- Shocking statistics, such as 40% of Baltimore high schools having not a single proficient math student and a continuous decline in ACT performance, reveal the crisis in American education
- What's even more concerning is the trend in certain states, like Oregon, where they are eliminating high school graduation testing requirements, potentially leading to serious consequences
- Neglecting measurement and accountability in education harms students' development and readiness for college or careers
- Standardized testing, which evaluates fundamental skills in subjects like English and math, plays a vital role in determining whether students are well-prepared for success in higher education and the workforce
According to Fox News in Baltimore, in 40% of Baltimore City high schools (thirteen campuses), not one student showed proficiency in math. Not one. We noted in May that New York City students place in the bottom 42% of the global student population taking the SAT. The ACT reported last month that for the sixth year in a row, the performance of high school students fell, this time to the lowest level since 1991. 43% of test takers did not meet any college readiness benchmarks.
Last week, the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district in North Texas won a ballot initiative 59%-41%. Voters approved the district's request to float municipal bonds to the tune of $973 million for rebuilding two high schools and improving a few more middle schools. The referendum line warned in caps, "WILL INCREASE PROPERTY TAXES." But it passed overwhelmingly.
The district already collects a hefty slice of property taxes, increasing as home valuations increase by 10% yearly. And for each student that attends school, the State of Texas sends upwards of $6,160 annually to the district. But these amounts are for operational expenditures such as staff and teacher salaries and pensions.
The district wanted money to rebuild infrastructure, and voters approved it resoundingly (even many voters who do not have school-going children at home). For a district that educates just 26,000 students in Kindergarten through the 12th grade, a $1 billion infrastructure spending proposal is massive. But Americans love to invest in the public education system at the cost of paying much higher taxes to ensure that it trains our children to be ready for a career or college after high school graduation. Career and College Readiness is the buzzword goal of every level of government - local, state, and federal.
Yet, despite trillions of dollars spent on K-12 education nationwide, America's children are failing miserably. We don't even know how badly they are failing because woke districts and state governments are passing laws that don't want us to know. Testing to see if children are learning is now verboten because of fears that such testing may reveal how nasty the wound is.
The official reason is that testing is inherently discriminatory against minorities. So, students should be allowed to earn a high school diploma without demonstrating that they are competent enough to have one.
Last month, the State of Oregon cemented a policy through 2029 that it first floated as an experiment during the dark days of Covid in 2020. Accordingly, high school students do not need to prove they have mastered essential reading, writing, or math to graduate. Leaders at the Oregon Department of Education and members of the state school board said requiring all students to pass one of several standardized tests or create an in-depth assignment their teacher judged as meeting state standards was a harmful hurdle for historically marginalized students, a misuse of state tests and did not translate to meaningful improvements in students' post-high school success. This is nonsense.
Testing students on these "scholastic skills" has been a cornerstone of the American K-12 system. The tests do not determine whether a student has mastered science, a foreign language, history, civics, or geography. They just ascertain if a student can write foundational English using proper grammar. In math, they measure if a student has mastered introductory algebra and data analysis - such as translating a word problem into a linear equation or reading a graph and drawing conclusions. These skills are essential to success in college or a career after high school.
Historically, school districts have employed multiple ways to measure student proficiencies. The state agency conducts a state-wide test (like STAAR in Texas, Regents in New York). Students in the 11th grade take the PSAT, a test conducted by the College Board but mandated by school districts. The SAT/ACT, never mandatory, also determines English and Math proficiency, although the scores are not shared with the school district unless the district pays for the test.
The SB 744 law that Oregon passed eliminated these tests as a requirement for graduation through the 2027-28 school year. 3,000 miles to the east, according to the New York Times, the Regents exams may become optional to earn a high school diploma in New York. With thousands of colleges waiving the SAT/ACT as requirements, how will we know if our children will be competitive in their careers or college? That is the point. Our leaders don't want us to know.
Lord Kelvin, the 19th-century Scottish-Irish physicist, known for inventing the international system of absolute temperature, said that "when you cannot measure something in numbers, your knowledge is meager and unsatisfactory."
Our education leaders are preventing the measurement of our most important asset - the human capital of our youngsters - and are hastening to rush them through life, punting their unpreparedness for society to handle. But our education elite, including the teacher's unions, want citizens to trust them to do what they think is right and continue to throw even more money into the sinkhole. As we saw from the HEB ISD billion-dollar bond referendum, voters continue to fall for the trick.
It is a terrible way for the world's wealthiest nation to cope with competition from China and other countries. It is a national emergency of seismic proportions, but no national leader talks about it.
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