The
Murphy

Commission
An Arkansas Policy Foundation Initiative

A Position Paper Prepared by the Murphy
Commission Education Workgroup

 

 

Arkansas' Public Schools...
A Thirty Year $20 Billion Taxpayer Investment Yields
An Unprecedented Crisis in Academic Performance

 

• 87% of Arkansas' 8th graders are not proficient in math (NAEP).
• 87% of 11th graders failed the math section of the state's exit exam (ACTAP).
• 80% of Arkansas' 4th graders are not proficient in reading (NAEP)
• Arkansas' average ACT college entrance score (20.2) remains consistently below the national average (20.9).
• Arkansas' college remediation rate for entering students is 59.2%. 48% of these students entered college in the year after high school, the others are older students.

 

After three decades of rising education spending and dramatic personnel growth in the system, Arkansas' academic achievement is well below national averages and lags most of the world's industrialized countries. The current public school establishment is responsible for this performance and must be held accountable and urged to improve.

Arkansans are beginning to raise the central issue underlying effective education reform. Can channeling increasingly larger amounts of taxpayer dollars into the current model of public education ever restore sagging academic performance? An answer is found in the Report Card on American Education, issued by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC-a bipartisan group of 5,000 state legislators from across the nation chaired by Arkansan Bobby Hogue. ALEC's report card concluded its Executive Summary by stating:

...the lack of a correlation between education funding and academic achievement) suggests the system itself is not making effective use of the financial and staff resources funneled into it. Policy makers have suggested that this inherent inefficiency is due to the fact that the public education system in every state is a government monopoly. If the system is not opened up to competition soon, taxpayers will continue to channel increasingly scarce resources into an educational system that is incapable of using those resources effectively and is committing a great social disservice by not adequately educating our children.

The Murphy Commission Education Workgroup wholly agrees with the group chaired by Rep. Hogue and offers this paper in support of its position along with twelve recommendations addressing education improvements.

 

MURPHY COMMISSION EDUCATION TEAM

 

Co-Chairmen:
* Karen Henry
Jackson T. "Steve" Stephens, Jr.

 

Members:
Martha Adcock
Tim Brooker, Ph.D.
Senator John Brown
Kin Bush
Ronnie Cameron
Ann Die, Ph.D.
Jeanne Earl
Tom Easterly
Scott Ford
Ronn Hy, Ph.D.
Senator Peggy Jeffries
Bob Jolly
Marilyn Latin
Greg Nabholz

Kaye Ratchford

Lisenne Rockefeller
Senator Stanley Russ
Dub Snider
Sister Deborah Troillett
Gary Wekkin, Ph.D.
Harold "Wit" Witman

 

Governor's Liaisons:
Margaret Gammill
Chris Pyle

 

Murphy Commission Staff:
Donna Watson
Mike Watson
Chris Carnahan

 

* This study is dedicated to Karen L. Henry (10/23/51-9/16/98), 
Arkansas Policy Foundation board member, 
& Murphy Commission Education Team co-chair.
She was a passionate crusader for education reform.
Karen will be dearly missed.
Ill Center Street, Stephens Building, Suite 1610, Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
501-376-9967 FAX: 501-376-6556

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Preface  by Madison Murphy

 

1

 

Foreword  by Jack T. "Steve" Stephens Jr.

 

2

 

Summary of Key Points

 

7

 

Perceptions of an American Public Education Crisis               

9
           Observations from the Front

 

            • Learning-Free Zones  by Chester Finn   9
           • Challenging The Monopoly by Diane Ravitch 10
           • Public Schools Produce "Most Illiterate" Generation Ever 10
           • Public Schools: Change or Die? 11
           • The Key to Better Schools by Robert Lutz and Clark Durant 11
           • The Cost of Dumbness by Charles J. Sykes 12
           • Why America's Universities Are Better Than Its
             Public Schools 
by E.D. Hirsch
13
           • Education Spending Fails To Drive Education
             Performance 
by Dr. Julian R. Betts

 

14

 

Education Spending vs. Academic Performance: 

           The National Trends

 

16

 

          • A Brief History of U.S. Spending Growth 16
          • Congressional Civil Rights Report: No correlation Between
                Spending and Academic Achievement
18

          • Findings of The American Legislative Exchange Council
               
 (Rep. Bobby Hogue of Arkansas, Chairman)

 
20
Education Spending vs. Academic Performance:
   Arkansas Trends

 

32

 

Twelve Recommendations to improve Arkansas' sub-standard
   academic performance

 

41

 

Looking to the Long Term: Recommendations aimed at
  restructuring Arkansas' current model of education

 

56

 

Addendum A: Education Spending vs. Academic Performance:
   International Trends

 

59

 

Addendum B: A brief excerpt from Charles Sykes' landmark book,
   Dumbing Our Kids: Why America's Children Feel Good About
   Themselves But Can't Read, Write, or Spell.

 

62

 

The
Murphy

Commission
An Arkansas Policy Foundation Initiative

Preface

By Madison Murphy, Chairman

The members of the Murphy Commission's Education Team have undertaken to offer observations and specific recommendations rooted in a profound desire to bolster and improve the current public educational system and the academic performance of our states' children.

From the outset of its work, the Commission has continually recognized that the public school system employs a cadre of dedicated individuals who make a positive impact everyday and whose commitment to our children and dedication to excellence is unassailable. We also note that there are numerous encumbrances within the system that often can--and do---serve to thwart their best efforts to provide the degree of academic excellence everyone wishes to achieve in our schools.

t is acknowledged that vigorous efforts to improve schools have been undertaken in the past, many meeting with success and many ending in failure. Despite these past and continuing efforts, Arkansas clearly remains "a state at risk" educationally, much as our nation is still at risk. Few would disagree that we have much work to do if we are to achieve a degree of academic performance in our schools that reflects the hope we all share for the future of our children and the economic development of our state.

This paper draws from broad observations and generalities to arrive at twelve specific recommendations intended to enhance academic performance, all within the confines of our current educational system. There is a growing body of thought which holds that the "current system" is shielded from the very force that improves performance and sparks innovation in nearly every other human endeavor--competition. The Commission carefully condones this concept, recognizing our public schools, be they traditional or charter, must be given the ability to effectively compete on a level playing field.

The members of the Commission clearly understand that when a critical review, such as that embodied in this report, is proffered, some will raise the inevitable suggestion of efforts to dismantle or discredit our educational system. Nothing could be more wrong. Our common goal should be to examine our academic weaknesses, capitalize on our strengths, and fulfill a mission in our public schools to instill a sound knowledge of science, mathematics, history, geography, literature and languages, together with the basic skills of comprehension and expression in every student capable of such assimilation.

Foreword

by Jackson T. "Steve" Stephens, Jr.
Vice Chairman, Murphy Commission
Chairman, Education Workgroup


(Editor's note: This foreword parallels remarks Mr. Stephens delivered at the
1998 Arkansas Summit on Economics sponsored by the Governor's office)

This report deals with a difficult and often emotionally charged issue. It addresses public education's performance--at times in a style that may seem blunt. Therefore, I want everyone who reads it to understand why we have decided to be so direct. The primary reason, of course, should be obvious: the lives and futures of children are at stake whenever education is the issue. Could there be anything more important? Beyond that, however, the Commission's education team and many other Arkansans are struggling with two emotions when it comes to our public schools. One is frustration and the other is fear.

The frustration stems from a pattern over three decades in which Arkansans have provided substantial out-of-pocket funds for public education, but have seen little substantial improvement in a system that has remained, for the most part, academically depressed. In fact, a de-emphasis of academics has occurred all too often as social, cultural, and even political agendas have taken root in our classrooms. And the occasional academic gains that have occurred, have come at an excruciatingly slow pace and in all too rare minuscule dribbles. While dramatic improvement in many other states is occurring at an explosive rate now, Arkansas creeps along, hamstrung by an entrenched resistance to new ideas and proven programs that work. Clearly, all of these factors, taken together, constitute an intolerable situation that must change for the sake of children and the state's economic viability.

This paper reflects the frustrations and fears of many Arkansans, not just the Murphy Commission.   What we will continue to demand from public education in the future--what we will hold the system accountable for—can be expressed in four words: high student academic performance. In one word, results.

 

That our education system has been so slow to change and achieve the student performance gains Arkansans expect is frustrating beyond measure. It is also the cause of our growing fear ...an abiding worry that this documented and disturbing pattern of more money for under-performance in academics will continue with profoundly limiting consequences for our children. If more money continues to flow into our public schools--and yet the pace of academic improvement fails to make appreciable gains, it would turn what is already a crisis in our schools into a tragedy.

This paper reflects the frustrations and fears of many Arkansans, not just the Murphy Commission. What we will continue to demand from public education in the future--what we will hold the system accountable for--can be expressed in four words: high student academic performance. In one word, results.

During that same period--almost 30 years now--Arkansans watched as the political and school officials comprising this state's public education establishment systematically captured a system that was once locally and community driven and reshaped it into a massive state and federal bureaucracy infused with the pervasive influence of big labor. The National Education Association (NEA) today is among the world's largest labor unions and includes AFL-CIO representation on its various boards and committees. The AEA is its Arkansas arm.

When Arkansans ask who is responsible for the creation of their state's education system and for the academic performance of Arkansas' children---who is solely accountable--it is this formidable coalition of government and education unions. Together, they represent America's education monopoly. And it is, in fact, a monopoly; managed through a top-down federal/state partnership, and profoundly affected by labor with it's underlying political philosophy and its self-perpetuating agenda. And make no mistake---theirs is an agenda advanced primarily for purposes of dominating one of freedom's most vital needs--the education of our children.

When the 1983 presidential report, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Reform, was released (documenting the disturbing decline in American student achievement that began in 1967 and stagnated at all time lows 15 years later) it was these same controlling education interests who said "we know what to do ...give us the opportunity and we will restore America's sagging academic performance." Since then, this coalition of educators, elected leaders, labor officials, and their lobbyists have joined in lockstep every year subsequently and said give us more money and we promise...America's children, and by extension the sons and daughters of Arkansans, will excel academically.

Except, they have not excelled. The words of John Copperman, writing in A Nation at Risk: The Imperative For Educational Reform still apply:

For the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents.

The "imperative for reform" goes largely ignored and we are still a "nation at risk." And in Arkansas, a continuing pattern of substandard student academic performance along with the accepted statewide practice of social promotion (a form of educational malpractice) have combined to rob this state's children of the education they deserve and the results parents expect from a system they fund generously.

...our children's academic performance is so grossly imperiled, a crisis should be declared with resources and energy primarily directed to its resolution, and little else.

 

It must be noted, however, that the state's education leadership--political and academic-joined the national effort to improve sagging performance, embracing hundreds of costly federal programs to help Arkansas' students improve academically; so many programs a UALR study reported 86% of the state's Department of Education as federalized. They've also led the state to try every gimmicky and costly program from Goals 2000 to OBE, from Reading Recovery to Whole Language Learning. Few have worked well; more are on the way. Education spending will continue to rise.

For example, federally driven workforce development and school-to-work programs are currently being expanded in Arkansas' system. Sadly, these expensive programs—with their skills and workforce orientation--will have little genuine impact on academic achievement. In fact, they will further dilute an average school day wherein less than 45% remains devoted to core academics (according to the U.S. Dept. of Education.) As a result, Arkansans will likely see less academic emphasis rather than more. And, ironically, this comes at a time when our children's academic performance is so grossly imperiled, a crisis should be declared with resources and energy primarily directed to its resolution and little else. Energy and resources, however, have not been lacking in Arkansas' education system. Since 1970 Arkansas' educators and politicians have doubled the number of non-teaching personnel (administrators etc.), more than doubled the number of counselors, doubled the number of librarians, and since the mid-sixties ...almost doubled the number of teachers.

Moreover, the school establishment added 17 regional education co-ops staffed with hundreds of employees at a base cost to taxpayers of $15 million a year (they spend millions more). They structured these entities, all state funded, to exist outside the purview of state government. And in the last legislative session, the legislature additionally created yet another "independent" bureaucratic layer to oversee the co-ops--allocating another $10 million to fund it. This was done--at least in part--so a term-limited state legislator could have a high-paying job as its director. And finally, they created an entirely bureaucracy--in addition to the Department of Education--to handle workforce education and so-called school-to-work programs.

What is astounding is that all of this occurred during a three decade period when Arkansas' student enrollment and ADA has remained essentially static at around 450,000. And it occurred as the number of school districts fell from 387 to 311. And, most strikingly, it occurred as Arkansas' student academic performance remained unacceptably low and very slow to change.

In light of these trends, the question must be asked: After almost 30 years of more building, more spending, more promises, more people, more new programs, more bureaucracies, more standards, more frameworks, more school lobbies and associations, more curriculum changes, and more money--have Arkansan's witnessed the degree of marked improvement in academic performance our state should have realized? The answer, of course, is no.

Today, America lags so far behind other nations in academic performance that President Clinton recently told the Delaware legislature that "our nation must act quickly to save our children." And no where is the need to save them more acute than in Arkansas where the state trails not only other nations, but lags behind most states as well. By every currently accepted measure of academic achievement--from the congressionally mandated National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) to the American College Testing entrance exam (ACT)--Arkansas' students are doing poorly as scores in math, science and literacy remain substandard and college remediation rates remain at almost 60%. The cost of that remediation ($27 million this year) is additionally funded by Arkansas' taxpayers.

Perhaps most telling are the results of the norm-referenced 1997 SAT9 administered to 90,000 students in grades five, seven, and ten. Only 16% of all 311 Arkansas school districts exceeded the national average 50th percentile in all grades tested. Another 34% of the 311 districts failed to achieve the 50th percentile score in any grade tested and more than one in four districts (26%) failed to achieve the much lower state average for all grades tested. SAT scores have dropped during the last four years. Additionally, on the state's own 11th grade exit exam, 87% of Arkansas students failed the math section.

As these trends continue citizen unrest builds and each year more Arkansans are raising the central issue underlying effective education reform. Will channeling increasingly larger amounts of taxpayer dollars into the current model of public education ever restore sagging academic performance? An answer is found in the 1998 Report Card on American Education, issued by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)--a bi-partisan group of 5000 state legislators from across the nation chaired by Arkansan Bobby Hogue. ALEC's report-card concluded its Executive Summary by stating:

...the lack of a correlation (between education funding and academic achievement) suggests the system itself is not making effective use of the financial and staff resources funneled into it. Policy Makers have suggested that this inherent inefficiency is due to the fact that the public education system in every state is a government monopoly .. if the system is not opened up to competition soon, taxpayers will continue to channel increasingly scarce resources into an educational system that is incapable of using those resources effectively and is committing a great social disservice by not adequately educating our children.

The Murphy Commission agrees with Speaker Hogue's nationally respected organization (the ALEC report is reproduced in this paper). We must confront, with intellectual honesty and political courage--substantive, cost effective, reforms tied wholly to performance and guaranteed to get results. Or, in the alternative, we must not increase the state's education spending until irrefutable evidence of such reforms is clear and demonstrable. At this moment, there is little to suggest that meaningful changes needed in the system will happen soon.

We must confront, with intellectual honesty and political courage—substantive, cost-effective, reforms tied wholly to performance and guaranteed to get results. Or, in the alternative, we must not increase the state's education spending until irrefutable evidence of such reforms is clear and demonstrable.

Diane Ravitch, a senior fellow in education policy at the Manhattan Institute, has noted that the U.S. is the only nation in the world now where a majority (51%) of education workers are non-teachers. By contrast, three-fourths of all education staff in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands are teachers. This trend to excessive overhead and administration has held in Arkansas as well. Before flinging still more funds at a system prone to administrative excess and characterized by poor student performance there is a pressing need to:

a) determine where resources are being used inefficiently in the existing system and end it and

b) examine carefully and thoroughly where identified savings can be re-directed to direct instructional and classroom support and to better pay for teachers--but only if that pay is based on merit.

Still, even if these actions were to be effectively accomplished, most Commission members agree they will not be nearly enough to boost current student performance levels significantly. The problems in our schools are systemically entrenched and rooted in a culture of excessive bureaucracy and flawed academic ideology. Only by dramatically restructuring a different system model---by injecting competition into it through such innovations as charter schools and school choice--can Arkansans ever hope to restore academic performance to the level of excellence their children deserve.

As Arkansans work for a new model of education it will require their embracing several fundamental tenets of meaningful school reform:

1. Monopolies--especially government-run education monopolies--lack incentives to change. As a result services or products usually become substandard. When competition is non-existent, systems stagnate.

2. In education, academic performance is the overriding singular goal and that's where the bulk of the people's resources belong. In the classroom for the child. Allocated to direct instruction activity. Resourcing an exceptional teacher who is extraordinarily well-paid. Getting un-compromised results.

3. Standards must be rigorous and tied to basic core academics. Student academic performance should be regularly assessed and measured ...system-wide, by districts, and school by school. Academic performance--based on rigorous measurable standards--should be regularly reported, school by school, to parents and the public.

4. Parents must be empowered to choose their children's schools based on what they feel is best for the child. Innovations such as charter schools and vouchers must be given a chance in pilot programs and thoroughly evaluated. To categorically reject such concepts--whether through blind ideological fervor or rationalized political expediency--foolishly risks denying countless children and their parents a possible opportunity for a better education. Such rejections rule out potentially important options for parents in a critical time when an academic crisis demands all options remain open to consideration.

...substantive change requires an ability to "think out of the box" which currently defines public education's form and content. Some educators and political leaders simply cannot or will not engage in "thinking beyond the status quo." The problems in our schools are systemically entrenched and rooted in a culture of excessive bureaucracy and flawed academic ideology. Only by dramatically restructuring a different system model---by injecting competition into it through such innovations as charter schools and school choice--can Arkansans ever hope to restore academic performance to the level of excellence their children deserve.

5. Accountability is everything and should permeate every level ofthe education system--and it is the system that must take the blame for non-performance. Not society. Not cultural or ethnic factors. Not parents. Not socio-economic status. Not urban or rural factors. Only the system. Across the nation there are numerous examples of public schools--some of them public charter schools--that have wisely and cost-effectively adapted to deal with these external factors, achieving stunning academic success in spite of the tough challenges they represent. Using factors outside the education system as excuses for its failures is no longer valid or acceptable.

6. Reducing and/or redirecting education spending should never be a political taboo--even in an election year. The reason is clear. Failure to address it with honesty may do more harm to our children than not addressing it. If funds are being spent unwisely or inefficiently in our schools--and they are--it needs to be remedied for our children's sake.

One purpose of this Murphy Commission position paper is to refute the myth--perpetuated for too long now by political leaders and education officials--that a virtually automatic annual appropriation of more money for public schools is sound public policy. It is not--and readers who persevere through the data and information in this study will discover a host of prominent and respected sources, all in agreement.

Readers will also discover that substantive change requires an ability to "think out of the box" which currently defines public education's form and content. Some educators and political leaders simply cannot or will not engage in "thinking beyond the status quo." The notion, for example, of competition and performance measures as the basis for genuine reform remains a foreign and threatening concept. Therefore, the toughest challenge Arkansans face in transforming their academically deficient public schools into centers of excellence and quality is political. Ultimately it comes back to action by responsible citizens. Their obligation to the children of Arkansas is clear:

In the future, Arkansans must elect men and women to higher legislative and executive office positions who possess both the intellect to advance a bold new vision of education and the courage to make it happen.

________________

 

The Murphy Commission position paper that follows examines spending vs. performance trends in public K-12 education from three perspectives:

a. Education Spending vs. Academic Performance: National Trends
b. Education Spending vs. Academic Performance: Arkansas Trends
c. Education Spending vs. Academic Performance: International Trends

It concludes by offering both short-term and long term ideas to improve performance. A two page summary of recommendations appears on the next two pages. Good reading.

 

Twelve Recommendations to improve
student academic performance
in Arkansas' Public Schools

This is a brief summary of recommendations which are more fully detailed
at the conclusion of the paper. Readers seeking background, arguments,
and data supporting these recommendations will find much to
consider there as well as in other Murphy Commission reports.

 

Performance Recommendations targeted
to the education system as it is currently structured

 

Intellectual honesty in reporting academic progress and "the state" of public education
1. The education establishment must be relentlessly open and honest in reporting to parents and the public about the academic quality and performance of Arkansas' public K-12 schools. A sustained flow of accurate performance and accountability information designed to fully engage and spur the public interest in meaningful school reform is--or should be--the goal.

 

Sub-recommendation: The Governor's "Education Performance and Accountability" Address to the state
As a first step toward this goal, the Governor of Arkansas should annually present to the public a jointly televised "public school performance" address. This "state of education" review should also include an "accountability" response from the director of the State Department of Education and a representative of the state's superintendents.

 

School by school performance "report cards" to parents and the public

2. Provide parents--and make accessible to the public---school by school performance report cards such as those used by Texas and other states. Arkansas remains the only Southern state that does not provide this service according to the Southern Regional Education Board (a group that is taxpayer funded by states to assist Departments of Education with common regional issues).

