published Monday, January 16th, 2012

Good education news, but ...

It's heady news, indeed, when both Tennessee and Georgia improve their national ranking of overall education quality. It's hardly surprising, then, that a report that puts Georgia in seventh place and Tennessee in 21st place among the states in the 2012 Quality Counts report from the Education Research Center was hailed in many circles in each of the states. The celebrations, though, might be a bit premature.

The Quality Counts report, issued Thursday, is only one measure of educational and excellence, and it is a narrow one at that. There are other, more broad-based measures of how a state's schools and students are faring. In those, the two states -- Tennessee, in particular -- continue to lag behind their peers. Educators, the public and parents should consider a broader picture than the one offered by the research center in formulating their own assessment of their state's schools.

The Education Research report is based on an examination of state policies and programs, as well as student performance, to produce what it calls a comprehensive assessment of public schools. The goal is to not only rank state systems in six areas of education policy, but to "track policies that experts believe will lead to future improvement." In other words, the emphasis is on the future -- what schools will do if policies currently in place are followed -- rather than the present.

There's a problem with that formula. Sure, sound policy that provides a foundation for future growth is valuable. Educational improvement does accrue over time. The trouble, though, is that sound policy alone is no guarantee of future performance. There are too many variables. Policy and programming means nothing, for example, if funding to support them is inconsistent. Tennessee certainly has a mixed record when it comes to providing those funds.

A better measure of how a state's schools and students rank nationally is available from various test scores. By that benchmark, Tennessee does far more poorly that the Quality Counts Report indicates. Georgia doesn't do as badly, but it, too, is below the rank assigned to it by the report.

Tennessee, for example, scored in the bottom 10 of the 50 states in each of the four tested areas in the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Georgia placed between 29th and 43rd in the tested areas. Tennessee is one of a handful of states that require all students to take the standardized ACT, but in 2011, the state's students ranked second to last on the test. Those results strongly suggest that the states have considerable room for improvement -- regardless of policies and programs that suggest a more promising future.

The true measure of a state's public education system remains how well its students do after they matriculate. By that measure, Tennessee's students do poorly. About 21 percent of Tennessee adults hold a college degree, far below the national average. Georgia students do marginally better.

A state school system that truly ranks highly among its peers would do a better job of preparing students for higher education and entree into the highly competitive job market a two- or four-year degree provides. The high rankings assigned to Tennessee and Georgia are welcome, but they do not tell the whole story. Both states still must prove that the bright futures cited by the report can come to fruition. That's easier said than done.

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rolando said...

Summary? Give us more money.

Bottom line? Public schools suck. Period. Those with private school or home-schooled educations are much, much better equipped to compete in today's marketplace.

Forecast? Financing public education is pouring sand down a rat hole.

The highest per-student moneypits in the country -- NY City, Washington, DC, and most inner-cities -- have the poorest graduation/test score rates. Even The Obama [and essentially all Legislators] recognize that and send their kids elsewhere.

Answer: Money is not the problem. Start looking elsewhere.

January 16, 2012 at 5:17 a.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

Rolando, honey, have you ever actually researched the claims you make in regards to education?

Here's a pretty interesting article on the supposed superiority of private schools. It does point out that students in private schools do perform better on the SAT, but it's because public school teachers are forced (largely by Republican and conservative lawmakers, but with some Democrat support as well) to focus on testing data than developing our students' critical thinking skills. The real bottom line: those in charge of setting education policy (lawmakers) are basing success on a low-level measure of thinking (rote memorization of facts), demanding that schools produce good scores based on those skills, while the long-term success of our students depends on the higher-level skills which are largely ignored because they are much harder to measure on a cheap and simple test.

As for the money, you are looking at a simplistic measure and drawing broad conclusions. All the dollars per student figure tells you is the total revenue divided by the total student population. What matters is how that money is spent. Is the money spent to reduce class sizes? Is it being spent providing additional academic and counseling services for students with such needs? Is it being spent providing work-based learning for students who have special needs? Is it being used to provide vocational training for students who have neither the desire nor the academic ability for a college education? Is it being spent properly maintaining a safe and secure school building? Is it being spent providing meaningful professional development for teachers and support staff? Is it being spent providing useful technology? Or is the money being spent on overpriced administrators? Is it being spent on test after test after test "to measure student gains and predict future growth" while allowing little time for actual teaching? Is it being spent providing bonuses, incentives, retreats, travel allowances, cell phones, and all sorts of goodies for central office personnel? How much money per student doesn't mean a thing unless you look to see how much is being spent on the students themselves.

The real bottom line: Stop forcing Tennessee teachers to focus on rote memorization of facts (which produce good TCAP scores) and allow us to teach the skills our kids need. And while you're at it, make sure the resources we have are used to benefit our kids rather than administrators. Only then will we get the results we want.

Better luck next time, rolando.

January 16, 2012 at 10:17 a.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

Oops, that should read: "The real answer" Stop forcing...."

