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the school of about 300 youngsters made the change to accommodate six to eight students who, in the words of the report, “don’t fit traditional gender norms.”

Instead of respecting the privacy of all students, the school’s administration is imposing an ideology on a group of students at a stage where some of them are still struggling to stay potty trained. As Hot Air’s Jazz Shaw notes, there is a difference between what transgender activists want and what is considered discrimination. “If a school told a gender confused student that they needed to go do their business in an outhouse they dug behind the school, that would be discrimination.

If they are offered a bathroom (even a separate "gender neutral” one) which has commodes and sinks and showers and the same facilities as everyone else, then they are already bending over backwards to accommodate you. Let’s just knock it off. This is organized insanity.“


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