 

Constrain current education spending; redirect savings and current expenditures to enhancing the state's substandard academic performance

3. Identify resources (money, people, programs) within the current education system that can cut or scaled back and redirect the savings to more effectively address Arkansas' current academic crisis. Consider using dollars saved, for example, to hire the highest quality teachers, to pay deserving teachers exceptionally well, and to provide more classroom and instructional support.

 

Rigorous academic standards based on proven "best practices" from other states

4. Establish demanding, rigorous academic standards modeled after those states with proven records of high academic performance. Arkansas is one of only nine states receiving all Fs in the quality of its academic standards as reported this year by the Fordham Foundation.

 

Adoption of proven curriculums and teaching methodologies and the formation of a best practices council

5. In striving to meet education standards, Arkansas must choose academic programs, curriculums, and methodologies that represent the "best practices" across the nation with a demonstrated record of exceptional results in core academics. To augment this, the state should form a "best practices" council peopled with members representing a diversity of education and political philosophies.   

 

Continued use of exit exams and norm-referenced tests
6. Arkansas may be considering the abandonment of high school exit exams (ACTAP) and the norm-referenced Standard Achievement Test (SAT9). It is imperative these academic performance measures be continued as a matter of public policy and public information.

 

Ending the practice of social promotion---a form of educational malpractice

7. Every Arkansas district should adopt a policy ending the practice of repeatedly promoting students up the grade ladder when they consistently demonstrate a general lack of knowledge on content for a given grade.

 

Paying teachers and their supervisors on the basis of defined performance measures

8. Bold teachers accountable by providing for their being paid on the basis of achieving defined academic performance goals that are clearly understood by students, parents, and the public.

 

Ridding the system of ineffective teachers while protecting education managers (principals and superintendents) from unwarranted litigation

9. Enact legislation that empowers education managers--principles and superintendents--to terminate poorly performing or ineffective teachers. Protect schools and the system from unwarranted litigation by enacting a "loser pay" rule applied specifically to educators. Establish litigation funds.

 

Require appropriate degrees for subjects taught and permit qualified non-certified individuals to be retained as teachers

10. Provide education managers the option of hiring qualified individuals who are educated or formally trained in their teaching field whether certified to teach or not.

 

Install a uniform cost accounting system common to all schools

11. Require schools in Arkansas to use a uniform cost accounting system such as the In$ite program developed by Coopers Lybrand and Fox River.

 

Broaden Arkansas' inadequate charter school law

12. Arkansas' charter school law--on the books since 1995--is so restrictive it inhibits charter school formation. Florida, for example, passed their law a year later and now has more than 70 charter schools. Arkansas should take steps to make its charter school law more flexible and conducive to the creation of these innovative public schools.

 

Looking ahead (this to be the subject of an upcoming full length report.)

Provide for education vouchers with which all Arkansans, not just those of means, can choose their children's schools from an array of options designed to meet children's' unique needs.

 

Perceptions of an American Public Education Crisis

Observations from the Front

This year, more than 52 million children will enter America's classrooms. American taxpayers will spend more than a quarter-trillion dollars to educate them. This largest infusion of dollars ever will have little or no impact on improving student academic performance if past trends hold true. It will illustrate once again that growth in tax dollars allocated to a flawed system incapable of meaningful reform is senseless and represents a form of continuing educational malpractice. The victims of this senseless waste are children deprived, again and again, of that basic core of knowledge needed to succeed in life. As a public policy, nothing could be more unsound or damaging to a nation still at risk.

To set the stage for the "spending versus performance" analysis that follows, the Murphy Commission collected and condensed commentaries from a number of respected sources across the nation. Their observations and thoughts on America's public education system are offered here to amplify the complex issues surrounding education reform and further enlighten readers.

Learning-Free Zones by Chester Finn

Chester Finn is the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a Washington-based
education reform organization. He is also a former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education.

The percentage of the public-school Budget devoted to "regular instruction" Declined from 61 percent in 1960 to 46 Percent in 1990. The system channels almost all of its money into salaries, treats every change as an added cost, and has little freedom to substitute one use of funds for another. A simple calculation makes the point more vividly.  A classroom of 24 children accounted for an average total public expenditure of about $150,000 in the 1995-96 school year. Yet the average public-school teacher cost not quite $50,000, including benefits. That suggests that some two-thirds of the public funds spent on behalf of those youngsters are not going to their primary teacher.

Chester Finn
Former Asst. U.S. Secretary of Education

American education is awash in faddish innovations that regularly sweep through the profession like tropical storms: "whole-language reading," "constructivist math," "mixed-ability grouping," "multi-age grouping," "multiculturalism," and so on. This faddishness gives the education system the appearance of ceaseless change. Yet few of these innovations improve academic performance. And nearly all of them are being undertaken within the organizational framework of a rigid, governmentalist monopoly centered on an archaic concept of schooling, a concept developed for a 19th-century agrarian society with little technology and scant awareness of how children learn. Advocates for the bold reforms America needs must confront an unpleasant truth: We have a pretty clear understanding of what would work better, yet old-fashioned bureaucratic monopolies continue to insulate most U.S. public schools from change.

The percentage of the public-school budget devoted to "regular instruction" declined from 61 percent in 1960 to 46 percent in 1990. The system channels almost all of its money into salaries, treats every change as an added cost, and has little freedom to substitute one use of funds for another. A simple calculation makes the point more vividly. A classroom of 24 children accounted for an average total public expenditure of about $150,000 in the 1995-96 school year. Yet the average public-school teacher cost not quite $50,000, including benefits. That suggests that some two-thirds of the public funds spent on behalf of those youngsters are not going to their primary teacher. Where, then, is it going? Nearly all is locked up in salaries to

specialists, administrators, and non-teaching personnel and kept there by collective bargaining and bureaucratic inertia.

Challenging The Monopoly by Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch is a Fellow in education policy at the Manhattan
Institute and regular contributor to "Forbes Magazine"

In 1992 the Organization of Economic Cooperation & Development published a study of schooling in ten nations that showed our own system to be top-heavy with administrators and support staff. The U.S. was the only nation in which a majority (51%) of education workers were not teachers. By contrast three-fourths of all education staff in Australia, Belgium, France Germany, Japan and the Netherlands teach children.

Diane Ravitch
Fellow, The Manhattan Institute

Our school systems are a relic of state socialism in the midst of a dynamic free market economy. They thrive by operating as a government monopoly, free of any meaningful standards or accountability for performance. They are managed by their employees, for the benefit of their employees, with minimal concern for "customer" satisfaction.

All of the incentives in the school system are backward. The more students in a school who fail, the larger the level of public subsidies to the school. The larger the number of students who can be labeled "special education" or "learning disabled" or bilingual, the greater the flow of public funds. There are no rewards for schools that educate their students well or reduce the number of students needing special programs.

Being a government monopoly, the school system abhors competition and choice. Superintendents and school boards stand together in opposition to any challenge to their hegemonic control over public funds for education. They adamantly refuse to permit any experiments that might demonstrate a better way to educate

children. In 1992 the Organization of Economic Cooperation & Development published a study of schooling in ten nations that showed our own system to be top-heavy with administrators and support staff. The U.S. was the only nation in which a majority (51%) of education workers were not teachers. By contrast, three-fourths of all education staff in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands teach children.

Any effort to shake up the status quo is called an attack on public education, as though the Founding Fathers meant to create the cumbersome bureaucracies that run our big-city schools and state departments of education. Any effort to provide poor children with a scholarship to leave the public sector (as college students regularly do) evokes claims that money is being diverted from the public schools.

Public Schools Produce "Most Illiterate"Generation Ever
From Nation Magazine

In 1940, the U.S. had a literacy rate of 97 percent, even though most white students attended school for only eight years, and most blacks for only four. Today, despite having the most expensive public schools and colleges in the world, the U.S. has a Third-World work force, with a literacy rate of below 76 percent. A new analysis faults U.S. education policy since 1940 for the decline in literacy, placing much of the blame on "whole language" reading instruction.

In her report, An Analysis of Crucial U.S. Education Legislation: 1940-1996, Regna Lee Wood, director of research for the National Right to Read Foundation, points out that in 1940, the 3 percent of the population who could not read were mostly elderly blacks who had received little or no schooling. The 97 percent of the population who were literate were taught to read at school.

Since 1940, relates Wood, the federal government has spent billions of dollars on subsidies to train math and science teachers, one hundred thousand Title I teachers, over three hundred thousand special education teachers, and medical education teachers. If the nation's education spending is figured in 1996 dollars, the U.S. has spent $902 billion since 1958, over 40 percent of that on special education alone.

The U.S. can boast of the most expensive public schools and colleges in the world. In 1995 alone, we spent as a nation $280 billion on K-12 public schools. In 1994, we spent $110 billion on our two-and four-year public colleges. The estimated total for both in 1997 is $530 billion.

"What is the result of this enormous federal expenditure for education?" asks Wood. A 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey indicated that the U.S. is one of seven nations out of forty in the Western Hemisphere with an adult literacy rate of below 80 percent. The other six are Haiti, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Public Schools: Change or Die?
From
Investor's Business Daily

With hard-pressed taxpayers wondering why school children can't read, President Clinton says the answer is more money for education: $2.75 billion over five years to ensure that third graders are sufficiently proficient in reading skills. But frustrated parents contend they are already paying for something their children aren't getting.

• Over the past 25 years, inflation-adjusted, per-pupil spending for grades kindergarten through 12 has climbed 88 percent.
• In 1994, 40 percent of fourth graders failed to demonstrate basic reading skills-- with just 30 percent testing as proficient.
• Yet public-school teachers' pay rose 7.4 percent after inflation from 1970 through 1993--compared to a real gain of only 1 percent for all private-sector wages.
• While enrollments were falling, the number of teachers rose 24.2 percent from 1974 to 1994.

Nonproductive growth aside, concerned experts say that an educational establishment which cannot resist faddish and damaging educational experiments--ignoring spelling, stressing self-esteem over basics--bears a large share of the blame for illiterate third graders.

The Key to Better Schools by Robert Lutz and Clark Durant

Mr. Lutz is president and CEO of the Chrysler Corporation and
Mr. Durant served as president of Michigan's State board of Education

Why do we need to enlist volunteers to help kids learn to read? Isn't that what taxpayers pay teachers to do? Public schools too often fail because they are shielded from the very force that improves performance and sparks innovation in nearly every other human enterprise--competition. Only competition- by creating high, customer-driven standards of performance - can elevate the stature of the teaching profession.

To create a competitive education marketplace, dramatic reforms are necessary. Charter schools, vouchers and other "choice" strategies are useful steps, but we need to explore wholly new solutions to the question of how we can provide universal access to quality education-a goal we all share.

Today, a public school is one that is owned and operated by the government. We need a fresh definition of public: education, one defined by who is served rather than by who provides the service. We should open the education market, like our university and college system, to diverse providers--for profit, not-for-profit and governmental. This would attract enormous amounts of new capital to education. It would also reward teachers and students for focusing more on results. Schools, like other enterprises, would be accountable because there would be no guaranteed customers.

The Cost of Dumbness by Charles J. Sykes

Charles J. Sykes is the author of Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why America's Children Feel
Good About Themselves But Can't Read. Write or Spell.
He is an educator and journalist
frequently contributing to the "New York Times";"USA Today"; and the "Wall Street Journal. ".

[Editors Note: More from Mr. Sykes' landmark study is condensed in
Appendix B. Sykes succinctly outlines the reasons underlying America's education crisis]

If test scores had continued to grow after 1967 at the same rate as they had the previous quarter century, Bishop estimated that the nation's gross national product would have been $86 billion higher than it was in 1988 and $334 billion higher in the year 2010.

Charles J. Sykes,
author of Dumbing Down Our Kids:

It is hard to put an exact number on what the dumbing down of American education costs the economy, but it is possible to make some approximations. One recent study of job skill requirements found that the average twenty-one to twenty-five-year-old American was "reading at a level significantly below that demanded by the average job available in 1984 and are even further below the requirements of jobs expected to be created between 1984 and the year 2000." The researchers ranked language skills required for various jobs on a scale of one to six, with a level of six required for scientists, lawyers, and engineers. The vast majority of jobs required a reading skill level of three and four, the requirement for sales and marketing positions. But the study found that 97 percent of young adults had skills only at the two and three levels, suitable for farming and transportation work.

Economist John Kendrick of George Washington University argues that "the knowledge factor" may account for as much as 70 percent of a nation's productivity trends, either up or down. The skills of our workforce, and their ability to adapt to a knowledge-based economy seem certain to be critical factors in our ability to compete. Kendrick's thesis argues that much of the decline in productivity in American society can be linked to the decline in education and to the resulting gap between the requirements of the economy and the reality of the workforce.

Cornell University Economist John H. Bishop does not. go quite as far as Kendrick, but confirms the link between economic growth and the "knowledge factor." At least 10 percent of the "unexplained" slowdown in productivity in the 1970s can be attributed to the decline in achievement scores that began in 1967, Bishop concluded. But the effects of dumbing down will accelerate over time. He projected that the decline in what he called the General Intellectual Achievement (GIA) accounted for 20 percent of the decline in the 1980s and a full 40 percent of the decline in the 1990s. Writing in the American Economic Review, Bishop noted that productivity growth and the test scores dropped almost simultaneously.

That decline, which was severe and unprecedented, meant that students graduating in 1980 were more than a full grade level behind graduates of twenty years earlier. Our schools had produced lower quality workers, which in turn depressed both wages and productivity. If test scores had continued to grow after 1967 at the same rate as they had the previous quarter century, Bishop estimated that the nation's gross national product would have been $86 billion higher than it was in 1988 and $334 billion higher in the year 2010.

This would seem to make a compelling case for spending more money on education, if any link could be shown between higher spending and higher achievement. But national education spending rose more than 25 percent in real terms in the 1980s. And since 1967--when the decline in test scores began in earnest--spending per student had risen faster than it had in the twenty years prior to 1967 (4 percent a year in real terms versus 3.3 percent). In the lower spending years prior to 1967, as Bishop notes, "student test scores had been rising steadily for more than 50 years."

Since 1965...there has been a 75% decline in the absolute number of students who score above 650 in verbal and math entrance tests. All of our most difficult to enter universities must now maintain remedial centers for writing and mathematics, and in some cases reading. It is an inherently unstable situation and must lead to the decline of standards at all American Universities, and has probably already done so.

The very existence of this quality gap is presumptive evidence that the slogans dominating our K-12 system and the efforts to reform it are defective and do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. The controlling theories and the people who propound them have, with the best of intentions, served the nation ill.

E.D. Hirsch Jr. is a Professor of Education and Humanities at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville and President of the Core Knowledge Foundation

Why America's Universities Are Better Than Its Public Schools by E.D. Hirsch.

E.D. Hirsch Jr. is Professor at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville and President of the Core Knowledge
Foundation. He is the Author of The Schools We Need:
Why We Don't Have Them

The influence of educational orthodoxy that controls our public schooling and its reformers may partly be gauged by contrasting our K-12 system with an education domain not controlled by the educationists point of view--our public colleges and universities. There is wide agreement in the international community that the United States has created the best public universities and the worst public schools of the developed world.

What causes this startling contrast in quality between America's public schools and America's universities? Open discussion and iconoclasm create the sort of atmosphere in which intellectual excellence can flourish. That conception is a universe away from the intolerant conformist atmosphere of the public education community.

But there is another difference, in addition to their openness and competitiveness and I think it may be the most critical difference of all.  Our colleges and universities, and the scholars who control their destinies, place great value on depth, breadth, and accuracy of knowledge, as well as on independence of thought. But depth, breadth, and accuracy of knowledge are the very things that our K-12 system tends to disparage as belonging to the "banking theory of schooling." Knowledge is considered less desirable than more practical all-purpose goals such as :higher order skills", "self-esteem", "metacognitive skills", and "critical thinking skills." Mere facts are conceived to be indissolubly connected to "rote learning," which may be the most disparaging phrase in the educationists glossary.

It is unclear how long our best universities can maintain their excellence when the students who enter them and who will subsequently staff them are ill-prepared. Since 1965, for example, there has been a 75% decline in the absolute number of students who score above 650 in verbal and math entrance tests. All of our most difficult to enter universities must now maintain remedial centers for writing and mathematics, and in some cases reading. It is disconcerting to see these centers pop up everywhere. It is an inherently unstable situation and must lead to the decline of standards at all American Universities, and has probably already done so.

The very existence of this quality gap [between America's public schools and its colleges] is presumptive evidence that the slogans dominating our K-12 system and the efforts to reform it are defective and do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. The controlling theories and the people who propound them have, with the best of intentions, served the nation ill.

Education Spending Fails To Drive Education Performance by Dr. Julian R Betts
Dr. Betts, who prepared these comments in a report to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
is a Professor of Economics at the University of California at San Diego.

Two of the most important reforms to American public schooling in this century have been an increase in the minimum school-leaving age and a dramatic increase in expenditures per pupil. The former reform has generally been hailed as a success, given evidence that an extra year of schooling significantly boosts students' earnings later in life. However, evidence on the effectiveness of the trend toward higher spending per pupil, smaller class sizes, and more highly educated and trained teachers is much more mixed.

...a recent review found that of 163 estimates of how spending per pupil affects student performance, only 27 percent found a positive and significant relationship. Similarly, of 277 reported estimates of the impact of the teacher-pupil ratio on student performance, only 15 percent found a positive and significant link, while 13 percent reported a negative and significant link. In American schools, at least as they have operated in the past, spending has not had large or systematic effects on student achievement.

Dr. Julian Betts, Professor of Economics at the
University of California at San Diego

 A host of studies on the link between school finances and test scores has not shown a systematic link between spending and achievement. Another set of studies tests whether higher school spending leads to higher earnings for students later in life. The findings in this body of work are also mixed; even the most optimistic results suggest a very low rate of return to increased school expenditures.

In a recent review, Dr. Eric A. Hanushek, Professor of economics at the University of Rochester, found that of 163 estimates of how spending per pupil affects student performance, only 27 percent found a positive and significant relationship. Similarly, of 277 reported estimates of the impact of the teacher-pupil ratio on student performance, only 15 percent found a positive and significant link, while 13 percent reported a negative and significant link. In American schools, at least as they have operated in the past, spending has not had large or systematic effects on student achievement.

The conclusion drawn from the statistical research is supported by aggregate trends in school spending and in student achievement. The financial resources spent on public school students have risen markedly over the last three decades. Yet during the same period, student achievement has hardly changed, and by one measure it

may even have fallen. Test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test given to a random sample of students in various grades since the early 1970s, have changed little over the 1970s and 1980s. Trends in the Scholastic Aptitude Test show a sharp decline in the late 1960s, a more gradual decline during the 1970s, and a statistically insignificant recovery since then.

The most important determinant of how quickly students learn is the effort of students themselves. It follows that an increase in schools' expectations of students could have important effects on the quality of public schooling. By establishing a rigorous set of educational standards, schools can create a set of incentives and rewards to promote student learning.

 

Education Spending vs. Academic Performance:
The National Trends

Dr. Eric A. Hanushek, Professor of economics at the University of Rochester, has spent more than a decade studying the relationship between spending and academic achievement both from a national and international perspective. He has also tracked, as an adjunct project, the findings of similar studies by other experts and analysts. In the process, he created the largest collection of literature refuting one of the central dogmas of the educationist establishment; namely that education spending in America's schools--as they are currently structured and managed--can improve student performance.

Since the mid-Sixties, according to Hanushek, there have been around 200 studies looking at the relationship between the inputs to schools, the resources spent on schools, and the performance of students. These studies, with few exceptions, tell a consistent and rather dramatic story.

Result 1 is that there is no systematic relationship between expenditures on schools and students' performance.
Result 2 is that there is no systematic relationship between the major ingredients of instructional expenditures per student--chiefly teacher education and teacher experience, which informally drive teacher salaries, and class size, per pupil expenditures, and student performance.

In a recent report prepared at the request of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Dr. Hanushek traced America's education spending history in revealing terms. It is condensed below, with our gracious acknowledgment to both FRBNY and to Dr. Hanushek.

If we divide per student Expenditure into salaries for Instructional staff (teachers and principals) and then into all other expenditures, the unmistakable pattern is the relative high growth of expenditures outside of instructional staff salaries. Such spending went from 25 Percent of total current expenditure in 1890 to 33 percent in 1940, and to 54 Percent in 1990.

Eric A. Hanushek Professor of Economics,
Rochester University

A Brief History of U.S. Spending Growth
by Eric A. Hanushek Professor of Economics, Rochester University

The United States has had a consistent focus on education over a long period of time. This fact surprises many people in the United States. Statements about "how important it is that President Clinton has recently focused attention on education" are common. Implicit or explicit in such discussions is the sentiment that we have been shortchanging the educational system. It may be that the President can get the attention of the population better than anybody else, but a steady policy thrust and heavy weight have been given to education and human capital investment for a long time.