January 16, 2012 at 10:54 a.m.

Neither New York or DC schools are relevant here. They have a lot of issues, true. But their problems do not necessarily relate to those in Tennessee.

Would saying those schools are the worst-run in the country (though they aren't!) mean that schools here were any better run? No.

But you're right, politicians do send their children to private schools. We should change that. Congress has exclusive legislation over the District, and we should make them have to eat their own dog food.

But they won't. Because they don't have to think about the people living there. More's the pity. Often enough they don't even have to think about their local schools.

Many people might blame this on the Federal Department of Education, but the fact is, the federal government does almost nothing, the real power is in your local school administration.

I'd suggest looking at the education systems in other countries. What do they do differently? Well, besides the longer school year, they tend to have more authority in the center. Perhaps that model might be worth considering.

January 16, 2012 at 1:40 p.m.
rolando said...

...public school teachers are forced...to focus on testing data [rather] than developing our students' critical thinking skills. -- Emphasis mine.

Yeah, right, sweetie. Whatever.

The "rote memorization of facts" theory of teaching held our country in good stead for over 200 years. It made us the leading power in the world. Than along came the Dept of Education and its Marxist/Socialist power grab over the states. They tied funding to obedience to federal mandates.

So the equivalent to today's teaching of basket-weaving to our students has given them skills they need to survive? Baloney. Forced "diversity' training and/or mandatory homo/lezbo/transy

What matters is how that money is spent.

Fully agree.

Just pointing out that the amount of money spent has no relationship whatsoever with quality of education. Yet all Marxists/Liberals scream for is what Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey sang about [see YouTube] -- Money, Money, Money.

Here is an interesting two-part article by Dr Mike Williams [read his full bio for his bona fides] on that very subject...focusing on the Marxist/Liberal impact on public education. Hint: The teachers/professors are not "forced" to teach anything...but they do need to be muzzled by the courts on occasion.
http://townhall.com/columnists/mikeadams/2012/01/16/postmodern_political_correctness_and_christianity [Don't let the title put you off...]

You haven't proven/rebutted anything, Amanda.

January 18, 2012 at 5:50 p.m.
rolando said...

The issue certainly applies here, happy, different particulars or no. Both those cities were cited as examples and not to be considered all-inclusive. Tennessee claims the answer is money. So do they. It isn't. As Amanda said, it is how the money is used. They all pay outlandish sums to their administrators.

We don't have to look at foreign schools; as you said, our circumstances are too different for that...at least until The Obama finishes Euro-izing us...by which time it won't matter.

For starters, drastically limit the union's power. They have zero business involved in the teaching of our kids -- all they know is how to destroy everything they touch. Want just a few examples of many? Steel, Auto, Machinists, Longshore, Rail, Aircraft, literally everything.

January 18, 2012 at 6:02 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

Oh, Rolando..

The "rote memorization of facts" theory of teaching held our country in good stead for over 200 years.

Rote memorization of basic facts made this country an economic superpower? Considering for most of that 200 years, the vast majority of people received little more than what would now be an elementary school education with only basic reading and writing skills, your argument doesn't exactly hold water. A number of factors contributed to America's success - chief among them the cheap purchase (and theft) of large amounts of usable land with some very valuable resources, a few hundred years of slave labor, and the Industrial Revolution.

So the equivalent to today's teaching of basket-weaving to our students has given them skills they need to survive?

Would you give an example of this "basket-weaving" equivalent? What skills do you think are so useless? Which ones are so beneficial?

Rote memory is good for some things, such as multiplication tables, but it is a very basic learning and thinking process. It's a great start, but rote memory alone is not enough if we are going to properly prepare our students for the jobs that are available now and in the future. After all, it's great to memorize when a specific event in history happened, but it's a far more important life-long skill to be able to understand its significance, debate the roles and response of the people involved, and develop logical and fact-based opinions. Those are the skills that make one a life-long learner, a more productive worker, and a better citizen.

Forced "diversity' training and/or mandatory homo/lezbo/transy

Please, please tell me where this is happening. You and several others have posted quite a few times about this so-called training that is supposedly occurring all over the place. What school is doing this?

Just pointing out that the amount of money spent has no relationship whatsoever with quality of education.

That is simply untrue. When spent properly, more money buys smaller classes, more interventions for struggling students, more technology and practical resources, and a lot of other things that better prepare students for the future. If you don't believe me, just ask the folks at Baylor, McCallie, and GPS.

Here is an interesting two-part article by Dr Mike Williams

That's an opinion piece, nothing more. He provides no research or evidence to support his claims or conclusions.

Don't let the title put you off..

Why would it?

The teachers/professors are not "forced" to teach anything...but they do need to be muzzled by the courts on occasion.

As long as a large percentage of our job performance is tied to how well my students can spit back low-level facts on a multiple choice test taken on one day of the 180 we teach them, we most certainly are required to focus the vast majority of our limited time and resources on those low-level skills.

January 18, 2012 at 7:17 p.m.
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