My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


More Education Observations

Linda Seebach is an editorial writer for the Rocky Mountain News, and, as such, is one of the sharpest voices in this region on issues educational. She tends to come at it from the center--that is, she seems to be sympathetic to public education, but is far from being an apologist for teachers' unions or for a failing establishment.

And on Saturday she did her usual good work tearing apart the latest "gloom-and-doom" report on the state of education:

I just hate it when some think tank whose work I very much admire - that would be the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, which is devoted to improving education - embarks on a silly exercise of a kind I very much dislike - that would be ranking the states according to some ad hoc grading scheme that assigns grades to each of a bunch of disparate indicators, computes the average and presents the results as if they mean something.

Which, of course, is something that could be said about most such exercises, especially the ones that try to compare American education to foreign counterparts.

There are three main categories, one for current performance, one for trends over the last 15 years, and one catch-all category of education reforms. . . .

The press release notes that only eight states have made even moderate progress over the last 15 years in improving academic performance for these poor and minority students, and that five of those states are among the top 10 according to the grades Fordham awarded for education reform. Hardly enough data points to show "that solid standards, tough accountability, and greater school choice can yield better classroom results."

At most, it's a weak correlation.

Which, also, can probably said for most such studies.

Look, I think it's difficult to make the case that the American education system is perfect: just look at the enrollment in remedial classes at the University level and you'll understand that we seem to be underserving our clientele.

On the other hand, I think we're expecting too much from the schools. At this point in our society, we are asking the public schools to, in effect, take a bushel of bruised apples, some moldy strawberries, a batch of blueberries, a handful of crabapples, some nice oranges, a couple really outstanding grapefruits, and all the critters that come with fresh fruit, and turn the whole collection into, at minimum, a roughly homogenous, decent group of bananas.

At some point, we're going to recognize that not every kid is cut out for college; that not every job actually requires a college education; that some of the most important people in society are the ones who can keep our computers running (which wouldn't take a college degree); and that there ACTUALLY ARE differences in both the potential and the ability to achieve that potential among children in our society--AND THAT'S OKAY. It might just be better for everybody if we spent a little more time teaching job skills and preparing some students for the workforce.

But that's just me. . . .

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