This focus on education, however, has not always been at the federal government level. Taking the long view, between 1890 and 1990, we note that real public expenditure on primary and secondary education in the United States rose from $2 billion to more than $817 billion. Significantly, this almost hundredfold 

increase is more than triple the growth rate of GNP during the same period: current educational expenditure increased from less than 1 percent of GNP in 1890 to 3.4 percent of GNP in 1990.

While increasing enrollment accounts for a portion of the rise in spending, the rise in per student expenditure explains the bulk of the change in educational outlays (see Illustration 1). Real per student expenditure roughly quintupled in each fifty-year period between 1890 and 1980: it went from $164 in 1890 to $772 in 1940, and to $4,622 in 1990. If we divide per student expenditure into salaries for instructional staff (teachers and principals) and then into all other expenditures, the unmistakable pattern is the relative high growth of expenditures outside of instructional staff salaries. Such spending went from 25 percent of total current expenditure in 1890 to 33 percent in 1940, and to 54 percent in 1990.

Two factors stand out as being of primary importance is explaining total instructional salary spending over the entire 100-year period: the rising price of instructional staff and the declining pupil-staff ratio. Rising teacher salaries were clearly a consequence of economywide labor productivity growth, although the extent to which teacher salaries changed relative to those of other workers is an important issue.

By contrast, the decisions leading to reductions in the pupil-teacher ratio despite the rise in teacher costs suggest a long-term policy of attempting to raise school quality by reducing the pupil-teacher ratio. There is substantial debate over the extent to which external changes, notably the expansion of special education, contributed to the decline in the pupil-teacher ratio during the 1970s and 1980s. The analysis by Hanushek and Rivkin (1977) indicates that special education has been important but is still not the largest influence.

The growth in special education over the 1980s may have accounted for one-fifth of the growth in spending. (Yet, because of the smaller overall spending growth in the 1990s, this percentage has almost certainly gone up.

Other Observations About School Efficiency

ILLUSTRATION 1: PUBLIC SCHOOL RESOURCES IN THE UNITED STATES, 1961-91.

Resource

1960-6

1965-66

1970-71

1975-76

1980-8

1985-86

1990-91

 

Pupil-teacher ratio

25.6

24.1

22.3

20.1

18.8

17.7

17.3

 

% teachers with master's degree

23.1

23.2

27.1

37.1

49.3

50.7

52.6

 

Median years of teacher experience

11

8

8

8

12

15

15

 

Current expenditure per pupil
(1992-93 dollars)

1,903

2,402

3,269

3,864

4,116

4,919

5,582

Source:U.S. Department of Education (1996)
Note: Per Pupil expenditures are based on students' average daily attendance.

Over the past thirty years, a steady stream of analyses has built up a consistent picture of the educational process. Studies of educational performance, generally following statistical analyses of the determinants of student achievement, include a variety of different measures of resources devoted to schools. Commonly employed measures include (1) the real resources of the classroom (teacher education, teacher experience, and teacher-pupil ratio); (2) financial aggregates of resources (expenditure per student and teacher salary); and (3) measures of other resources in schools (specific teacher characteristics, administrative inputs, and facilities).

The real resource category receives the bulk of attention for several reasons. First, this category best summarizes variations in resources at the classroom level. Teacher education and teacher experience are the primary determinants of teacher salaries. When combined with teachers per pupil, these variables describe variations in the instructional resources across classrooms. Second, these measures are readily available and well measured. Third, they relate to the largest changes in schools over the past three decades.

Illustration 1 displays the dramatic increase in these school inputs, with pupil-teacher ratios falling steadily, teacher experience increasing, and the percentage of teachers with a master's degree actually doubling between 1960 and 1990. Fourth, studies of growth in performance at the individual classroom level, commonly thought to represent the superior analytical design, frequently have these resource measures, but not the others, available.

These studies yield a simple conclusion: there is no strong or consistent relationship between school resources and student performance. In other words, there is little reason to be confident that simply adding more resources to schools, as they are currently constituted, will yield performance gains among students. Numerous studies of class size and pupil-teacher ratios, of teacher education, and of teacher experience give little if any support to policies of expanding these resources. This finding has obvious policy implications.

Policy Implications Nonetheless, as shown in Illustration 1, real spending per student increased by more than 70 percent between 1970 and 1991, even though student performance appears to have been essentially unchanged.

This policy conundrum is precisely what led the Panel on the Economics of Education Reform to concentrate not on the specific resources and policies of schools but on the incentive structure. Its report, Making Schools Work, emphasizes the need to alter current incentives in schools radically. The simple premise is that the unresponsiveness of performance to resources largely reflects the fact that very little rests on student performance. Because good and bad teachers or good and bad administrators can expect about the same career progression, pay, and other outcomes, the choice of programs, organization, and behaviors is less dependent on student outcomes than on other things that directly affect the actors in schools.

The existing work does not suggest that resources never matter. Nor does it suggest that resources could not matter. It only indicates that the current organization and incentives of schools do little to ensure that any added resources will be used effectively.

_____________________________

 

Congressional Civil Rights Report: No Correlation
Between Spending and Academic Achievement

by Michael Watson, President, Arkansas Policy Foundation

Eric Hanushek's history of education spending and his more recent conclusions that America's public education system, as currently structured, will not improve results simply as the result of spending more tax dollars was foreshadowed by a massive congressional study that grew out of the 1960's civil rights movement.

Well before the 1983 release of A Nation at Risk chronicled public education's disturbing academic 20 year decline from the mid 1960s, Congress, in connection with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, mandated a national study on equal educational opportunity be conducted. The renowned sociologist Dr. James S. Coleman, Johns Hopkins University, was selected to lead the study team, supported by generous funding from a Congress committed to the ideals of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society.

Many congressmen of that era were certain their own congressionally sponsored study by a learned scholar, Coleman, would document a widespread deficiency of equal educational opportunity, especially among minorities. Moreover, they believed it would establish a need to pour greater amounts of revenue into America's schools, thus making more equal the important process of learning. Money and lots of it, they were sure, would be the great equalizer.

Dr. Coleman and his team ultimately produced one of the most extensive research studies in the history of the social sciences. It included a performance review of 570,000 school children, 60,000 teachers, and 4000 primary and secondary schools. The teams' data gathering was exhaustive and filled volumes. But when Coleman released his findings in a stunningly thorough report, aptly entitled Equality of Educational Opportunity, its conclusions surprised a waiting Congress, many political leaders, and much of the education establishment.

The Coleman Report, as it came to be known, asserted that "educational outcomes"--what students actually learn--could certainly be affected by factors such as family home life, but education spending showed no significant correlation to student academic performance. Neither, the report concluded, did class size, teacher pay, per pupil expenditures, spending on libraries, and spending on laboratories. as it came to be known, asserted that "educational outcomes"--what students actually learn--could certainly be affected by factors such as family home life, but education spending showed no significant correlation to student academic performance. Neither, the report concluded, did class size, teacher pay, per pupil expenditures, spending on libraries, and spending on laboratories.

For many Americans the idea that learning is not a function of money--and that more money does not necessarily equate to more learning--remains difficult to grasp. Twentieth century American culture is materialistic and thus the notion that spending more buys more is ingrained. But the process of teaching and learning has little to do with the material world and a great deal to do with young minds, a core of essential knowledge, and a demonstrated ability to effectively merge the two.

San Antonio Express News columnist Roddy Stinson once shared the story of a great teacher who said "give me some children, some writing/drawing tools, a few good books, and a tree we can all sit under---and I promise that the children will be taught well." Perhaps the story over-simplifies the teaching/learning process and certainly we all want comfortable, safe, well-equiped schools. But in Stinson's elegant simplification, there is a certain truth. America's taxpayers can buy the accouterments of education--buildings, computers, labs, books, personnel--but no amount of dollars can categorically assure that learning occurs. That depends on 1) the child, 2) the parent, 3) the teacher, and 4) a zealous devotion to rigorous academics.

Coleman would reveal a system where poor teaching is tolerated and rising, academic emphasis is declining, administrative excess is escalating, and innovation and change is stifled and rejected by an education establishment bent on preserving its control both structurally and programmatically.

" ....equal educational opportunity"... is not a product of more money and people hurled into a vast bureaucracy characterized by out-of-control growth and driven by educrats and unions armed with political, social, and ideological agendas.

If James Coleman were to conduct a similar study today he would undoubtedly look at the public education system in the light of these four elements and draw the same conclusions as his report 32 years ago. He would look at America's children, shaped by a mounting culture of violence and materialism, and lament their preoccupation with self above goodness and compassion in their daily lives. He would look at the important role parents play in preparing their children to learn and reinforcing their education at home--and would sadly mark the increasing parental default of that responsibility as well. But it would be his examination of teachers and the public system itself that would most disappoint Coleman.

Here the sociologist would discover a system unable--even unwilling--to prune its bad teachers, much of this due to the increasing dominance of big labor through America's powerful education unions. Moreover, he would find a system wherein the academic mission has been so diluted that 45% or less of a typical school day is focused on that mission. He would see administrative excess so rampant that 51% or more of all education workers are non-teaching or direct instruction related.

In short, Coleman would reveal a system where poor teaching is tolerated and rising, academic emphasis is declining, administrative excess is escalating, and innovation and change is stifled and rejected by an education establishment bent on preserving its control both structurally and programmatically. Many educationists and a host of sympathetic elected officials would argue that family erosion and community social conditions have driven schools to justifiable excesses in both spending and support personnel such as counselors and assistant superintendents. But decades of experience clearly document that this expansion in our schools has had little impact in mitigating external social and cultural factors.

By contrast, in those remarkable instances where public schools have excelled in teaching disadvantaged students, the solutions that work--those that achieve extraordinary performance gains--always relate directly to the classroom, to the quality of teachers, and most importantly to how teachers teach (effective methodologies and classroom discipline), and to what teachers teach (fact and content filled curriculums). The proven success formula is clear: relentless devotion to core knowledge with emphasis on "fact and content" learning, back to basics methodologies such as systematic phonics, high expectations combined frequent testing, and tough love.

This is the success formula that transcends race, gender, socio-economic status, cultural barriers, and social conditions both at home and in communities. This is the true formula of "equal educational opportunity" and it is the product of vision, commitment, and common-sense. It is not a product of more money and people hurled into a vast bureaucracy characterized by out-of-control growth and driven by educrats and unions armed with political, social, and ideological agendas.

Coleman, would almost certainly agree and therefore conclude again that pouring billions into this kind of system would be futile. He would--of course--be right. The system must first be structurally reshaped for results and that, ultimately, will require breaking the monopolistic control of those who work for and in the system.

___________________________

Findings of the American Legislative Exchange Council
(ALEC is currently chaired by Rep. Bobby Hogue of Arkansas)

During the last two decades, there has been no more thorough national review and tracking of education performance vs. education spending than that of the non-profit and non-partisan American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization comprising more than 5000 state legislators. It is a group chaired this year by Bobby Hogue of Arkansas who has served on its board for several years.

Each year, ALEC releases a Report Card on American Education. It summarizes national trends in spending and performance and offers up one of the most comprehensive comparisons of public education inputs to outputs in the country today--offering state by state rankings in a number of performance categories. It's analysis of trends is unparalleled and its reform recommendations are squarely on target as exhibited by these conclusions taken from several ALEC education report cards issued in previous years just in this decade:

From ALEC's Report Card on American Education, 1993

There is no direct correlation between higher spending and student performance.Of the ten states that dominate the highest student achievement rankings, only one ranks among the top ten in per pupil spending (Wisconsin). None rank in the top ten in average teacher salaries.

Our investment in public education may be building a bigger bureaucracy rather than improving education in the classroom. One clue is the huge 40% increase in the number of non-teaching school employees hired over the last 20 years. The data in the Report Card indicates that America's extraordinary investment in education may have been squandered on expanding the non-teaching education bureaucracy rather than on improving the quality of education provided in the classroom.

From ALEC's Report Card on American Education, 1994

The Report Card's data indicates that there is virtually no relationship between the amount of money spent on education and student performance. None of the states that rank in the top 10 in student performance (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming) rank in the top 10 states in per public expenditures. In fact, most of these states spent less than the national average. We need to avoid, at all costs, returning to antiquated notions that we should judge education by what goes into it rather than by what it produces.

We already know more money will not solve our education problems. What we need are meaningful reforms, and there are solutions available. We've learned that the three key qualities found in successful schools are: schools that believe all children can learn and challenge their students academically with core academic classes; small schools with less administrative overhead; and high levels of parental involvement. These are things that money cannot buy, but that concerned communities can provide. Ultimately, we will pay both economically and educationally, if we do not take the necessary steps to improve our current system.

While this report indicates that some of the increased spending has been used to raise teacher pay, the data continues to show an enormous expansion in non-teaching staff. Education spending for all expenses other than teacher salaries increased more that 80% between 1972-73 and 1993-94, while average salaries increased 3/5% during that time.

We've learned that the three key qualities found in successful schools are: schools that believe all children can learn and challenge their students academically with core academic classes; small schools with less administrative overhead; and high levels of parental involvement. These are things that money cannot buy, but that concerned communities can provide. Ultimately, we will pay both economically and educationally, if we do not take the necessary steps to improve our current system.

While this report indicates that some of the increased spending has been used to raise teacher pay, the data continues to show an enormous expansion in non-teaching staff. Education spending for all expenses other than teacher salaries increased more that 80% between 1972-73 and 1993-94, while average salaries increased 3/5% during that time.

From The Report Card on American Education, 1995

The same two conclusions can be drawn from the 1995 ALEC’s Report Card on American Education as were drawn from our previous two Report Cards:

1) America's public school students continue to leave school unprepared to compete in an increasingly competitive international labor market; and

2) The inputs expected to contribute to school effectiveness, particularly per pupil spending, do not display any significant correlation with outputs (i.e. student achievement).

_____________________________

The themes reflected in ALEC's Report Cards on American Education, echo those of many other political organizations, policy experts, business leaders, and even elected officials, all who have taken the time to seriously think through the issues surrounding our schools. As a result, they no longer buy into the promise that more money is the answer to lasting or meaningful education reform.

The Murphy Commission Education Workgroup believes there is no better indicator of national trends than ALEC's "Report Cards." Therefore, we've condensed and reproduced below (beginning this page through page 29) the key sections of their 1997 report. It chronicles their findings for the latest data collected which was for school year 1996. The ALEC Report Card:

Report Card on American Education 1996:
A State-by State Analysis

American Legislative Exchange Council,
Bobby Hogue, Chairman

Foreword

While the data and analysis in the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) 1996 Report Card on American Education show that modest progress has been made on some measures of student achievement, the progress has been slow. More importantly, achievement has not returned to the levels America's children realized in 1970. We are losing the battle to regain the ground lost over the last 26 years, while our investment in education has soared to unprecedented heights. Nearly 15 years ago President Reagan's National Commission on Excellence in Education issued its landmark report: A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform.

That report sounded an alarm about the decline of American education louder than any other report in our history. The most sobering statement in A Nation at Risk was from Paul Copperman, who wrote:

For the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not
surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents.

The children who were born when a Nation at Risk was issued are in high school today. And even though education is near the top of the agenda at the national, state and local levels today, the question remains, are we still a nation at risk? The answer, based on the data found in the 1996 Report Card on American Education, is yes.

The children who were born when a Nation at Risk was issued are in high school today. And even though education is near the top of the agenda at the national, state and local levels today, the question remains, are we still a nation at risk? The answer, based on the data found in the 1996 Report Card on American Education, is yes.

...achievement has not returned to the levels America's children realized in 1970. We are losing the battle to regain the ground lost over the last 26 years, while our investment in education has soared to unprecedented heights.

ALEC's 1996 Report Card

Though there are many reforms that offer hope for the future, such as vouchers, charter schools and educational savings accounts, the fact remains that the problems with American education run far deeper than just what goes on in the classroom.

The first priority in education reform must be a new commitment, a new understanding and respect, for the central role education plays in our society, culture and nation.

No law, no policy, no report can create this commitment. It must be a revolution in the way that we, as Americans, view, structure and support education and our schools. The data from ALEC's Report Cards over the last four years, as well as the results of countless other studies of American public education over the last decade, point to one inescapable conclusion: the time of tinkering is over. Bold reforms must be embraced, promoted, nurtured and supported. The time of fearing change is over; it is not changing that we must now learn to fear.

Executive Summary

The Report Card on American Education 1996---a state-by-state analysis---is a comprehensive overview of the condition of America's K-12 public schools. 

It consists of indicators that review inputs, performance outcomes, and rankings of all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. It is a useful survey for those who wish to study long--term educational trends, such as tracking student achievement levels from 1970 until 1996.

Unfortunately, many of the findings and directions are not encouraging.

Generally, the facts presented in this year's report display a similarity to many of last year's trends and results. Most notably, the increase in educational spending in most of our 94,000 public school has not shown a comprehensive improvement in student performance.

Since 1970, for example, inflation-adjusted per-pupil expenditures (which currently average $5,719) increased more that 88% nationally, yet graduation rates have declined 4.6% since 1980 and 3.4% since 1990. In 1980, the U.S. had a graduation rate of 72.1 %. By 1996, it was 68.8%. In 1996, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, New Jersey and Iowa had the highest graduation rates. Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Georgia and South Carolina had the lowest graduation rates. Since last year, only 16 states evidenced a percent increase in graduation rates, while 34 declined.

There is some news to be encouraged about: American students upgraded their math skills over the past four years. However, these promising numbers are illusory; 40% of our eighth-graders still cannot perform mathematics at the Basic level of achievement. That disappointment is further evident when considering college entrance exams and the graduation rates mentioned above.

What we can determine, however, is that there is little correlation between high spending and capable student performance. That suggests an inefficiency within the system, a condition certainly due to the government monopoly that controls education and spends far too much effort entrenching itself. As is the conventional wisdom, the only antidote to monopoly is competition.

ALEC's 1996 Report Card

Most glaring, though, is the education establishment's failure to institute reliable indicators of student performance. This study uses three standard criteria to judge education output. Yet even they fail to provide enough information to conduct a deep statistical analysis. What we can determine, however, is that there is little correlation between high spending and capable student performance. That suggests an inefficiency within the system, a condition certainly due to the government monopoly that controls education and spends far too much effort entrenching itself. As is the conventional wisdom, the only antidote to monopoly is competition.

Any delusions of adequacy need to be quashed anon. We are still a nation at risk educationally. We are still very average in too many areas. Our 1,200 schools of education with their 35,000 professors of education need to do a much better job. We need discipline in our schools, zero tolerance for drugs and weapons, and a commitment to higher, tougher standards.

Report Card 1996: Public School Outputs

Education Performance in America  

Once again, the data show that improvements are needed in American educational performance and adult literacy. The collective performance of U.S. public schools does not turn out enough students who can ably compete in the global marketplace. For example, American students have continued to upgrade their math skills over the past four years, due in some part to state efforts to implement academic standards. However, almost 40% of eighth-graders still cannot perform at the basic level of achievement (identified by their command of challenging subject matter and scoring from 299-332 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress). This report shows that we have made gains, but that we cannot be satisfied. Twenty percent of eighth-graders nationally now take algebra by the end of the eighth grade. Yet, very troubling is the fact that in too many urban schools as 80% are below grade, below the basic (262) level of achievement on the NAEP test.

This is a clear indication that students are not as prepared as they should be. And this is not the only concern. College entrance exams are not demonstrating improvement nor are graduation rates. This edition of ALEC's Report Card on American Education will track these three criteria to measure educational outputs:

• 1996 National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) Eighth Grade Math Test
• 1996 College Entrance Examinations (i.e. the SAT and ACT)
• 1996 High School Graduation Rates

The Most Successful States (Academic Output)

High rankings by states on multiple indicators would tend to indicate above-average performance. The following states scored the highest on the three indicators (NAEP 1996 eighth-grade math test, the appropriate 1996 college entrance examinations and graduation rates). The 10 most successful states in 1996 were (in alphabetical order):

Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska,
North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

These ten states ranked among the top one-fifth in at least two of the three output measures of academic achievement described above. Minnesota is listed in the top five in all three categories, (third out of 50 in graduation, first out of 40 in NAEP Math, and first out of 27 in ACT) so it is identified as one of the top 10 student achievement. The two states closest to the top 10 were Connecticut and Washington. Both states did very well on the SAT and performed respectably on the NAEP math test. However, the top 10 states edged out Connecticut and Washington with their better standings in the high school graduation rate rankings.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is generally accepted as providing the most comprehensive, on-going analysis of U.S. students' academic achievement. It is one of the few (and most important) educational tasks in which the federal government should be involved. NAEP was mandated by Congress and has been administered since 1969. The Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics oversees the assessment, but the Princeton based Educational Testing Service conducts the tests.

In the past, tests have been given in reading and math to a representative sampling of students (over 20,000) in grades four, eight, and 12. Students are categorized as either achieving a Basic, Proficient or Advanced level of academic achievement. In the future, tests will also be given in science, history and geography.

