Richard Phelps is a long-time correspondent of mine and a real testing expert with a ton of experience. His new article for the Pioneer Institute does a great job of outlining the extreme bias in the way the Common Core story has been covered by the national media, and is well worth a read.
(Updated April 28, 2016)
New 12th grade results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress for reading and math have just been released, and there isn’t any cheering going on. The cover web page summarizes the results this way:
“In comparison to 2013, the national average mathematics score in 2015 for twelfth-grade students was lower and the average reading score was not significantly different.
In comparison to the first year of the current trendline, 2005, the average mathematics score in 2015 did not significantly differ. In comparison to the initial reading assessment year, 1992, the 2015 average reading score was lower.”
There is a lot to look at here, and you can click the “Read more” link to get started.
I blogged twice last week (here and here) about a National Public Radio report that said Louisville’s schools were behind on funding as of 2013. That certainly doesn’t jibe with 2012-13 school funding data from the Kentucky Department of Education or the US Census Bureau, either.
But, NPR is at it again, this time with a report that “Kentucky’s Unprecedented Success In School Funding Is On The Line.”
In this new article, NPR interviews educators from Kentucky’s Wolfe County School District, where the superintendent bemoans, “I feel like our children are being betrayed” regarding recent school funding levels.
Facts are that the latest Revenue and Expenditure Report for 2014-15 from the Kentucky Department of Education shows Wolfe County’s Total Revenue per Pupil was $14,465 in that school term, ranking 32nd best among the state’s 173 school districts.
Statewide, Per Pupil funding was $12,918 in the 2014-15 term.
Just one year prior, Wolf County reportedly got $12,465 per pupil.
So, Wolfe County’s total education dollars per pupil rose by a cool $2,000 in just one year, a 16 percent increase, which is way above inflation.
And, Wolfe County is still complaining about money???? And, NPR is swallowing this???
Common, NPR. How about telling the rest of the story, as the late Paul Harvey so nicely used to put it?
I wrote two days ago about a local National Public Radio affiliate’s article on public school finances that seems to portray the per pupil funding for Kentucky’s largest public school district, the Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) in a questionable way.
That first blog used enrollment and spending information from the US Census Bureau’s “Public Education Finances: 2013” document to rank JCPS spending against the Kentucky wide total and the US average. This document has the most “apples to apples” education funding comparisons I have found to date.
But, even my earlier blog seemed a bit apples and oranges to me, so I have now pulled more data from “Public Education Finances: 2013” to assemble the table below, which ranks the per pupil total expenditures in JCPS against the other 49 largest school systems in the US (by enrollment, JCPS is the 27th largest school system in the US).
As you can see, JCPS ranks very high in 14th place.
I still have not found the cost of living data that NPR supposedly applied to the spending figures, but I am pretty sure that Jefferson County’s cost of living is not likely to be way out of line with the other large school systems listed.
Certainly, compared to other large districts in the US, Jefferson County’s funding looks pretty good.
I am dismayed.
The works of William Shakespeare have endured – until now – as some of the most important in the English language. His impacts are seen everywhere.
I can immediately recall, for example, the “unkindest cut” line appearing in a scene from the movie “Seabiscuit.” Shakespeare’s “We band of brothers” has been referenced many times in movies and books across the years, as well. I am sure our readers can cite many more examples of how Shakespeare impacted many areas of society stretching far beyond the movie arts. His humor and human insights are legendary.
Thus, news in a new report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni comes as a major disappointment.
The new report says that the majority of the top universities in the US no longer require a course in Shakespeare for their English majors.
Per the new report:
“Today, a mere 4 of these 52 colleges and universities require English majors to take a course focused on Shakespeare. Those institutions are: Harvard, University of California-Berkeley, U.S. Naval Academy, and Wellesley College.”
Schools like Princeton University, Yale University, Columbia University and Stanford University, to name only a few, apparently no longer think The Bard has much value for an English major!
This is going to further increase the cultural ignorance of future generations of college students. The impact on our K to 12 students already began, of course, with the introduction of the Common Core State Standards and its major de-emphasis of reading literature. I guess that just reflects the fact that soon very few college graduates, even from Ivy League schools, will be able to teach Shakespeare, anyway.
What kinds of people are making these decisions?
Why I am uncomfortable with trying to tie specific improvements in school quality to increases in Kentucky’s economy
At the outset, I want to make it clear that I think boosting the level of education in Kentucky can reap good economic benefits for the state.
For one example, folks in Northern Kentucky tell that robotics-based manufacturers in this part of the state can’t find enough qualified workers. The situation is so serious that those manufacturers are now asking Northern Kentucky business recruiters not to attract more robotics-based companies to the region. The qualified labor pool is already stretched too thin. Jobs already are there. Workers with the education needed to perform those jobs are not.
To be sure, this is a subjective example, and I can’t add any dollar impact estimates.
Sadly, it a real challenge to find specific data that can be credibly used to tie actual, dollar amounts of economic improvements to specific amounts of better education. The Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics was recently created to develop such data based pictures, but KCEWS, as we call it, is still rather new. It has issued a few reports about the impacts of college education and economic outcomes, but platforms that fully blend data from the K to 12 education system with postsecondary education data and resulting workforce impacts is still in the future.
Given the limitations of currently available data, I am uncomfortable about trying to estimate specific dollar amounts of economic improvement related to specific amounts of educational improvement. However, limitations in the data are not stopping others from trying to connect specific dollar estimates for economic improvement to educational improvements.
The newest case in point, Education Next, an education-oriented journal published at Harvard University, released an article in its summer 2016 edition titled “It Pays to Improve School Quality” (hereafter “It Pays”).
It Pays bravely explores new territory, trying to estimate the current levels of adult work force education in each state and then using that to project how further improving education levels could boost each state’s economy. It’s a worthwhile pursuit, but I am uncomfortable with the approaches the report uses to work around the obvious limitations in currently available data. For sure, It Pays’ estimate of the current educational level in Kentucky’s workforce looks very wrong, and that might point to more credibility issues for the report’s other findings.
Furthermore, while It Pays’ authors’ intention is to boost education and productivity – certainly a laudable goal – inaccurately portraying Kentucky’s current adult education level as remarkably high might do more harm than good to the process of trying to really improve the Bluegrass State’s school system.