Although voluntary national standards have been written for all subject areas, math standards have been in existence the longest and are more likely than others to have been incorporated into a school district's curriculum. NAEP utilizes a framework heavily influenced by the measures devised by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

The analysis in this report relies on data from the 1996 NAEP Mathematics test. The Reading test was last given in 1994 and is not used to assess the performance of the educational system because the data are considered to be out of date.

 

Table B: NAEP: Percentage Scoring At or Above Proficient: Public Schools Only

 

Subject Grade 4 Grade 8 Grade 12
Mathematics (1996) 20% 23% 15%
Reading (1994)

 

28%

 

27%

 

35%

 

Source : NAEP 1996 Mathematics: Report Card for the Nation and the States (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Research and Improvement, 1996), Table 3.7 and 1994 NAEP Reading Report Card for the Nation and the States (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Research and Improvement, 1994), Table 3.8.

1996 NAEP Mathematics Test

The complete results of the 1996 NAEP Mathematics Test are not expected to be released until late 1997. However, the national scores for the 1996 test for students at grades four, eight, and 12, and state-by-state test scores (for 40 states) for students in the eighth grade have been reported.

 

TABLE 1: NAEP MATHEMATICS: 8th Grade All Schools

Average Score

Percentage Proficient

1996
Rank
1992
Rank
1992-96 Change
Rank
1996
Rank
1992
Rank
1992-96 Change
Rank
United States 271   266   5   23%   23%   0.0%  
Alabama 257 38 251 39 6 7 12% 38 12% 39 0.0% 6
Alaska 278 10         30% 9        
Arizona 268 25 265 23 3 23 18% 27 19% 27 -5.3% 21
Arkansas 262 33 255 38 7 3 13% 37 13% 37 0.0% 6
California 263 31 260 29 3 23 17% 28 20% 25 -15.0 31
Colorado 276 14 272 12 4 19 25% 15 26% 13 -3.8% 20
Connecticut 280 8 273 11 7 3 31% 5 30% 7 3.3% 5
Delaware 267 27 262 27 5 15 19% 26 18% 28 5.6% 4
Florida 264 30 259 31 5 15 17% 28 18% 28 -5.6% 22
Georgia 262 33 259 31 3 23 16% 30 16% 32 0.0% 6
Hawaii 262 33 257 37 5   16% 30 16% 32 0.0% 6
Idaho     274 8         27% 11    
Illinois           3            
Indiana 276 14 269 17 7 32 24% 16 24% 16 0.0% 6
Iowa 284 1 283 1 1   31% 5 37% 1 -16.2% 33
Kansas           7            
Kentucky 267 27 261 28 6 23 16% 30 17% 31 -5.9% 23
Louisiana 252 39 249 40 3 7 7% 39 10% 40 -30.0% 35
Maine 284 1 278 4 6 7 31% 5 31% 6 0.0% 6
Maryland 270 20 264 25 6 7 24% 16 24% 16 0.0% 6
Massachusetts 278 10 272 12 6 1 28% 10 28% 9 0.0% 6
Michigan 277 12 267 18 10 1 28% 10 23% 20 21.7% 2
Minnesota 284 1 282 3 2 31 34% 1 37% 1 -8.1% 24
Mississippi 250 40 246 41 4 19 7% 39 8% 41 -12.5% 30
Missouri 273 19 270 16 3 23 22% 19 24% 16 -8.3% 25
Montana 283 5         32% 3        
Nebraska 283 5 277 6 6 7 31% 5 32% 4 -3.1% 19
Nevada                        
New Hampshire     278 4         30% 7    
New Jersey     271 14         28% 9    
New Mexico 262 33 259 31 3 23 14% 34 14% 36 0.0% 6
New York 270 20 266 22 4 19 22% 19 24% 16 -8.3% 25
North Carolina 268 25 258 34 10 1 20% 24 15% 34 33.3% 1
North Dakota 284 1 283 1 1 32 33% 2 36% 3 -8.3% 25
Ohio     267 18         22% 22    
Oklahoma     267 18         21% 23    
Oregon 276 14         26% 13        
Pennsylvania     271 14         26% 13    
Rhode Island 269 24 265 23 4 19 20% 24 20% 25 0.0% 6
South Carolina 261 37 260 29 1 32 14% 34 18% 28 -22.2% 34
South Dakota                        
Tennessee 263 31 258 34 5 15 15% 33 15% 34 0.0% 6
Texas 270 20 264 25 6 7 21% 22 21% 23 0.0% 6
Utah 277 12 274 8 3 23 24% 16 27% 11 -11.1% 29
Vermont 279 9         27% 12        
Virginia 270 20 267 18 3 23 21% 22 23% 20 -8.7% 28
Washington 276 14         26% 13        
West Virginia 265 29 258 34 7 3 14% 34 13% 37 7.7% 3
Wisconsin 283 5 277 6 6 7 32% 3 32% 4 0.0% 6
Wyoming 275 18 274 8 1 32 22% 19 26% 13 -15.4% 32
Exhibit: DC 233   234   -1   5%   6%   -16.7%  
 

Source: 1996 NAEP Mathematics Report Card for the Nation and the States, (Table B. 12: Average Mathematics Scale Scores and Achievement Levels by Type of School Grade 8)

American students continued to upgrade their math skills over the past four years, due in some part to state efforts to implement academic standards. However, the national results indicate that average math scores remain well below Proficient (299-332). Almost 40% of eighth-graders still cannot perform at the Basic level of achievement. These results show that we have made progress, but that we cannot be satisfied. Twenty percent of eighth-graders nationally now take algebra by the end of the eighth-grade. However, very troubling is the fact that in too many urban schools as many as 80% are below the Basic (262) level of achievement on the NAEP test. Eighth-graders who can't function at the Basic level have problems with whole numbers, decimals, fractions, percentages, diagrams, charts and fundamental algebraic and geometric concepts.

In 1996, eighth-graders averaged 271, a S-point gain from the 1992 test and an 8-point jump from the 1990 exam. With nearly 40% scoring below Basic, roughly 33% scored between 262 and 298 (the Basic level:) 23 % scored between 299 and 332 (the proficient level); and 4 percent were Advanced, scoring above 333.

• Boys and girls scored about the same
• Religious and other private school students did better than public school students.
• The more education the parents had, the higher the children scored

 

TABLE C: NAEP Math Test: Average Scores Compared to Proficient: Public Schools Only

 

Grade 4 Grade 8 Grade 12
Minimum Score for Proficiency 249 299 336
1992 Average Score 219 267 297
Compared to Proficient -30 -32 -39
1996 Average Score 222 271 303
Compared to Proficient

 

-27

 

-28

 

-33

 

Source: 1996 NAEP Mathematics: Report Card for the Nation and the States (Washington, D.C.:; U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Research and Improvement. ) Table 2.7 and pies 10-12

Of the 40 States that reported eighth-grade scores, none had average scores that reached the Proficient Level (299)

• Average scores were highest in Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota(284), Montana (283), Nebraska (283) and Wisconsin (283)
• The percentage of students scoring Proficient was highest in Minnesota (34%), North Dakota (33%), Montana (32%), Wisconsin (32%), Connecticut (31%), Iowa (31%), Maine (31%) and Nebraska (31%)
• The lowest average scores were in Mississippi (250), Louisiana (252), Alabama (257) and South Carolina (261).
• The lowest percentage scoring Proficient were in Louisiana (7%), Mississippi (7%), Alabama (12%) and Arkansas (13%).

TRENDS

In the last four years, national average scores for eighth-grade students have improved. However, the national average scores are still below the level of proficiency.

• In the last four years on the eighth-grade NAEP Mathematics Test, all states saw an increase in scores: however, only five states say an increase in percentage proficiency with North Carolina showing the greatest improvement (33.3%), followed by Michigan (21.7%), West Virginia (7.7%), Delaware (5.6%), and Connecticut (3.3%).
• North Carolina raised its scores the most: 10 points in the last four years and 18 points since 1990.   Michigan also improved its scores 10 points in four years. West Virginia's, Alabama's, Connecticut's and Indiana's scores each went up 7 points.
• The largest percentage reductions in the percentage of students scoring at the Proficient level were recorded in Louisiana (30.0%), followed by South Carolina (22.2%), Iowa (16.2%), Wyoming (15.4%), and California (15.0%).

College Entrance Examinations

College entrance examinations are taken by many of the nation's high school juniors and seniors, approximately 2.3 million of whom were expected to graduate in June 1997. The American College Test (ACT, with scores ranging from 1-36) is the primary college entrance examination in 27 states, while the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT, with scores ranging from 400-1600) is the primary entrance examination in 23 states. In 1996, the average ACT score was 20.9, while the average combined (math and verbal) SAT score was 1013. (See Table 2)

Differing participation rates make it difficult to measure state-by-state college entrance examination results. Nonetheless they can be useful for comparisons when used in conjunction with other measures of student achievement (National Assessment for Educational Progress Tests and graduation rates). A comparison among those states that use the ACT as their predominant entrance exam and another for those using the SAT is instructive.

TRENDS

Because of comparability differences between the 1996 college entrance examination scores (the SAT was re-centered) and the scores in previous years, it is difficult to measure national trends to make valid historical comparisons.

ACT scores declined from 19.1 to 18.6 between 1972 and 1989. A new test was implemented in 1990, and scores. have risen slightly from 20.6 in 1991 to 20.9 in 1996.

SAT scores declined from 937 in 1972 to 902 in 1994. A new test was introduced in 1995 ( renamed the Scholastic Assessment Test) and the average national score jumped to 1013 in 1996. There is, however, considerable dispute among educational experts regarding the comparability of the 1995 and 1996 test scores with scores from previous years.

Fifteen ACT states experienced slight score improvements from 1995 to 1996; nine remained the same; and three declined.

• An improvement of 0.2 points was recorded in Arizona, Minnesota, Oklahoma and South Dakota (an increase of only 1%)
• Tennessee experienced a decline in ACT scored, dropping from 20.3 to 19.9 Montana and Nevada both dropped their scores by a tenth of a point.

• Eighteen SAT states displayed score improvements from 199-96; two remained constant; and three declined.

• Changes in the SAT prevent comparisons of scores. However, changes in rankings could indicate improvement relative to other states.
• Hawaii and Virginia experienced the greatest improvement in SAT ranking, each rising by three places. Massachusetts improved its ranking by two places.
• Maine dropped four places in the rankings; Florida fell two places.

Public School Outputs

Spending and Staffing

 

TABLE 2: COLLEGE ENTRANCE EXAMINATION SCORES

ACT

SAT

1996
Rank
1995
Rank
1995-96 Change
Rank
1991 Rank 1991-96 Change Rank 1996
Rank
1995
Rank
1995-96 Change
Rank
United States 20.9   20.8   0.1   20.6   0.3   1013   1010   3  
Alabama 20.1 22 20.0 24 0.1 5 19.8 23 0.3 10            
Alaska                     1034 3 1034 4 0 19
Arizona 21.2 15 21.0 18 0.2 1 20.9 13 0.3 10            
Arkansas 20.2 20 20.2 21 0.0 16 19.9 22 0.3 10            
California                     1006 8 1001 9 5 2
Colorado 21.4 5 21.4 5 0.0 16 21.3 5 0.1 21            
Connecticut                     1011 5 1009 5 2 11
Delaware                     1003 10 999 11 4 6
Florida                     994 17 993 15 1 15
Georgia                     961 22 960 22 1 15
Hawaii                     995 15 990 18 5 2
Idaho 21.3 11 21.2 11 0.1 5 21.1 8 0.2 14            
Illinois 21.2 15 21.1 16 0.1 5 20.8 16 0.4 3            
Indiana                     988 20 986 19 2 11
Iowa 21.9 3 21.8 3 0.1 5 21.7 1 0.2 14            
Kansas 21.3 11 21.2 11 0.1 5 21.1 8 0.2 14            
Kentucky 20.1 22 20.1 22 0.0 16 20.0 21 0.1 21            
Louisiana 19.4 26 19.4 26 0.0 16 19.4 25 0.0 25          
Maine                     1002 13 1001 9 1 15
Maryland                     1011 5 1009 5 2 11
Massachusetts                     1011 5 1007 7 4 6
Michigan 21.1 18 21.1 16 0.0 16   N/A   N/A          
Minnesota 22.1 1 21.9 2 0.2 1 21.4 4 0.7 1            
Mississippi 18.8 27 18.8 27 0.0 16 18.6 26 0.2 14            
Missouri 21.4 5 21.3 8 0.1 5 21.0 10 0.4 3            
Montana 21.7 4 21.8 3 -0.1 25 21.6 3 0.1 21            
Nebraska 21.4 5 21.4 5 0.0 16 21.2 6 0.2 14            
Nevada 21.2 15 21.3 8 -0.1 25 20.9 13 0.3 10            
New Hampshire                     1034 3 1035 3 -1 21
New Jersey                     1003 10 999 11 4 6
New Mexico 20.2 20 20.1 22 0.1 5 20.1 18 0.1 21            
New York                     996 14 993 15 1 9
North Carolina                     976 21 970 21 6 1
North Dakota 21.3 11 21.2 11 0.1 5 20.7 17 0.6 2            
Ohio 21.3 11 21.2 11 0.1 5 20.9 13 0.4 3            
Oklahoma 20.5 19 20.3 19 0.2 1 20.1 18 0.4 3            
Oregon                   1044 1 1047 1 -3 23
Pennsylvania                     990 19 985 20 5 2
Rhode Island                     992 18 992 17 0 19
South Carolina                     954 23 951 23 3 9
South Dakota 21.4 5 21.2 11 0.2 1 21.0 10 0.4 3            
Tennessee 19.9 25 20.3 19 -0.4 27 20.1 18 -0.2 26            
Texas                     995 15 996 14 -1 21
Utah 21.4 5 21.4 5 0.0 16 21.0 10 0.4 3            
Vermont                     1006 8 1005 8 1 15
Virginia                     1003 10 998 13 5 2
Washington                     1038 2 1036 2 2 11
West Virginia 20.0 24 20.0 24 0.0 16 19.8 23 0.2 14            
Wisconsin 22.1 1 22.0 1 0.1 5 21.7 1 0.4 3            
Wyoming 21.4 5 21.3 8 0.1 5 21.2 6 0.2 14            
Exhibit: DC                     962   956   6  
 

Source: 1996 NAEP Mathematics Report Card for the Nation and the States, (Table B. 12: Average Mathematics Scale Scores and Achievement Levels by Type of School Grade 8)

While there has been little improvement is student achievement, policy makers continue to increase the amount of resources they pour into the public education system. Four measures of public school inputs are examined in this Report Card on American Education.

• Spending per student
• Average teacher salaries
• Number of teachers per student
• Number of non-teaching staff per student

From 1970 to 1996, real (inflation-adjusted) spending for public education increased 84.6%. From 1985 to 1996 real spending increased 38.7%.

Spending per student has increased as dramatically as overall spending. Since 1970, real per-student spending increased 88.3%. Over the last 11 years, real per-student spending rose 21.7%.  The spending escalation has been substantial in relation to the 100-plus components of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). From 1970 to 1996, the per-student increase in spending exceeded that of all elements of the CPI, except the indices for lettuce and hospital rooms. It exceeded by more than 10% the increase in the medical care index and per-capita federal, state and local government expenditures.

 

Public School Spending

The major focus of the education reform agenda of many policy makers is to spend more on the education system, thereby giving the people who work in it access to the staff, educational materials, equipment and supplies that are necessary to improve academic performance. American taxpayers supported public education with $255.4 billion in 1996. This financial investment resulted in a national per-pupil average expenditure of $5,719

• The highest spending per student was in New Jersey($9,787), Alaska ($9,365), New York ($8,693), Connecticut ($7,955) and Rhode Island ($7,370).

 

• The lowest spending, per student was in Arkansas ($3,295), Utah ($3,669), Oklahoma ($3,779), Mississippi ($4,001) and Idaho ($4,241).

TRENDS

The financial investment in education in 1996 represents a significant increase over the last 26 years. From 1970 to 1996, real (inflation-adjusted) spending for public education increased 84.6%. From 1985 to 1996 real spending increases 38.7%.

Spending per student has increased as dramatically as overall spending. Since 1970, real per-student spending increased 88.3%. Over the last 11 years, real per-student spending rose 21.7%. The spending escalation has been substantial in relation to the 100-plus components of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). 

From 1970 to 1996, the per-student increase in spending exceeded that of all elements of the CPI, except the indices for lettuce and hospital rooms. It exceeded by more than 10% the increase in the medical care index and per-capita federal, state and local government expenditures

While the national average of per-student expenditures has risen significantly, there has been great variation among the states over time.

• Since 1970, Kentucky experienced the greatest increase in per-student spending (184.1%), followed by New Jersey (161.9%), and West Virginia (142.5%). Hawaii had the smallest per-student increase (35.6%).

Average teachers' salaries have increased more than 8% in excess of inflation over the past 26 years. By comparison, average full-time wages and salaries for private employees rose only 1 % in inflation-adjusted dollars from 1970 to 1993. While the increase in teachers' salaries is significant when compared to other employees, it pales in comparison to the increase in overall spending on education (84.6% from 1970 to 1996), and the increase in per-pupil spending (88.3%) from 1970 to 1996). During the past 11 years, inflation-adjusted teacher salaries have increased 10%, as compared to a 39.1 % increase in overall education spending during that time.

ALEC's 1996 Report Card

 

• Since 1985, Kentucky experienced the greatest percentage increase (84%), followed by New Jersey (61.3%) and New Mexico (49.9%). Wyoming achieved the greatest percentage reduction in per-student spending (11.2%), followed by Alaska (11.0%) and Hawaii (6.8%).

 

• From 1995-1996, New Mexico increased per-pupil spending the most (17.9%) followed by Kentucky (5.0%), Utah (4.2%), Maryland (3.2%) and South Dakota (3.0%). Hawaii reduced per-pupil spending the most (4.3%), followed by Oklahoma (4.0%) and Colorado (3.2%).

Teacher Salaries

Many policy makers argue that increasing teacher salaries will have a positive impact on student achievement by making the profession more attractive to highly qualified individuals. The average annual teacher salary in 1996 was $37,846. Teacher salaries display significant fluctuation among states.

• Average teacher salaries were highest in Connecticut ($50,400), Alaska ($49,620), Michigan ($49,168), New York ($48,115) and New Jersey ($47,910)

 

• Average teacher salaries were lowest in South Dakota ($26,346), Louisiana ($26,800), North Dakota ($26,969), Mississippi ($27,689), and Oklahoma ($28,909).

TRENDS

Average teachers' salaries have increased more than 8% in excess of inflation over the past 26 years. By comparison, average full-time wages and salaries for private employees rose only 1% in inflation-adjusted dollars from 1970 to 1993.  While the increase in teachers' salaries is significant when compared to other employees, it pales in comparison to the increase in overall spending on education (84.6% from 1970 to 1996), and the increase in per-pupil spending (88.3%) from 1970 to 1996). During the past 11 years, inflation-adjusted teacher salaries have increased 10%, as compared to a 39.1% increase in overall education spending during that time.

Significant changes in state teacher salaries have occurred over the past 26 years.

• Over the past 26 years, average teacher salaries increased the most in Connecticut (34.6%), Pennsylvania (31.0%), and New Jersey (29.8%). Average teachers' salaries declined the most in Arizona (7.8%), New Mexico (6.9%) and Hawaii (6.3%).

 

• Over the last 11 years, average teacher salaries increased the most in Connecticut (41.3%), Pennsylvania (33.0%), and New Jersey (32.3%). The largest average teacher salary declines were seen in Wyoming (18.0%), Alaska (11.5%) and North Dakota (7.9%).

 

• From 1995 to 1996, average teacher salaries increased the most in Missouri (3.8%), Pennsylvania (2.4%), and Washington (2.2%) Average teacher salaries declined the most in Hawaii (9.7%), North Carolina (3.6%) and Alabama (2.4%).

Students, Teachers, and Student/Teacher Ratios

Many policy makers claim that decreasing the pupil/teacher ratio will enable teachers to give more individualized attention to students, thereby improving student achievement. In the 1995-1996 school year there were 44,661,558 students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools in the United States and 2,586,497 teachers employed in these schools. This resulted in a ratio of 17.3 students for each teacher.

• The lowest 1996 student-teacher ratios were in New Jersey (13.8), Vermont (13.8), Connecticut (14.3), Nebraska (14.5) and Rhode Island (14.6)

 

• The highest student-teacher ratios were in California (24.2), Utah (23.6), Washington (21.0), Michigan (20.3) and Oregon (19.8).

TRENDS

Over the past 26 years, public school enrollment declined 2% while the number of teachers increased 28.3% .This resulted in a massive 23.6% drop in the national student-teacher ratio. Over the past 11 years, public school enrollment increased 13.9%, but the number of teachers more than kept pace, increasing 19.3%. As a result, the student-teacher ratio declined 4.5% in that time.

Student-teacher ratios have shown a steady decline over time in most states, although there is some variation among them.

• Over the past 26 years, the largest reductions in student-teacher ratios occurred in West Virginia (37.8%), Georgia (36.8%), and New Jersey (35.0%).

 

• Over the past 11 years, student-teacher ratios declined in 38 states, with the largest reductions in Hawaii (21.3%), North Carolina (16.4%), and Tennessee (15.8%). The largest increases in the student-teacher ratio occurred in Oregon (8.2%), South Dakota (7.8%) and Wyoming (5.8%)

 

• During the past year, Arkansas decreased its pupil-to-teacher ratio the most (9.0%), followed by Tennessee (6.6%) and Alaska (4.3%). Maine experienced the greatest ratio increase (8.7%), followed by South Dakota (7.8%) and Ohio (6.1%).

NON-TEACHING STAFF

In the fall of 1995, 2,396,138 were employed as non-teaching staff in the public schools. This is nearly as many as the number of teachers employed that year (2,586,497) and represents 17.3 students per non-teaching staff employee.

• The lowest ratios of students to non-teaching personnel were in Vermont (13.8), New Jersey (13.8), Maine (13.9), Rhode Island (14.3), Connecticut (14.4) and Virginia (14.4)

 

• The lowest ratios of students to non-teaching personnel were in Vermont (13.8), New Jersey (13.8), Maine (13.9), Rhode Island (14.3), Connecticut (14.4) and Virginia (14.4)

TRENDS

Between 1970 and 1996, the number of teachers increased 28.3%, while the number of non-teaching personnel more than doubled that rate --78.2%. Over that time, the ratio of students to non-teaching staff declined dramatically, from 33.9 to its current 17.3. Between 1985 and 1996, the number of non-teaching personnel increased at a significantly greater rate (26.5%) than did teachers (19.3%)

• From 1970 to 1996, every state decreased its pupil-to-non teacher ratio. The states that decreased their ratios the most were Hawaii (67.6%), Maine (63%), and Illinois (62.7%). The greatest restraint was shown by Oregon (28.5%), Florida (31.0%), and California (33.3%). (Data for Alaska, Connecticut, Montana and Texas are incomplete.)

 

• From 1985 to 1996, pupil-to-non-teacher ratios fell in 42 states, with the greatest decrease in Idaho (47.7%), Rhode Island (45.2%) and Maine (41.6%). Meanwhile, Michigan's ratio increased the most (4.8%), followed by Mississippi (4.2%) and California (2.1%)

 

• From 1995 to 1996, the pupil-to-non-teacher ratio declined in 26 states, with Tennessee (10.2%), Rhode island (2.7%) and Utah (2.1%) decreasing their ratios the most. South Dakota (4.2%), North Dakota (3.9%) and Ohio (3.0%) increased their ratios the most.

Report Card 1996: Correlation Between Inputs and Outputs

Top performing states in 1995-96 (listed alphabetically below) and their rankings in four statistical categories(based on most recent data):

State

 

Expenditures/Pupil (inflation adjusted)

 

Average Teacher Pay

 

Pupil Teacher Ratio

 

Pupil/ Non-Teacher Ratio

 

Rank Rank Rank Rank
Iowa 28 33 14 14
Massachusetts 8 7 8 8
Minnesota 16 18 34 39
Montana 26 43 24 23
Nebraska 31 38 4 7
North Dakota 38 48 21 20
Utah 49 42 49 49
Vermont 11 19 1 1
Wisconsin 9 14 14 19
Wyoming 19 36 9 10

....policy makers have suggested that this inherent inefficiency is due to the fact that the public education system in every state operates as a government monopoly, with little or no competition between public schools. And many obstacles preclude parents from enrolling their children in private schools. If the system is not opened to competition soon, taxpayers will continue to channel increasingly scarce financial resources into an educational system that is incapable of using those resources effectively and is committing a great social disservice by not adequately educating and preparing our children for the 21st century.

The lack of ideal student achievement measures makes it difficult to conduct a rigorous statistical analysis of the correlation between student achievement and the factors that influence it. Indeed, one conclusion to be drawn from ALEC's Report Card series is that our current system of measuring student achievement is deficient. ALEC's Report Card attempts to remedy this by identifying the 10 most successful states and comparing their rankings among the factors believed to have an impact on the quality of schools. However, as the chart shows, there does not appear to be any statistically significant correlation between the success of these states and such factors as spending, salaries and staffing.

Since each of these factors should have a beneficial impact on student achievement, the lack of a correlation suggests that the system itself is not making effective use of the financial and staff resources funneled to it. Some policy makers have suggested that this inherent

inefficiency is due to the fact that the public education system in every state operates as a government monopoly, with little or no competition between public schools. And many obstacles preclude parents from enrolling their children in private schools. If the system is not opened to competition soon, taxpayers will continue to channel increasingly scarce financial resources into an educational system that is incapable of using those resources effectively and is committing a great social disservice by not adequately educating and preparing our children for the 21st century.

Education Spending vs. Academic Performance: Arkansas Trends

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) projects Arkansans will increase their public K-12 investment, by the year 2005, to $2.5 billion if they continue to increase spending at its current pace. That's an increase of more than half a billion dollars to the annual budget--and this to a system with a decades-long pattern of sustained low academic performance in the face of $20 billion already invested by Arkansans since 1970.

 

Two questions: Does Arkansas continue the politically driven practice of spending more education tax dollars each year and getting poor results in return? Or does Arkansas, before throwing millions more into systemically entrenched low academic performance, get serious about changing its education system---making it results-oriented, re focused on its academic mission, tailored to the needs and values of children and parents, and characterized by more choices and options rather than none?

When Arkansans examine education input (money, people, and equipment) versus education output (student achievement and academic performance), the same trends that the American Legislative Exchange Council reveals nationally (see previous section) are paralleled in our state as well. For the billions in education tax dollars poured into Arkansas' public K-12 education system in the last several decades, there has been little corresponding improvement on the academic front.

The conclusion for Arkansas' public schools is the same conclusion ALEC, and many education reformers have reached about the nation's system as a whole. As currently configured--monopolized by government and infused with the political ideals of the education unions--this is a system that is not driven to substantively change or do all that is required to fully restore academic performance.

Some Arkansas educators and elected officials will point to new academic reforms such as the Governor's Smart Start program as substantive change--and it is clearly a move in the right direction to be sure. But the success of a "back to basics" approach depends on the system that supports it and the people in the system. If the system is weak to begin with and comprises the same people who have been consistently failing to achieve results--the outlook for genuine improvement with any new program raises doubts, as this one does. Time will tell.

Initial analysis by the Arkansas Policy Foundation, however, indicates the state's new Smart Start program may not go far enough in requiring proven teaching methods and needed curriculum changes. Academic standards will likely remain ill-defined and unclear under the program, making performance measurement difficult at best. And aiming for the 4th grade--rather than the first grade--as the benchmark year by which all students will perform at grade level is too late according to a number of academic experts. Among them is E.D. Hirsch (The Schools We Need) who said, "the achievement of this single goal--every child reading at grade level by the end of the first or second grade--would do more than any other single reform to improve the quality and equality of American schooling."-States such as Texas, Georgia, and California have taken his message to heart--and the results are already showing in their schools.

[Editor's Note: As drafts of this report were being concluded, officials at the Arkansas Department of Education indicated a renewed and sincere interest in revising Arkansas' academic standards--embodied in the state's current and very weak curriculum framework. Time will tell if these revisions will reflect the tough and rigorous world-class quality of standards set by states such as Virginia, California, and Arizona].

More importantly, if Arkansas abandons norm-referenced testing--such as the SAT9--in favor of its own grade level assessments as the only measure of student achievement, Arkansans will have no way of knowing how.

STATE PROFILE FOR ARKANSAS

Source: American Legislative Exchange Council
Report Card on American Education 1996

United States Arkansas Rank
A. Expenditures (Public School Inputs)

 

1. Enrollment 44,661,558 44,278  34
2. %change '70-'96

 

-2.0%

 

-1.3%

 

21

 

3. Expenditures in million $255,442 $1,497 37
4. % change '70-'96

 

84.6%

 

57.6%

 

41

 

5. Per-pupil expenditures $5,719 $3,295 50
6. % change, '70-'96

 

88.3%

 

59.5%

 

47

 

7. Teacher salaries $37,846 $29,322 45
8. % change,'70-'96

 

8.5% 

 

15.0%

 

14

 

9. Pupil/teacher ratio 17.3 15.6 17
10. % change, '70-'9

 

-23.6% 

 

-33.7%

 

6

 

11. Pupil/non-teacher ratio 17.3 17.1 33
12. % change, '70-'96

 

-49.9%

 

-53.3%

 

18

 

(Note: #3 through #8 are inflation-adjusted expenditures)

B. Student Achievement (Public School Outputs)

NAEP Eighth Grade Mathematics:
1. 1996 Score  271 262 33 out of 39
2. 1992 Score  266 255 38 out of 41
3. 1996 % Proficient 23% 13% 37 out of 39
4. 1992 % Proficient

 

23%

 

13%

 

37 out of 41

 

5. ACT 1996 20.9 20.2 20 out of 27
6. ACT 1995 20.8 20.2 21 out of 27
7. ACT 1991

 

20.6

 

19.9

 

22 out of 26

 

9. Graduation Rate 68.8% 78.9% 12
10. % change, 1980 -4.6% 5.4% 5

This state profile provides data on key expenditures and level of student achievement. More information is contained in the Report Card on American Education 1996 that is available from ALEC, 910 17th 'St. N. W., 5th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20006, (202) 466-3800, Fax (202)466-3801.

Arkansas students compare to the rest of the nation or world. The risk in this is clear: Smart Start's results, if measured against only its own criteria, will offer no evidence of how well Arkansas' children perform comparatively with other states and the world. Absent the incentive of competing academically with the rest of the nation and world, the system may remain sluggish in academic performance causing our kids to lag farther behind.

[Editor's Note: Again, as drafts of this report were being concluded, officials at the Arkansas Department of Education expressed an emphatic willingness to continue norm-referenced testing in some form. It's a good sign, but the effectiveness of such tests will depend on their substance and content. Moreover, it is always distressing when a new academic thrust is introduced---and then the tests that informed the public that a problem existed are changed or abandoned. It makes it almost impossible to determine if academic gains, based on the original performance measures, have been achieved. For our part, we would rather stick with the same tests being administered now--and see where we are three and four years from now based on those same tests. That would be the truest indicator of progress and the success of Smart Start. It might also be less costly.]

The primary concern of the Murphy Commission centers on how to substantively change the system--and to change practices in the system--in order to finally guarantee the academic results that have not been forthcoming for almost three decades. If current reforms involve retaining many of the same people who created the problem, depending on them for the solutions, and simply repackaging existing methodologies with a new look, new program names, and more costs ...there is little hope that meaningful academic improvement can be expected for the state's public school children. And this will be the case regardless of the sincere intent and right direction underlying programs such as Smart Start.

The following spending and performance data demonstrates Arkansas has been spending more and getting less for its public education dollars. It reinforces the mounting perception that the state's education system must dramatically change before the tax dollar investment is substantially increased.

Arkansas Public Education Revenue Trends

(Data for this section supplied by the Arkansas Department of
Education and UALR's 1998 Arkansas Statistical Abstract)

From 1971 to 1995, Arkansans generously provided more than $20 billion dollars in tax revenue (local and state dollars) to support and improve their public K-12 education system. That figure represents a 619% nominal increase in public education support as the state's annual tax contribution for schools rose from $220 million in 1971 to more than $1.5 billion in 1995.

Of the $20 billion tax dollars provided by Arkansans over more than two decades, $12.3 billion derived from state level taxes which increased more than 800% (nominal dollars) from $114 million in 1971 to just over $1 billion in 1995. The local share of revenue during the same period rose 412% from $99.9 million in 1971 to $512 million in 1995.

For the same reporting period (1971-1995), Arkansas also benefited from increasing federal funding. In unrestricted funds the numbers jumped from $4.7 million in 1971 to $5.9 million in 1995 and totaled $184.6 million. It is worth noting here that there were two years in which the state enjoyed massive federal dollar increases. Arkansas' funding from Washington doubled from $8.6 million in 1981 to $16.6 million in 1982 and again from 1989 to 1990 when it more than doubled--rising from $5.8 million to $12.7 million.

Further examination of the 1971-95 revenue figures shows that the percentage of public school revenue generated by state level taxes increased from 52% in 1971 to 66.3% in 1995. During this same period, the local tax contribution for education fell from 45.2% to 32.2% of total revenue for schools. Some analysts, concerned with issues of local vs. state control of education, take this trend as evidence that at least "purse string" control--if not outright control-- of local schools is steadily shifting from the local to the state level. The passage of Amendment--in 1996, also had the effect of converting the local property tax into a constitutionally mandated 25 mill statewide tax.  In Arkansas, 86% of the state's Department of Education, according to a recent UALR report, is federalized.

The charts on this page show the significant investment Arkansas have made in their public schools over the last three decades and the break out of state, federal and local funding for schools. More than $23 billion in tax dollars were provided since 1971--a nominal increase of some 619%. The federal share of funding for the 20 year period was $3 billion (black section on pie chart) compared with $12 billion provided by state taxes and $7.3 billion by local taxes. --in 1996, also had the effect of converting the local property tax into a constitutionally mandated 25 mill statewide tax. In Arkansas, 86% of the state's Department of Education, according to a recent UALR report, is federalized.

When federal restricted funds for education are added to federal unrestricted funds for the 1971-95 reporting period, it brings all federal funds awarded to around $3 billion. This in turn raises the total amount of state and federal funding for the period to $23 billion. The Murphy Commission and the Arkansas Policy Foundation received a number of state government reports that consistently failed to show federal unrestricted funds for education. It raises some questions about how these funds are accounted for and reported as well as what they are specifically funding. The Commission may issue a brief in the future.

Arkansas Public Education Spending Trends

Arkansas ranks 7th among all states in relative share of allocations to public education

In 1965, the state spent $153 million to educate our children; by 1997 the number had increased to $1.7 billion in local, state, and federal funds (based on Average Daily Attendance, source UALR Statistical Abstract). This represents an increase of more than 1000% (nominal dollars) and adjusted for inflation it equates to a 160.5% rise (1992 dollars). See Spending Trends charts.

In the per-pupil expenditure category (again based on ADA) for the same period, 1965 to 1997, Arkansas has seen an increase from a low of $317 in 1965 to $4168 in 1997 (UALR and the Arkansas Department of Education). This represents a 1214.8% nominal increase ...197% adjusted for inflation. See Spending Trends charts.

Increases in Public School Personnel

Increases in Public School Personnel

Increases in education dollars inevitably translate to growth of personnel and other components in the education system. Arkansas is no exception. The following growth items are provided by Arkansas' Department of Education, the Council of State Governments, and the American Legislative Exchange Council:

• Arkansans have seen the number of teachers in our public schools grow from 17,407 in 1965 to 29,574 in 1997; a 70% increase. The total number of employees currently at work in the public K-12 system is 58,892.

 

• The number of counselors in Arkansas' schools almost tripled rising from 415 in 1975 to 1221 (FTE) in 1997, a 194% increase.

 

• Arkansas public school librarians increased by ~69% from 1975 through 1997 expanding from 565 to 954 (FIE) during that period.

 

• From 1970 to 1996, non-teaching staff in Arkansas' schools rose from 12,571 to 22,729, an increase of 80.8%. (ALEC). Diane Ravitch, a Senior Fellow with the Manhattan Institute and frequent contributor to Forbes Magazine, has noted that the U.S. is the only nation in the world where a majority of education workers (51%) are not teachers. In other countries, as many as 75% of all education staff are teachers. It's a trend paralleled in Arkansas where 29,574 of staff are teachers to a 58,892 total of personnel in the system; about a 50-50 split.

 

• As the number of non-teaching positions grew in Arkansas' schools, the ratio of non-teaching staff to students fell. In 1970 the ratio was 1 non-teaching staff members to 36.6 and in 1996 the ration was 1 to 17.1.

See Personnel Trend Graphs

 

 

 

 

 

Arkansas Student Performance Trends

Here are the facts on Arkansas student academic performance as represented by scores on commonly used standardized tests: See Performance Trend Graphs


College entrance exams, the American College Test (ACT) and Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT)
1. The ACT:
60% of Arkansas' seniors take this test. The average score in 1972 was 18.6 which ranked our state 22nd at that time. Today 27 states use the ACT. Arkansas' score has changed little at 20.2 which ranks the state 21st among the 27 states giving the test. Educators might argue that an increase of almost 2 points is significant. But, the jump in ACT scores beginning in 1990 came from an adjustment in the test. Dr. Kelly Hayden with ACT said, "There is no relationship between pre-1990 scores and post 1990 scores due to test changes, and the increase in scores after 1990 reflect only changes in the test and not improved student achievement." (ADE, ALEC) Arkansas' latest score on the ACT is 20.2 (ALEC), placing the state well below the national average score of 20.9.

2. The SAT: Fewer than 6% of Arkansas' seniors take this college entrance test, scoring an average 995 which ranks the state 19th among all 50 states. Twenty three states use the SAT as their primary entrance exam, even though there is some evidence that the test appears to have been periodically dumbed down. Most Arkansas colleges and universities require the ACT as an entrance exam. (ALEC)

3. Remediation: Public college remediation for Arkansas' entering freshmen has increased from 49.7% in 1993 to 59.2% in 1997. Remediation (reading, writing, and or math) is applied to those students scoring 19 or below on the ACT. On average, about 1/3 of our nation's entering college students take remedial classes. According to Lu Hardin, director of higher education, Arkansas spent $26.2 million during the 1997-98 school year for remedial instruction. (ADE '96-'97 Report Card for 1993 figure; Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 4/25/98, 1997 number, and U.S. Department of Education for the national number). Note: Lu Hardin notes that the 59.2% remediation rate includes students who have been out of high school for a number of years. The remediation rate for students just out of high school is 48% and has been showing some improvement in recent years...a good sign. Some educators also point out that the national remediation rate is not normed from state to state. That is, each state may have differing criteria for determining remediation.

Tests administered during K-12 grades:

The Congressionally sponsored National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 
(This test has been used as the nation's official measure of educational progress since 1962)

4. The NAEP: The NAEP is the official congressionally sponsored measure of student performance in the U.S and has been in use since 1962. The tests are not administered annually, but are given bi-annually and alternated by subject (math and reading for grades four and eight). The latest NAEP test in reading shows that only 24% of our nation's students read at a proficient level by the time they reach the fourth grade. The latest math scores on the NAEP show modest point gains nationally, but still only 23% of all students are proficient on the math test at the eighth grade level. The national average score today is 271.

5. Arkansas on the NAEP: (ALEC)

• 1994- 4th grade reading: Score, 210 Rank, 28th (of 39); 20% read at a proficient level. (This percentage is exactly the same as it was in 1992 and puts Arkansas four points below the national average of 24%)

 

• 1996- 8th grade math: Score, 262 Rank, 33rd (of 39); 13% perform at a proficient level. (This percentage is exactly the same as it was in 1992, and puts Arkansas a full ten points under the national average of 23% on this test.)

At first glance, Arkansas' performance on the most recent 8th grade math NAEP appears to show improvement. In 1992, Arkansas' average score was 255, down a point from 256 on the 1990 NAEP math test and still well under the average 1992 average national score of 266. By contrast, Arkansas' score on NAEP's 1996 math test was up 7 points from 1992 taking Arkansas' average score to 262--the minimally needed score for what NAEP terms "basic" level performance. This improvement also moved Arkansas up in the rankings from 38th (based on 41 states taking the test) to 33rd. (based on 39 states taking the test).

 

Arkansas' Performance (Math) on the Congressionally Mandated
National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP)

 

U.S. Avg. Score

Ark. Avg. Score

% of students proficient

1990

262

256

 

1992

266

255

13

1996

271

262

13

 

9 point gain

8 point gain

no change

 

The ACT trends (top) show an essentially flat line with a gain of 1.7--but this after the test was "adjusted" down. Arkansas still remains below the national ACT average and a full point behind Minnesota--an ACT score leader--which took its score to 22.1 before falling back to 21.8. The ACT scores range from 1-36. Arkansas ranks 20th among the 27 states that use the ACT. In recent years Arkansas has seen encouraging point gains on the ACT, but we need to close the gap and meet or exceed the national average.

The NAEP is the official congressionally mandated measure of student performance in the U.S. It's latest test in math, 1996 (tests are not administered annually, are alternated by year), shows Arkansas making point gains from 1990 and 1992. Still, only 13% of Arkansas' students reach the proficient level and that has remained unchanged for most of this decade ranking the state 33rd of 39 states that were measured. The national average for math proficiency is 23%. Sources: The American Legislative Exchange Council

What must be kept in perspective, however, is that the so-called "basic level" of performance is well below what is considered to be proficient (299-332 in 1996) and far below the so-called "advanced" level. Again, only 13% of Arkansas' students are at the proficient level on the 1996 test --the same level of proficiency as 1992. The number can be stated another way. A whopping 87% of Arkansas' students have not achieved a reasonable level of proficiency in math for most of the 1990s--a percentage that is borne out by the test scores of Arkansas students taking the state's llth grade exit exam in math. On that state-developed test (see ACTAP below) 87% of all students also failed the math section.

Just several years ago, Arkansas had adopted education goals language--tied to Goals 2000--that said, "Arkansas will be first in the world in math by the year 2000." With three years to go, the Arkansas legislature scrapped that language in the 1997 legislative session, striking it from the record forever. The hope of many Arkansans is that this legislative action was not a capitulation ...an admission that Arkansas' children are somehow unable to learn as well as other students because nothing could be farther from the truth.

Arkansas' children can indeed learn as well as any other children in the world. They can even achieve world-class results in math and other subjects. But it will not happen until proven curriculums and teaching methods are put back into the schools. Moreover, it certainly will not happen unless Arkansas sets goals and standards and sticks to them. And finally, it will not happen unless the state measures progress, tied directly to rigorous academic standards, and reports that progress school by school--including school to school comparisons (all southern states except Arkansas now do this), district by district, state by state, and nation by nation. Arkansas must know where it stands in education if it intends to be a national and world economic player.

The Arkansas Comprehensive Testing and Assessment Program (ACTAP), a criterion referenced exam tied to the Arkansas Curriculum Frameworks and mandated by the General Assembly

6. The ACTAP: In the fall of 1997, 87% of 11th graders failed math and 58% of 11th graders failed literacy. Originally touted as a comprehensive exit exam, its continued use is being re-evaluated. Experts have said that although the test does align with the state's Curriculum Frameworks and is a valid test, Arkansas students have not been taught the problem solving skills to successfully complete the math portion of the test. (ADE).

The Murphy Commission believes standardized exit exams are essential to determine how graduating students fare comparatively across the state--as well as how effectively these same students have met standards. But in a very real sense, the system has done students and their parents a disservice with the ACTAP. In a state that practices social promotion---passing students to the next grade regardless of whether or not they have learned---it is unfair to expect high scores at the end of the process. Social promotion is a form of educational mal-practice. It sends a false message to the public that all is well in the system when the system is in fact not performing.

Stanford Achievement Test (SAT), a nationally norm-referenced test
that compares Arkansas students to other students nationwide.

7. The Stanford Achievement Test (now called the SAT9) - Current Arkansas law requires the state's students in grades five, seven and ten take the norm-referenced Stanford Achievement Test (SAT) each September. The test, which assesses reading and math skills, provides a national comparison with other states, but is under consideration to be discontinued in Arkansas' schools. On the SAT, the 50th percentile is considered the national average. It appears Arkansas student achievement on the SAT, over the last four years, is stagnant or declining: Students scoring at or below the 25th percentile increased from 20.8% in Spring 1994 to 23.6% in Fall 1997; Students scoring above the 50th percentile dropped from 49.6% to 45.3% during that same time frame; and Students scoring above the 75th percentile dropped from 24.2% to 17.6% during that same time frame. (ADE 1996-97 Report Card)

Other Observations on the SAT9

• Less than 50 of 311, or only 16 percent of all Arkansas school districts, exceeded the national average 50th percentile in each of the grades tested.

 

• Another 34 percent of the 311 school districts failed to achieve the 50th percentile score in any grade tested.

 

• Another 26 percent, or more than one of four of Arkansas districts, failed to achieve even the lesser average score in any grade tested.

These test results tend to reinforce the notion that high numbers of Arkansas children are being advanced through the K-12 system, but they cannot read, write, add or subtract at an acceptable level of performance.

Arkansas highest performing districts and lowest performing districts based on the 1997 SAT9

(SAT9 Scores, ACT Scores, and Public College Remediation vs. Per Pupil Expenditures)

• 14 Highest Performing Districts: The average scores of those above the 50th percentile on the 1997 SAT9 was 63.5%. The average college remediation rate in these districts was 38.94, and of the 65.2% taking the ACT, the average score was 21.5. The average per pupil expenditure for these districts was $3,346.

 

• 12 Lowest Performing Districts: The average scores of those above the 50th percentile was 14.2%. The average college remediation rate in these districts was 76.24%, and of the 50.32% taking the ACT, the average score was 15.82. The average per pupil expenditure was $3,706.

 

Note:It appears that the highest performing school districts in Arkansas had a consistently lower per-pupil expenditure than the lowest performing school districts. This reinforces national trends where most of the top performing states are not the states with the highest per-pupil expenditure.

Other significant data between highest and lowest performing schools districts:

 

• The average size of the highest performing districts was 2,782.5; the average size of the lowest performing districts was 875.9. ( State average was 1,438 for 1995-96 school year.)

 

• The school board, superintendent's office, and principal's office expense per average daily membership (ADM) was an average of $371.57 in the highest performing districts while at an average of $489.64 in the lowest performing districts. (The state average was $354.)

 

• The athletic expense per ADM in the highest performing districts was an average of $63.14 in the highest performing districts and an average of $74.00 in the lowest performing districts. (The state average as $66.00).

 

• The average teacher's salary in the highest performing districts was $30,081 with an average of 61.15 having master's degrees. In the lowest performing districts, the average teacher's salary was $25,349 with only an average of 16.86 teachers with master's degrees. (The state average was $29,964 for teacher's salaries. No information on number of master's degree teachers.)

Source: Test score data is from the Annual School District 1996-97 Report Card published by the Arkansas Department of Education. The most recent scores were used in each category. Fiscal information. is from the Annual Statistical Report of the Public Schools of Arkansas, 1995-96, also published by the Arkansas Department of Education.

8.  Analysis of Comparative Norm-Referenced Test Data, 1988 through 1995 (Summary derived from an Arkansas Department of Education report entitled "Analysis and Interpretation of the Results of the Arkansas Norm-Referenced Testing Program, 1988-1995"--results of MATE, Metropolitan Achievement Test, 6th edition, and SAT8, Stanford Achievement Test, 8th edition. Reported by Meredith Oakley, in "The ups and downs of test scores", Arkansas-Democrat Gazette, January 12, 1997):

• Between 1988 and 1995, in reading skills, there was a 16% decrease among fourth-graders and a 9% decrease among seventh-graders. Tenth-graders alone showed an increase: 4%.

 

• In total math skills, there was a 13% drop among fourth-graders, a 16% drop among seventh-graders and a 17% drop among 10th-graders.

 

• In total language skills, there was a 14% drop among fourth-graders, a 7% drop among seventh-graders and a 13% drop among 10th-graders.

9. The Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS): This internationally administered test measures American student performance in math and science against 41 major industrialized nations. "It reflects the world class standards our children must meet," says President Clinton. America ranks 17th in science and 28th in math. Given Arkansas' rankings on other tests (NAEP, SAT9), it is fair to conclude that the state is far behind the curve internationally.

10. Arkansas' Graduation Rate was 78.9% in 1996 ranking 12th in the nation; this represents a 5.4% increase since 1980 with an improvement rate that is the nation's 5th fastest. Again, test scores have sagged or stayed stagnant in Arkansas, but graduation rates have improved. While the state touts its high rate of graduation, it's essentially a meaningless number given our overall low level of academic achievement, and given the policy of social promotion practiced in most of our schools. Pointing to high graduation rates when 87% of Arkansas children who fail exit exams graduate a year later seems a bit disingenuous.

Are Arkansas' comparatively low per-pupil expenditures and
teacher salaries a major factor in student academic performance?

Elected officials, especially in Arkansas, often cite comparatively low teacher salaries and low per-pupil expenditures as contributors to low performance. They suggest that raising these numbers to be more in line with other states will improve academic performance. Historical trends do not bear out this assumption (see previous section on national trends, and the ALEC report). ALEC ranks Arkansas' teacher pay 43rd among the states, but when the pay is adjusted for regional cost of living factors it drops to 36th. It also ranks 7th among all states in the percentage of state funding allocated for teacher salaries.

When the nation's top five performing states in academics (as defined by ALEC on the basis of national scores) are examined for teacher salaries (adjusted for cost of living factors), we find that these leading high performance states pay teachers below what Arkansas pays: The states are listed in the table below with their regional cost of living adjusted salaries:

The five top academically performing states pay their teachers less than Arkansas when adjusted for cost of living

State

Pay and Rank
Arkansas $33,284 (rank 36th)
1. Montana (5th on the NAEP math) $30,604 (rank 43rd)
2. South Dakota (5th on the ACT) $29,557 (rank 47th)
3. Maine (first on the NAEP) $29,275 (rank 48th)
4. North Dakota (tie for first on NAEP) $28,553 (rank 49th)
5. New Hampshire (3rd on the SAT) $32,979 (rank 37th)     Source: MassInc.

Other states that pay teachers less than Arkansas, but out perform it on the NAEP, include Arizona, Wyoming, Utah, and Idaho all of which have been ranked near the top in the last several years.

Per-pupil Expenditures

...the Commission wants to be clear on this point. It does not necessarily oppose spending more for teachers and their salaries or for direct instructional support in the classroom that could lead to an increase in the state's per/pupil expenditure. Spending increases, however, should occur only under a performance-based system where results can be measured and are reported publicly. Teachers deserve to be paid as professionals, but in return they should agree to be measured as professionals.

Per-pupil expenditures, when they are low, are often used to make the case for more dollars...but national and international trends show that ever increasing per-pupil expenditures have had little or no influence on academic improvement (see table 1 in the previous section on national trends). Moreover, when these costs are adjusted for cost-of-living (COL) factors by state and region, they tend to become more equalized. In 1995, Arkansas' full per pupil expenditure, supplied by the U.S. Department of Education, was $4,459 (number may vary with ADE numbers because of differing calculation criteria). Dr. Ronn Hy, with the University of Central Arkansas, COL adjusted this figure against other states and found that Arkansas actually spent more in adjusted cost per pupil than 14 states. One of those states, that year, was Utah, a top ten performer in academic output in the ALEC report. Utah spent less than Arkansas without any adjustment for COL ($3,656 to our $4,459). North Dakota, also a top 10 ALEC leader, spent less than Arkansas and other states including Mississippi (-$678 less), Arizona (-$631), South Dakota (-$518),

...the Commission wants to be clear on this point. It does not necessarily oppose spending more for teachers and their salaries or for direct instructional support in the classroom that could lead to an increase in the state's per/pupil expenditure. Spending increases, however, should occur only under a performance-based system where results can be measured and are reported publicly. Teachers deserve to be paid as professionals, but in return they should agree to be measured as professionals.

Per-pupil expenditures, when they are low, are often used to make the case for more dollars...but national and international trends show that ever increasing per-pupil expenditures have had little or no influence on academic improvement (see table 1 in the previous section on national trends). Moreover, when these costs are adjusted for cost-of-living (COL) factors by state and region, they tend to become more equalized. In 1995, Arkansas' full per pupil expenditure, supplied by the U.S. Department of Education, was $4,459 (number may vary with ADE numbers because of differing calculation criteria). Dr. Ronn Hy, with the University of Central Arkansas, COL adjusted this figure against other states and found that Arkansas actually spent more in adjusted cost per pupil than 14 states. One of those states, that year, was Utah, a top ten performer in academic output in the ALEC report. Utah spent less than Arkansas without any adjustment for COL ($3,656 to our $4,459). North Dakota, also a top 10 ALEC leader, spent less than Arkansas and other states including Mississippi (-$678 less), Arizona (-$631), South Dakota (-$518),

California (-$444), Idaho (-$432), Tennessee (-$379), Alabama (-$250), South Carolina (-$232) Nevada (-$177), Hawaii (-$53), New Mexico (-$34) and Louisiana (-$6). Six of these states outperformed Arkansas on the ACT.

It should also be noted that another nine states---when their per pupil expenditures were cost-of-living adjusted pulled much closer to Arkansas. They include North Carolina (+$7 higher), Texas (+$130), Oklahoma (+$154), Virginia (+$155), Colorado (+$235), Georgia (+$351), Iowa (+$373), and Indiana (+$493). It is also interesting to note that of the top highest spending states (in total education expenditures) in 1995 none were in the top 10 academically performing states. The same holds true for 1996.

These figures support the notion that raising teacher pay or pouring more money into per-pupil spending offer no real guarantees of performance one way or the other. But the Commission wants to be clear on this point. It does not necessarily oppose spending more for teachers and their salaries or for direct instructional support in the classroom that could lead to an increase in the state's per/pupil expenditure. Spending increases, however, should occur only under a performance-based system where results can be measured and are reported publicly. Teachers deserve to be paid as professionals, but in return they should agree to be measured as professionals.

Moreover, the system should be invested in heavily when it properly focuses sufficient energy and resources on achieving academic results, functions on the basis of performance, adopts proven methodologies and curriculums, sets clear and rigorous measurable standards, and welcomes competition and cooperation between the private and religious education sectors.

At best, public education has made its relationship with private and religious schools one of adversity and a divisive contest wherein it seeks to capture very school age child to solidify it's dominance and fill its coffers. The notion that children have differing needs and parents have a diversity of values seems to matter little to the public education system. It continually resists suggestions that there are and should be educational options beyond the public sector to meet those individual needs. In doing so, its stifles a fundamental civil right--the right of parents to chose what is best for their children from the broadest possible array of educational opportunities. Is it too much to ask that some day our three education sectors might work together--even when competing---to determine what is best for a child, not for a system or a union, and put that above all else?

Twelve Recommendations to improve
Arkansas' academic performance

A summary of what can be done to make
Arkansas' schools results-oriented and accountable

In this section, the Murphy Commission looks at what can be done to improve Arkansas' education system as it currently exists. But it also comments on the need to ultimately restructure the whole model of education by infusing it with competitive incentives and empowering parents to choose their children's schools from an array of options--public, private, and religious.

Performance Recommendations targeted
to the education system as it is currently structured

Intellectual honesty with the public

1. The education establishment must be relentlessly open and honest in reporting to parents and the public about the academic quality and performance of Arkansas' K-12 schools. As a first step toward this goal, the Governor of Arkansas should annually present to the public a jointly televised "public school performance" address. This "state of education" review should include an "accountability" response from the director of the State Department of Education and a representative of the state's superintendents.

...public school users in Arkansas have simply not been made aware of how poorly Arkansas' schools are performing on the academic front.  Brief stories about test scores and performance appear perennially in state newspapers and watchdog groups do what they can.  But the school establishment knows that these stories are soon forgotten in the press of business and day to day living.

If the highest quality academics and exceptional academic performance are to be the overriding goals of education in Arkansas (as they should be), educators and elected officials must continually engage the public--with honesty, frankness, and openness--concerning the critical issue of student academic performance and what its measurable outcomes say and mean. The objective should be to generate a sustained public dialogue aimed at bringing the people into the resolution of what has clearly become, for this state, a tragic and neglected crisis in our schools.

It is especially critical that this be done when student scores on various standardized measures have remained among the worst in the nation for years, as is the case in Arkansas now.

The people need to know when their schools are in academic crisis; indeed they have a right to know, and they deserve to be made part of a publicly driven initiative for needed education reform. In short, citizens must participate in the solution to a problem that profoundly affects their children and their state. Moreover, leadership that fails to engage and draw in the public on a policy issue as important as education is, without question, failed leadership.

Yet, with few exceptions, Arkansas' education officials and elected political leaders have not effectively communicated to the public this state's sustained and costly pattern of long-term low student performance in its K-12 public education system. And, as a result, citizens and

 in Arkansas are generally unaware of how truly deficient their schools are academically. Most Arkansans, in fact, are unfamiliar with the various tests administered, their outcomes, their comparative implications nationally and internationally, and the pattern of consistently low student performance that has been the case for years. Were they fully informed, the outrage and the demand for results would be deafening. In that sense, it is the public's silence on this vital issue that troubles most.

Articles and columns about sagging test scores and poor student performance appear perennially in state newspapers, and watchdog groups do what they can to get the word out. But the school establishment knows that this brief exposure is fleeting and soon forgotten in the press of business and day to day living. The result, aside from a wide base of Arkansas parents who are largely ill-informed about the performance of their children's schools, is a void of public interest and debate which could, without question, serve to ignite public sentiment and create pressure for meaningful reforms that get results.

Instead, Arkansans seem to grow more complacent or apathetic about their schools over time.--Thus any move toward substantive change and improvement, left to a public school community lacking the all-important incentive of customer demand for quality, never really occurs except as window dressing. The ultimate and predictable outcome? Systemically entrenched, prolonged, academic depression. The record in Arkansas could not be a more clear example.

The Undeclared Crisis in Arkansas' K-12 System

Arkansas' prolonged pattern of low student performance, sub-standard by every traditionally accepted measure, shows our state's schools are in the midst of an unprecedented academic crisis. Yet no crisis has been declared by those who are responsible for our education system.

After years of an increasing education investment by taxpayers, only 13% of Arkansas' students are proficient in math on the current 8th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and only 20% of our fourth graders read at a proficient level as measured by NAEP. When 87% of the state's public school 8th graders cannot perform in math and 80% of 4th graders cannot read at acceptable levels; when almost 60% of students entering Arkansas colleges must be remediated at taxpayer expense ($27 million according to Lu Hardin in the state's higher education department)--there is a crisis by any definition of the word.

...public school users in Arkansas have simply not been made aware of how poorly Arkansas' schools are performing on the academic front.  Brief stories about test scores and performance appear perennially in state newspapers and watchdog groups do what they can.  But the school establishment knows that these stories are soon forgotten in the press of business and day to day living.

If the highest quality academics and exceptional academic performance are to be the overriding goals of education in Arkansas (as they should be), educators and elected officials must continually engage the public--with honesty, frankness, and openness--concerning the critical issue of student academic performance and what its measurable outcomes say and mean. The objective should be to generate a sustained public dialogue aimed at bringing the people into the resolution of what has clearly become, for this state, a tragic and neglected crisis in our schools.

It is especially critical that this be done when student scores on various standardized measures have remained among the worst in the nation for years, as is the case in Arkansas now.

The people need to know when their schools are in academic crisis; indeed they have a right to know, and they deserve to be made part of a publicly driven initiative for needed education reform. In short, citizens must participate in the solution to a problem that profoundly affects their children and their state. Moreover, leadership that fails to engage and draw in the public on a policy issue as important as education is, without question, failed leadership.

Yet, with few exceptions, Arkansas' education officials and elected political leaders have not effectively communicated to the public this state's sustained and costly pattern of long-term low student performance in its K-12 public education system. And, as a result, citizens and

 in Arkansas are generally unaware of how truly deficient their schools are academically. Most Arkansans, in fact, are unfamiliar with the various tests administered, their outcomes, their comparative implications nationally and internationally, and the pattern of consistently low student performance that has been the case for years. Were they fully informed, the outrage and the demand for results would be deafening. In that sense, it is the public's silence on this vital issue that troubles most.

Articles and columns about sagging test scores and poor student performance appear perennially in state newspapers, and watchdog groups do what they can to get the word out. But the school establishment knows that this brief exposure is fleeting and soon forgotten in the press of business and day to day living. The result, aside from a wide base of Arkansas parents who are largely ill-informed about the performance of their children's schools, is a void of public interest and debate which could, without question, serve to ignite public sentiment and create pressure for meaningful reforms that get results.

Instead, Arkansans seem to grow more complacent or apathetic about their schools over time.--Thus any move toward substantive change and improvement, left to a public school community lacking the all-important incentive of customer demand for quality, never really occurs except as window dressing. The ultimate and predictable outcome? Systemically entrenched, prolonged, academic depression. The record in Arkansas could not be a more clear example.

The Undeclared Crisis in Arkansas' K-12 System

Arkansas' prolonged pattern of low student performance, sub-standard by every traditionally accepted measure, shows our state's schools are in the midst of an unprecedented academic crisis. Yet no crisis has been declared by those who are responsible for our education system.

After years of an increasing education investment by taxpayers, only 13% of Arkansas' students are proficient in math on the current 8th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and only 20% of our fourth graders read at a proficient level as measured by NAEP. When 87% of the state's public school 8th graders cannot perform in math and 80% of 4th graders cannot read at acceptable levels; when almost 60% of students entering Arkansas colleges must be remediated at taxpayer expense ($27 million according to Lu Hardin in the state's higher education department)--there is a crisis by any definition of the word.

The 32nd percentile, we're told, isn't really so bad when gender normed for multi-cultural variables case adjusted for subjective hyperfluctuation in delineated higher-order meta-cognitive anomalies.

Of course.

We knew that all along.

But, if anything, there appears to be a deliberate ongoing strategy by many public school officials their political and special interest allies to put a "positive spin" on the state's unacceptable levels of student academic performance. Modest point gains are touted as major progress when, in fact, they are not. (though they should be noted as progress). More spending and periodic announcements of new programs and reforms make it appear to the public as if things are moving along just fine. And, more often than not, these new programs are simply recycled versions of ongoing practices that have consistently represented the problem, not the solution.

Moreover, when test scores are discussed publicly, educators and their allies invariably go defensive--with experts trotted forward to bash the idea of "standardized tests" or to declare that a largely ignorant and unsophisticated public cannot possibly grasp the subtle intricacies involved in interpreting complicated test scores (scores interpreters inevitably say, are never as bad as they appear.) The 32nd percentile, we're told, isn't really so bad when gender normed for mutli-cultural variables and case adjusted for subjective hyperfluctuation in delineated higher-order meta-cognitive anomalies. Of course.

The tendency by some Arkansas educators and politicians to downplay or confuse the truth about student performance in order to convince citizens there is no serious academic performance problem in the state's schools is understandable. The pain that comes with owning up to a taxpaying public which has invested generously to improve schools (more than $20 billion since 1970), but has seen little progress toward academic recovery for almost three decades, may be more than educators and office holders want to bear. Certainly they understand that it puts their jobs on the line, as it should. After all, they are responsible and should be held accountable.

A Proposal: The Governor's Annual School Performance Address

So here's a recommendation. A new law should require the Governor of Arkansas to annually provide a jointly televised "public school performance" address for the people of the state. What could be more important than schools, children, their performance---and apprising citizens of progress?

The text of the Governor's presentation should center on academic performance, costs, accountability, and--by law-- require him to provide the following information: It should begin with the state's scores on-those standardized tests administered in the state and compare them against Arkansas' own historical trends on the same tests, compare them against other states on the same tests (telling which states are leaders and where Arkansas ranks), and against other nations. Performance on college entrance exams should be included--as well as remediation rates (and their cost to taxpayers).

Gathered in the House of Representatives when the Governor gives his annual education performance address should be all state legislators, the head of the Department of Education and its key staff members, and superintendents and principals---those who must be held primarily accountable for student academic performance.

The focus of this major overview should center on informing the people exactly how Arkansas is performing on the academic front in its public K-12 system.  It's tone should be one of forthright openness and frankness, giving compliments when they are due--and challenging the system when appropriate

The Governor also should speak to Arkansas' levels of student academic proficiency (i.e. on the NAEP and SAT), comparing the state's scores to national trends below, at, and above accepted norms. The idea is to clearly illustrate Arkansas' performance-- or non-performance--compared to its own historic trends, trends nationally and state by states, and as compared to the rest the industrialized world. Progress should also be expressed in terms of the cost and performance of specific academic programs adopted by schools and by the state (i.e. SmartStart).

This annual report to the people should also address public school education spending---giving all current spending trends as well as historic spending patterns, and these expenditures broken out for non-teaching expenditures versus direct support for teaching and classrooms. Growth in personnel categories should also be reviewed with growth rate differences between teaching and non-teaching personnel clearly illustrated.

Gathered in the House of Representatives when the Governor gives his annual education performance address should be all state legislators, the head of the Department of Education and its key staff members, and superintendents and principals---those who must be held primarily accountable for student academic performance.

The thrust of this public overview should center on informing the citizens of the state as to how Arkansas is performing on the academic front in its public K-12 system. It's tone should be one of forthright openness and frankness, giving compliments when they are due--and challenging the system to do better when appropriate.

When the Governor concludes this address, the law should also provide for a response from the head of the State Department of Education and a representative from the state's superintendents. Let them answer for their performance results. The text of the Governor's comments and all formal responses should also be published in every major state newspaper, and school parents across the state should receive an "executive summary" of key points and trends. Ideally, any "school performance" address would occur in September just as school is beginning each year--and two months before the elections in an election year, and just a few months before legislative sessions.

Summary

One of the most damaging factors :n Arkansas' prolonged inability to repair its academically deficient public schools is the lack of full and open public disclosure some legislators and other education officials have practiced year by year, decade after decade. It's a practice and a governing style aimed principally at minimizing the reality of sustained poor academic performance in Arkansas' public schools. The result has been to foster a public ignorance of the truth about public education's performance. The lack of interest in education reform in Arkansas may be due, at least in part, to this practice which is unquestionably a public disservice. Many politicians, beholden to unions and education interest groups for money and votes, have adopted the politically correct "never criticize public education openly" policy. The greatest casualty of this practice is the truth and its hapless victims are generation after generation of Arkansas' children. It is ironic, but many of those men and women who publicly proclaim they are "the protectors of our public education system" while vitriolically attacking its critics, may be the very people who do it the most harm by resentfully quashing outside criticism and killing enlightened public debate.

School by school performance "report cards"

2. Provide parents--and make accessible to the public--school by school performance report cards such as those used by Texas and other states. Arkansas remains the only Southern state that does not provide this service according to the Southern Regional Education Board (taxpayer funded by states to assist Departments of Education with common regional issues).

Parents have a right to know--and schools have an obligation to tell them—how the academic quality and performance in their children's school ranks when compared with other public schools in Arkansas, district by district, and generally for the state as compared with other states and the nation.

Parents have a right to know--and schools have an obligation to tell them—how the academic quality and performance in their children's school ranks when compared with other public schools in Arkansas, district by district, and generally for the state as compared with other states and the nation.

Each school's report card--issued once a year to all parents and available by request to anyone (and placed on the internet where possible)--should clearly show scores on all tests administered. It should additionally provide comparative data using the averages from the top 10 schools and districts in Arkansas as benchmarks. National averages on each of the tests administered should be shown as should Arkansas' averages. A clear and understandable analysis of the significance of the scores should be outlined for the parent. The State Department of Education should assist in preparing school by school report cards showing both academic performance and spending data for the school, linked to that school's performance.

Among the education outputs that should be addressed on each school's report card are the SAT9 (norm-referenced scores), College entrance exam scores (ACT, and SAT where appropriate), NAEP scores, remediation figures for the state (and the district and school if obtainable), and of course exit exam scores (ACTAP).

Texas' academic performance measure, the TASS Test, is used as one of the common indicators of school progress and shows on all school report cards sent home with student report cards periodically. The NAEP has also been shown to be a reliable performance indicator in Texas where students are dramatically improving their scores on this traditional measure as well.

Initially, school by school report cards in Texas demonstrated how poorly Texas public schools were performing. It was painful for the state's school establishment. But of course the people were outraged and as result certain reform pressures were brought to bear, with Governor Bush leading the way. Public sentiment gave Bush the backing needed to move aggressively for better schools. Now Texas is one of those state's leading the nation in a stunning academic recovery. Scores are soaring.

School report cards work. People respond. Children wits. Schools get better.

A final note. Arkansas educators will insist they already have a report card. They do--for only each district, not school by school. But for Arkansas' parents and the public to draw any real conclusions about performance from this collection of raw data would be almost impossible without a great deal of digging and some analytical skills. Moreover, its availability is not widely promoted and it has been used internally by school officials for the most part. School by school report cards should tell the whole story clearly, concisely, and in a style that is easily understandable. They should be issued broadly. Otherwise, they are useless.

Redirection of non-academic system expenditures
to solving the state's academic crisis

3. Identify resources (money, people, programs) within the current education system to be cut or scaled back and redirect the savings to more effectively address Arkansas' current academic crisis. Consider using dollars saved, for example, to hire the highest quality teachers, to pay deserving teachers exceptionally well, and to provide more classroom and instructional support.

Collectively, Arkansas' schools have been academically distressed for years with little significant academic improvement. (there are exceptions among individual schools). Thousands of the state's children remain gravely at risk. At a time of profound academic crisis, Arkansas, and indeed all Americans, are seeing resources diverted from the heart of the issue and the site of the solution--classrooms and teachers. It's a strategy that makes little sense. It's a strategy that must change given what is at stake.

When problems reach crisis proportions they are best solved through an intense focus and redirection of energy and resources aimed squarely at where they do the most good. Arkansas has done the opposite. While minimizing the existence of an unprecedented academic crisis, it has continued expanding non-teaching positions at a rate much faster than teaching and classroom support has grown.

The 1996 ALEC report illustrates: From 1970 to 1996 the rate at which the number of teachers grew in Arkansas was 48.9%, ranking the state 14th. in the nation. The rate at which the state added non-teachers, on the other hand, grew at more than 80% and ranked Arkansas 21st among all the states in non-teaching growth. It is a trend that is not uncommon. Across the U.S., where public school academic performance--not unlike Arkansas--is generally substandard, non-teaching personnel are being added at almost three times the rate of teaching personnel.

As noted previously in this report, the U.S. is the only nation in which a majority (51%) of education workers are not teachers. By contrast, three-fourths of all education staff in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands, as examples, are directly involved in teaching children. These countries are among more than 20 that outperform the U.S. on the TIMSS, a normed international comparison of scores cited by President Clinton as an key measure that should guide U.S. efforts to improve education.

In addition, Arkansas has maintained a much higher number of districts compared with many other states including all of its neighboring southeastern states (see chart in previous section). The obvious administrative excess in having too many districts, too many district personnel, too many non-teaching personnel, and too many education co-ops is clear in Arkansas. Moreover, it is a factor that cheats classrooms, students, and teachers of needed resources that could, if they were redirected on the basis of performance, have the effect of improving student performance.

Does the political will and courage exist, among Arkansas' education leadership, to bite the bullet and make the fiscally tough decisions an academic crisis demands? It's doubtful given the extent to which politicians remain beholden to so many education interest groups. But, if Arkansans are indeed committed to the ideal that academics must take precedence over all other education goals, the solution should reflect the urgency of the problem--and it often means sacrificing some sacred cows along the way.

Sacrificing Sacred Cows

The Murphy Commission, in a separate report entitled Streamlining and Cost Savings in Arkansas' K-12 System, will present recommendations to reduce costs in the current system, eliminate non-essential activity, and strengthen academic resources. These recommendations, which total almost $100 million, will be controversial to be sure. But they are meant to illustrate that there is room in the present system to save money and redirect it toward solving the state's most pressing issue--academic performance.

Does the political will and courage exist, among Arkansas' education leadership, to bite the bullet and make the fiscally tough decisions an academic crisis demands? It's doubtful given the extent to which politicians remain beholden to so many education interest groups. But, if Arkansans are indeed committed to the ideal that academics must take precedence over all other education goals, the solution should reflect the urgency of the problem--and it often means sacrificing some sacred cows along the way.

Rigorous academic standards based on proven
"best practices" from other states

4. Establish demanding, rigorous academic standards modeled after those states with proven records of high academic performance. Arkansas is one of only nine states receiving all Fs in the quality of its academic standards as reported this year by the Fordham Foundation. Under the Fordham assessment, Arkansas and five other states had a cumulative grade point average of 0.0 (see chart next page).

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation--a non-profit, non-partisan private foundation devoted to research on elementary and secondary education and chaired by former Asst. U.S. Secretary of Education, Chester Finn---has extensively studied the effectiveness of state academic standards. With the assistance of a number of notable education policy experts--including Will Marshall with the Progressive Policy Institute, Susan Traiman with the Washington D.C. Business Roundtable, and Denis Doyle with the Hudson Institute,---the Fordham Foundation conducted an extensive analysis of all 50 states and the educational quality of their standards and released their findings last March, 1998.

The report examined five core academic subjects, English, History, Geography, Science, and Math, and generated a state grade for each subject as well as a cumulative grade point average. These were the same five core subjects established in 1989 at an Education Summit attended by the 50 Governors. President George Bush used this as the basis for establishing the goal that by the year 2000 every American school child would meet challenging standards for these subjects--a goal continued by President Clinton under the Goals 2000 program, but, ironically, not in Arkansas.

In the 1997 legislative session, legislative revisions removed official state language calling for Arkansas students to be "first in the world in math by the year 2000." Perhaps discretion in the face of overly ambitious goals was warranted given that 87% of the state's eight graders are below proficient on the NAEP math exam and the achievement of the goal seemed impossible. Many Arkansans would settle for a modest increase in the 13% who are performing at a proficient level in math---say 18% by the year 2000.

Arkansas receives all Fs on standards

II SUMMARY OF THE SCORES
National Report Card1 -- State Standards Across All Subjects
(in alphabetical order)

STATE ENGLISH
(N = 28)
HISTORY
(N = 38)
GEOGRAPHY
(N = 39)
MATH
(N = 47)
SCIENCE
(N = 36)
CUM. GPA GRADE
Alabama D C C B D 1.80 C
Alaska   F C C   1.33 D+
Arizona B     B A 3.33 B+
Arkansas   F F F F 0.00 F
California   B D A A 3.00 B
Colorado F D A D D 1.40 D+
Connecticut   C F D B 1.50 C
Delaware D F F C B 1.20 D+
District of Columbia   C C D   1.67 C-
Florida D C C D F 1.20 D+
Georgia B D F B D 1.60 C-
Hawaii F     F A 1.33 D+
Idaho F   C F   0.67 D-
Illinois B F D D B 1.60 C-
Indiana F C A C A 2.40 C+
Iowa              
Kansas F F D D C 0.80 D-
Kentucky   F F D F 0.25 F
Louisiana   C C F B 1.75 C-
Maine   D F F D 0.50 D-
Maryland   F F F   0.00 F
Massachusetts A B D F C 2.00 C
Michigan F F B F   0.75 D-
Minnesota F F F     0.00 F
Mississippi D   F B F 1.00 D
Missouri F F C F C 0.80 F
Montana       F   0.00 F
Nebraska   F   F D 0.33 F
Nevada               
New Hampshire D C B C F 1.60 C-
New Jersey F F F C A 1.20 D+
New Mexico   F F F F 1.40 F
New York C F F F   1.40 F
North Carolina   F D F C 2.00 C
North Dakota     F D 0.33 F
Ohio F D D A   1.50 C-
Oklahoma C D F F   0.75 D-
Oregon F     D C 1.00 D
Pennsylvania   F   D   0.50 D-
Rhode Island       F A 2.00 C
South Carolina       D D 1.00 D
South Dakota       F   0.00 F
Tennessee F D F C F 0.60 D-
Texas B B A B C 3.00 B
Utah C C C B B 2.40 C+
Vermont   F F C B 1.25 D+
Virginia B A D B D 2.40 C+
Washington D F F F B 0.80 D-
West Virginia   C B B F 2.00 C
Wisconsin C F F C C 1.20 D+
Wyoming              
United States D+ D D D+ C 1.31 D+

Note: Italicized states have grades for only 2 subjects or fewer

A 3.8.-4.00
A- 3.50-3.82
B+ 3.17-3.49
B 2.83-3.16
B- 2.50-2.82
C+ 2.17-2.49
C 1.83-2.16
C- 1.50-1.82
D+ 1.17-1.49
D 0.83-1.16
D- 0.50-0.82
 F < 0.50  

The Fordham study discovered that generally states are not doing well in creating clear, quantifiable, and measurable standards based on what specifically is to be taught, and--more importantly---what is to be learned. The findings for Arkansas were especially disturbing in that the state was one of only nine receiving all F's in the quality of its academic standards. Arkansas was also among those states not providing standards in some subject areas--English in this case.

The Fordham report established three major criteria for evaluating state standards:

1.  Standards are clear and measurable.
2.  Standards describe what is to be taught as well as what is to be learned.
3.  Students are expected to learn important and specific facts, events, individuals, and issues. Knowledge in content-based standards should specifically reflect content related to a defined base of knowledge.

The study uses the following statement from Arkansas' math standard 5.2.9 to illustrate further: "Use mathematical reasoning to make conjectures and to validate and justify conclusions. " The standard is no more meaningful than "use mathematics". Compared with New York's 'Analyze spatial relationships using the Cartesian coordinate system in three dimensions. "the obvious difference is striking.

The study revealed that Arkansas standards, as measured by these three criteria, were generally deficient. For example, it concluded the state's math framework "says so little that it cannot be of much use. 'Use technology' is a sentence that occurs repeatedly and often pointlessly." The study cites the following statement from Arkansas' math standard 5.2.9 to illustrate further: "Use mathematical reasoning to make conjectures and to validate and justify conclusions."  The standard is no more meaningful than "use mathematics". Compared with New York's "Analyze spatial relationships using the Cartesian coordinate system in three dimensions", the obvious difference is striking.

Aside from the clear indication that Arkansas may use socalled "fuzzy" or constructivist math as a teaching method, the more troubling concern here is that these are the standards to which the Governor's new Smart Start program are tied. Using failed standards to under gird a "back to basics" program makes little sense.

Arkansas should begin new standards reform by capturing and examining states' that received "As" on their standards, most especially in English & Reading (Massachusetts) and in Math (California, North Carolina and Ohio). Arkansas should toss its existing Frameworks in a shredder and try again.

[Editor's note: The standards issue in Arkansas will be explored more fully in an upcoming Murphy Commission study--and will include the complete findings of the Fordham Foundation and several other policy organizations as well.]

Adoption of proven curriculums and teaching methodologies

5. In striving to meet education standards, Arkansas must choose academic programs, curriculums, and methodologies that represent the "best practices" across the nation with a demonstrated record of exceptional results in core academics. In striving to meet education standards, Arkansas must choose academic programs, curriculums, and methodologies that represent the "best practices" across the nation with a demonstrated record of exceptional results in core academics.

With test scores at substandard levels and college remediation rates at almost 60%--well above the national average of 33%--Arkansas should thoroughly reassess each school's methodology and curriculum especially in reading and math. The state continues to pour money into the same deficient practices year after year while expecting improvement that never comes. The only thing more disturbing than this practice is that our educators never seem to care about results, seeking

instead to defend and justify programs they adhere to with a cult-like fanaticism.

On the reading front, the so-called "reading wars" over what works best--phonics or whole language learning---are over, with phonics triumphant and whole language decidedly in retreat. The National Institute of Health, for example, just completed a 30 year, $200 million research study of reading that concluded there is no way children can read proficiently if they are not taught to read phonetically. Schools in Arkansas should adopt programs such as Direct Instruction, Great Expectations, and Core Knowledge that utilize explicit and systematic phonics while abandoning whole language methods as a tool to teach reading, especially in the lower grades. Many states, including California, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia have enacted legislation mandating systematic phonics to be taught in the early grades.

And on the math front, feel-good, "fuzzy", or constructivist math should be dispensed with and replaced with a back-to-basics approach that includes memorization and computation practices such as those advanced in the Saxon method. Students should be required to get the right answers on math problems, and math classes should be rigorous and not repetitive year after year. These classes should be taught by a professional with a degree in mathematics. Likewise, many states are also embracing a back-to-basics approach to mathematics. Arkansas should follow suit in both reading and math and will ultimately have to do better than the new Smart Start program developed by the Department of Education at the urging of Governor Huckabee.

Continued use of exit exams and norm-referenced tests

6. Arkansas is considering the abandonment of high school exit exams (ACTAP) and the norm-referenced Standard Achievement Test (SAT9). It is imperative these academic performance measures be continued as a matter of public policy and public information.

How sad it would be if Arkansas were to draw into itself and only measure student performance based on its own standards and criteria and without nonmed comparisons to other states and nations. We say on the one hand that we want our children to compete in a global market. And on the other hand, we decide we don't want to know if they can. Education isolationism will ill serve a state wanting desperately to play in national and international markets.

Arkansas' disappointing student performance on the norm-referenced SAT9 and the ACTAP exit exam in recent years may be causing state educators to back away from administering these tests in the future. Dumbing down tests or abandoning certain performance measures that consistently reveal academic deficiencies is not unheard of in public education. It is a practice that has happened more than once---and will happen again. The painful embarrassment of accountability can be lessened when the accountability is removed.

Arkansas should retain the Stanford Achievement Test (or other nationally norm-referenced tests) that shows how Arkansas students compare with students in other states. These tests should be administered at grades 3, 5 and 7 (as opposed to 5, 7, and 10 as is currently done). The ACTAP criterion exam should continue to be given at grades 4, 8 and 11 with the last test eventually used as a high school exit exam to determine student's eligibility for graduation.

Students should be given several chances in 11th and 12th grade to pass this exam, but the state should not back away from the original intent of these exams. Students should be taught the skills necessary to fare well on such exams. And, in no way should a nationally norm-referenced test be replaced with a criterion referenced test that only compares students to other students in Arkansas.

How sad it would be if Arkansas were to draw into itself and only measure student performance based on its own standards and criteria and without nonmed comparisons to other states and nations. We say on the one hand that we want our children to compete in a global market. And on the other hand, we decide we don't want to know if they can. Education isolationism will ill serve a state wanting desperately to play in national and international markets.

Ending the practice of social promotion---a form of educational malpractice

7. Every Arkansas district should adopt a policy ending the practice of repeatedly promoting students up the grade ladder when they consistently demonstrate a general lack of knowledge on content for a given grade.

Social Promotion is the practice of passing a student to the next grade level regardless of whether or not he or she has demonstrated a basic grasp of the subjects taught in the current grade. In the era of the self-esteem movement in public education, it is difficult to imagine what could be more damaging to personal esteem. Giving children a false sense of accomplishment and rewarding them for inadequate or failed performance, especially on something as important as their education, is damaging beyond measure.

Arkansas tends to tout its comparatively high public school graduation rate. It's ranked 12th nationally according to ALEC. But the state consistently fails to clarify--when offering such statistics-that social promotion is a widespread practice in its public school system. Passing children who cannot read or write up and out of the system has profound consequences, socially, educationally and economically.

 

 

The world is highly competitive. In contrast, children who matriculate in a non-competitive educational environment will have little preparation for the reality of 21st century life. Some of them may in fact develop a "self' mentality with an unreasonable expectation of "automatic" advancement followed by a "victim" reaction when it doesn't occur.

Such attitudes are already seen in resistance to performance pay measures in government and public education. People who come out of education systems that philosophically characterize competition and reward as unhealthy but still provide automatic advancement, tend to favor such systems later in life. Characteristically, they eschew being measured or held accountable for performance—but they do have expectations of not only remaining in such systems, but moving up both in compensation and position.

Arkansas tends to tout its comparatively high public school graduation rate. It's ranked 12th nationally according to ALEC. But the state consistently fails to clarify--when offering such statistics-that social promotion is a widespread practice in its public school system. Passing children who cannot read or write up and out of the system has profound consequences, socially, educationally and economically.

One example of these consequences occurs in the context of Arkansas' l lth grade exit exam, the ACTAP. On the 1998 test--as previously noted--87% of 11th graders failed the math section. That many of our 11th graders reached this point as a matter of social promotion--when year after year they failed to grasp the fundamental math concepts expressed in the test--is disturbing. But more disturbing, and patently unfair as well, is that we hold our students accountable in the face of our own poor educational practices--including social promotion. For more Arkansans this issue is quickly becoming an intolerable form of educational malpractice. Moreover, when it comes to self-esteem, how do our children feel when so many are told they failed this test after so many years? How do the teachers feel? How does the state feel as a whole?

In the meantime, many of these 11th graders enter Arkansas' colleges and its workforce just a year after the test shows them to be ill-prepared in key subject areas. The effect of this is costly. Both higher education and the private sector spend millions remediating young people who matriculated in this inadequate system. But the long-term economic toll is much greater. The anecdotal evidence is strong in Arkansas that many businesses and industries locating here are well aware of the state's education deficiencies. The loss of business due to this is devastating.

But what about companies that do locate here. One company, wishing to remain anonymous, tells of being given huge concessions and tax breaks to build a plant here. Arkansas' governor at the time, however, held firm that Arkansans should be hired and put to work in constructing the facility--which entailed some very specialized building techniques and use of technology rooted in math and measuring skills. Well into the construction the company discovered the Arkansas workers they hired were deficient both in skills and in work ethic ...but prone to grumble about raises. Ultimately, the company re-negotiated with the state, ate the costs of lost time and mistakes, and ultimately imported qualified workers from their home state (at their own expense) to complete the job--which ran over projected costs due to Arkansas' ill-prepared labor force.

The manager who shared this story says he routinely tells it to other businesses and industries at trade shows. Thus the word goes out on Arkansas and its education system.

Author Charles Sykes, (Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why America's Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write or Spell) points out that educators often seem more worried about depriving children of self-actualization and self-esteem than whether they will graduate dumb. Yet the vast majority of Americans think that "schools should hold students accountable for doing their best," which they define in starkly traditional terms. Polls consistently show that nearly nine out of ten parents do not think that students should be able to graduate from high school "unless they can demonstrate acceptable academic achievement. This according to Sykes.

Paying teachers and their supervisors on the basis of defined performance measures

8. Hold teachers accountable by providing for their being paid on the basis of achieving defined academic goals that are clearly understood by students, parents, and the public.

Business can't understand why teachers can work forever and have no change in their tenure based on whether students have done better or worse or the same. Business can't imagine a system where there are no incentives or consequences for failure or success.

This National Alliance of Business statement reflects the sentiment of many businesses, parents, and citizens. Coupled with mounting concern over substandard academic performance in many of our schools, it sends educators an unmistakable message. It's only a matter of time before performance pay in education becomes common practice. Many teachers and their unions may prefer not being accountable for student performance and outcomes, but at a time when poor academic performance is the rule rather than the exception in our public schools, this debate will come down on the side of common sense. Count on it.

In Rochester New York, Superintendent Clifford B. Janey links teacher performance to school performance. He says, "an incentive system of accountability for both schools and educators ...is logical, fair, and necessary." Pay raises, he adds, "should not be based solely on time served or the number of academic degrees held, but also on performance as measured by specific standards." Janey debunks three of the more common myths repeatedly cited by teachers and unions as reasons merit or performance pay won't work.

Myth No. 1: An incentive system for teachers would be based solely on students' performance on standardized tests. Student performance is the key measure, but one of several measures on which teacher evaluations should be based, says Janey. Other standards would encompass teaching competency, home and community involvement, and professional development. An incentive system for teachers would be based solely on students' performance on standardized tests. Student performance is the key measure, but one of several measures on which teacher evaluations should be based, says Janey. Other standards would encompass teaching competency, home and community involvement, and professional development.

Myth No 2:An incentive system would create competition rather than cooperation among teachers. Under the Rochester's incentive pay plan, every teacher meeting the standards would be eligible for incentive pay, not just some at the expense of others. It would not be an "either-or" arrangement leading to cut-throat competition and paranoia over stolen lesson plans.An incentive system would create competition rather than cooperation among teachers. Under the Rochester's incentive pay plan, every teacher meeting the standards would be eligible for incentive pay, not just some at the expense of others. It would not be an "either-or" arrangement leading to cut-throat competition and paranoia over stolen lesson plans.

Myth No. 3:Teachers' entire pay would be dependent on performance evaluations. In the Rochester plan, between 60 and 70 percent of each teacher's annual salary increase would be guaranteed contractually. Only 30 to 40 percent of the salary increase depend on a performance evaluation.Teachers' entire pay would be dependent on performance evaluations. In the Rochester plan, between 60 and 70 percent of each teacher's annual salary increase would be guaranteed contractually. Only 30 to 40 percent of the salary increase depend on a performance evaluation.

North Carolina's Speaker of the House, Harold Brubaker, goes further. Brubaker recently fronted a proposal to give the "best" teachers in North Carolina a pay raise 2 to 3 times higher than the raise of other teachers. Brubaker's initiative recognized one of the central flaws in the existing teacher pay system---good teachers, those who go the extra mile and consistently get the best academic performance from their students, are largely unrewarded for their effort.

Teachers' fear of having to compete is especially disturbing. The "no competition" movement that's become philosophically fashionable among educators is a major factor sustaining the abandonment of academics in America's schools. The suggestion, for example, that competing for letter grades will harm students' self-esteem is silly. But when such notions are extended to teachers, the absurdity overwhelms, and their continued resistance comes across as little more than self-serving protectionism at the expense of children and educational quality--a collective "thumbing of the nose" to a nation still at risk.

Teachers' fear of having to compete is especially disturbing...their continued resistance comes across as little more than self-serving protectionism at the expense of children and educational quality--a collective "thumbing of the nose" to a nation still at risk.

Such affronts are unworthy of an otherwise noble profession. After all, ours is a free society where education is acknowledged as vital to preserving cherished rights and personal liberty. Teachers, in that light, are not only entrusted with the educational fate of our children, they are among the guardians of our democracy. They must be measured and rewarded properly for the job they do. Nothing else will do.

In the meantime, consider the absurdity of maintaining the current non-performance-based education pay system, as education unions and their members fervently advocate. Teachers, their salaries funded by taxpayers expecting academic quality and performance in public schools, are shielded from responsibility and accountability in a system generally acknowledged to be failing its academic mission.  Still, classroom teachers are rewarded equally, regularly, and regardless of good or bad student outcomes.

Under the current system, parents and the public--still generally uninformed and misled about academic performance--are deprived of important indicators of who gets results and who doesn't. But they continue being asked to provide ever-increasing funding for a costly public education system built on a litany of promises, but characterized by little or no improvement over a thirty year period.

Education merit pay is coming because it's just common sense. Citizens are running out of patience with teachers and administrators who refuse to be compensated based on results while delivering consistently poor service and repeatedly asking for more money. It's just that simple.

Ridding the system of ineffective teachers while
protecting education managers from unwarranted litigation

9. Enact legislation that empowers education managers--principles and superintendents--to fire poorly performing and incompetent teachers. Protect schools and the system from unwarranted litigation by enacting a "loser pay" rule applied specifically to educators.

President Clinton, speaking to the National Governors Association two years ago, acknowledged one of the most serious challenges facing American public education is ending the practice of K-12 teacher tenure. Estimates vary as to how much it can cost taxpayers, on average, to litigate lawsuits brought by teachers who have been fired for cause (often backed by their unions). One recent figure placed the figure at around $150,000, another at more than $200,000. Whatever the case, it is costly to be sure.

Estimates vary as to how much it can cost taxpayers, on average, to litigate lawsuits brought by teachers who have been fired for cause (often backed by their unions). One recent figure placed the figure at around $150,000, another at more than $200,000. Whatever the case, it is costly to be sure.

If there is any doubt the system may be rife with ill-qualified and less-than-competent teachers, one only has to look at the recently publicized case in Massachusetts where 59% of 1800 new prospective teachers failed 10th grade-level tests in math and language.

If there is any doubt the system may be rife with ill-qualified and less-than-competent teachers, one only has to look at the recently publicized case in Massachusetts where 59% of 1800 new prospective teachers failed 10th grade-level tests in math and language. U.S. News and World Report columnist John Leo says public education is being ruined because aspiring teachers graduate from university teaching centers that are "breeding grounds for school failure" He speaks of their embracing "trendy notions of anti-achievement, oppression--obsession, feel good, esteem--ridden, content-free schools."

Additionally, E.D. Hirsch, says modern educationists--taking the progressive movement to the point of absurdity-- discount academic content and fact-based core knowledge in schools, preferring instead to arm teachers with sophisticated "teaching tools" that stress critical thinking, naturally-paced learning, and constructing answers. Such tools have merit to be sure, but not when they replace or ignore factual content and a specific base of core knowledge to be learned. Here the problem may be teachers who can teach, but lack any substantive knowledge about their subject--or choose to ignore their knowledge while remaining caught up in the latest lingo filled teaching fad.

Whatever the case--when teachers are not getting the job done, and it appears the numbers are increasing, education managers need the power to remove them. The problem, of course, is lawsuits. Education unions have helped structure teacher contracts and employment laws in such a manner that removing a non-performing teacher is virtually certain to trigger litigation. Principals and superintendents continually point out their desire to upgrade teaching staffs and seek higher quality teachers, but fear of expensive lawsuits restrains them.

Loser pay for educators
There is a solution. Impose upon the public education system in Arkansas a requirement in personnel dispute lawsuits that the loser will pay all attorney fees for both sides. The concept of "loser pay" is common in Great Britain's legal system and has had the effect of virtually ending frivolous lawsuits in that country. It will do the same in Arkansas' education system.

For example, a good teacher, deprived of due process or wrongfully terminated, will unhesitatingly make and win the case. The teacher union, if it's committed to protecting good teachers, will back the lawsuit. And conversely, good teachers who worry that ineffective or politically motivated education managers may treat them unfairly and terminate them without good cause can take some consolation under this system. After all, no reasonable principal or superintendent will try to fire a good teacher without cause when faced with high litigation costs. But conversely, the unions will think twice about throwing resources behind a teacher who is clearly incompetent. It a win/win for education.

It is almost certain that under "loser pay" both the education system and the unions will need to maintain "litigation funds." The good news is that under a loser pay system these funds will not be unnecessarily drawn down due to frivolous lawsuits, or as a result of a litigation flurry motivated by political agendas (as in the case of unions which almost blindly back plaintiffs regardless of merit in the case.)

Require appropriate degrees for subjects taught and permit
qualified non-certified individuals to be retained as teachers

10.Provide education managers the option of hiring qualified individuals who are educated or trained in their teaching field whether certified to teach or not.

Every child has the right to be taught by teachers who know their subjects well. It is educational malpractice that in the U.S. today a third of high school math teachers and two-fifths of science teachers neither majored nor minored in their teaching subjects while in college. As a matter of sound education policy, Arkansas should require that no one be employed to teach who does not first pass a comprehensive test of subject-matter knowledge. Teaching candidates must also demonstrate their prowess in imparting what they know to children. And yet our public schools, more responsive to union pressures than children's academic health, have not only abandoned these requirements, they regularly resist them.

The best way to increase the number of subject knowledgeable teachers is to open the classroom door to men and women who are well-educated but have not necessarily gone through programs of "teacher education." A NASA scientist, IBM statistician, or even a former state governor may not be traditionally "certified" to teach and yet may have a great deal to offer students. A retired military officer may make a fine middle-school principal. Alternative certification in all its variety should be welcomed, and for schools truly willing to be held accountable for results, certification should be abolished altogether.

Install a uniform cost accounting system common to all schools

11.Require schools in Arkansas to use a uniform cost accounting system such as the In$ite program developed by Coopers Lybrand and Fox River.

Much of the K-12 education debate in local communities and at the state level centers on five key issues: 1) adequacy, 2) equity, 3) productivity, 4) efficiency and 5) accountability. In$ite is currently the nation's only program offering consistent benchmarkable expenditure vs performance information that can support analyses in each of these five areas.

In$ite, developed by Coopers & Lybrand in cooperation with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its workforce preparation program, is PC based software and embodies the cost allocation accounting module of an expanded school accountability and performance program called Class ACT. This suite of programs includes In$ite, InForm, Instruct and Inspire. Taken as a whole, Class ACT is designed to 1) provide information on the rate and quality of student learning and 2) to develop and implement accelerated learning strategies for individual students.

Given Class ACTS intensive focus on effective learning, it can serve as the foundational data set for measuring performance in individual schools and classrooms for those schools, districts and states that are building programs of accountability for student learning. It could certainly augment the process of evaluating not only school performance, but teacher and administrative performance as well.

In connection with ClassACT, In$ite tracks all expenditures through the local school district to individual school sites with the goal of enhancing the information communicated on school finance. The In$ite Finance Analysis Model is currently being used in Arkansas to analyze the Bryant School District's expenditures.

The need for such a program across the board in Arkansas schools and districts is acute because there is a distinct lack of accounting uniformity as well as adequate financial and managerial information. Existing school financial systems provide regulatory reporting, but, in contrast, In$ite provides performance management reporting to support decision-making, public understanding of performance, and retention.

Typically, expenditures are allocated directly to schools and reflect who controls them. It is not a full cost accounting information system. In$ite uses cost accounting to apply expenditures to each operating unit to reflect who benefits from expenditures. It is a productivity and "bang for buck" analysis system and is long overdue in public education.

[Editor's note: The Commission's report on streamlining Arkansas' K-12 system will have more discussion and information on In$ite, and will broaden the recommendation made here.]

Broaden Arkansas' inadequate charter school law

12. Arkansas' charter school law--on the books since 1995--is so restrictive it inhibits charter school formation. Florida, for example, passed their law a year later and now has more than 70 charter schools. Arkansas should take steps--outlined below--to make its charter school law more flexible and conducive to the creation of these innovative public schools.

A charter school phenomena is sweeping the nation and transforming America's schools, but it is conspicuously failing in Arkansas. In the little over five years since the nation's first charter school law was passed in 1991, thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have enacted some form of charter school legislation. As of the beginning of the 1997-98 school year, there were 785 charter schools that had opened their doors to some 170,000 students from across the socio-economic spectrum.

A charter school is a "public" school--created and operated by a group of teachers, parents, or other qualified individuals--that is largely free from state and district oversight. Charter schools create an alternate form of public schooling where schools are granted significant autonomy, but are held accountable for results. The "charter" is essentially a contract, negotiated between the individuals starting the school and the official body authorized to approve the charter. The charter specifies how the school will be run, what will be taught, how success will be measured, and what students will achieve. Unlike other public schools, parents specifically request the charter school and if the school fails to attract students, or if it fails to meet the terms of the charter, the charter can be revoked and the school closed.

A charter school phenomena is sweeping the nation and transforming America's schools, but it is conspicuously failing in Arkansas. In the little over five years since the nation's first charter school law was passed in 1991, thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have enacted some form of charter school legislation. As of the beginning of the 1997-98 school year, there were 785 charter schools that had opened their doors to some 170,000 students from across the socio-economic spectrum. It is anticipated by the end of 1998 there will be 1,200 charter schools serving about 288,000 students.

The educational results in states with strong charter school provisions are astounding. States with well-crafted legislation have experienced:

• enhanced educational opportunities for poor and minority children
• distinctive and innovative educational programs
• enthusiastic responses from teachers flourishing in their new found freedom from bureaucratic red tape
• remarkable commitment from their parents
• long waiting lists to get into the charter schools
• growing demands for more charter schools
• and pioneering, community-centered educational partnerships

In order to enjoy these same benefits, Arkansas should change its law--or adopt a new law--with the following revisions:

1) The restriction that only an existing public school can become a charter school should be removed. Those allowed to form charter schools should include, but not be limited to, non-profit organizations, a group of teachers, parents, and/or other interested persons, colleges and universities, and other community agencies.

2) There should be at least two authorities by which the approval of a charter school may be granted: possibly the local school board and the state board of education. (Or allow the local school board to hear the proposal initially and allow the state board of education to hear the appeal should the charter petition be denied at the local level.) Additionally, teacher unions or other teacher organizations should not have a vote on whether the charter should or should not be granted. These are private organizations that could--through a minuscule minority--deny a proposal supported by an overwhelming public majority in a community. Educational opportunity should never be subject to the tyranny of a tiny minority with obvious biases contrary to an idea whose time has come.

3) The school should be both fiscally and legally autonomous, essentially giving the school complete control of allocated funding and the manner in which it runs its school.

4) The law should allow for the charter school to hire qualified, but not necessarily certified teachers and other employees.

5) A cap of no less than 25 new start up charter schools is a possibility for a pilot program to test their viability. There should be no cap on those existing public schools that may want to convert to charter status. Additionally, if the cap of 25 is reached within a two year period, any group petitioning for a charter that would serve a 75% at-risk population should be given special consideration and granted a waiver over and beyond the cap. But it should be awarded only if the charter school would commit its existence to measurable improvement of the academic performance of the students it serves.

___________________________________

 

Looking to the Long Term: Recommendations aimed at
restructuring Arkansas' current model of education

restructuring Arkansas' current model of education

Transform Arkansas' education system by infusing it with competition and
market forces, making it results-oriented and providing Arkansans with
education vouchers with which they can choose their children's schools
from an array of options designed to meet children's' unique needs

The 12 recommendations outlined above can vastly improve public education in Arkansas and considerably enhance academic outcomes. States that have enacted similar reforms are, in fact, showing significant academic improvement, some of them for the first time in years. (Texas, California, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Florida as examples). The Murphy Commission will continue to advocate the adoption of these recommendation with the belief that anything that can be done to strengthen Arkansas' public school system, as it is currently structured, is important and should be pursued. Nor will we close the door on any idea or suggestion.

Arkansas' children do not need more poor education quality at ever higher costs to taxpayers. What is needed is a whole new approach---a new model--for the delivery of education in our state. Over the long-term, our current system must be transformed into a system driven by a relentless quest for the highest academic achievement and grounded in the ideal that results count.

But, even if these and other effective reforms were implemented now, there remains a singular overriding issue that, until resolved, will always hamper the delivery of quality education and deny many children the equal educational opportunity they deserve: Arkansas' public school system--as is the nation's entire system-- is a government owned and managed monopoly.

The nature of monopolies
The nature of monopolies is well understood by now. It is almost inevitable that services and products offered by monopolies are destined to become inferior and of poor quality--and more often than not, overpriced. Without the constant challenge of competition and absent market pressures and customer demands, any incentives to remain focused on core mission, committed to excellence, and devoted to the highest quality output at the best price are virtually non-existent. One of the most classic examples of a monopoly failing in the absence of incentives is our nation's public education system--and nowhere is it more obvious than in Arkansas.

The prolonged effects of Arkansas' education monopoly--many of them reflected in the spending vs. performance trends in this study--are typical: very poor quality of service as reflected in sub-standard standard test scores over three decades, high costs as shown by the billions of dollars and other resources poured into the system over the years, loss of focus on its core mission (academics), and a certain unresponsiveness to its customers--in this case parents seeking only higher quality schools and greater opportunity for their children.

But perhaps the most troubling aspect of any monopoly, is the inevitable closing of ranks when it is challenged and the fierce opposition to change it can always muster. Monopolies--and the people who benefit from being a part of them--are naturally defensive and fiercely devoted to maintaining their control as well as their jobs, power, and authority. And sometimes---as in the case of public education--it is a detrimental resistance that leads to "locking out" needed change and "locking in" continued poor quality.

Arkansas' children do not need more poor education quality at ever higher costs to taxpayers. What is needed is a whole new approach---a new model--for the delivery of education in our state. Over the long-term, our current system must be transformed into a system driven by a relentless quest for the highest academic achievement and grounded in the ideal that results count.

But what can be done to spur the creation of that new system when the education establishment is literally incapable--because of its very nature---of making those innovative changes that will absolutely guarantee "the best" for children. The Murphy Commission's education workgroup believes customers wanting the best service for the best price always drives the demand for quality. And customer demand, in turn, forces providers to constantly change and improve in response to those demands. Systems, especially monopoly systems, can never replace or artificially create those competitive market forces that invariably require those in the market to either offer quality and value or go out of business.

Transforming the education system with purchasing power
In Arkansas, the most important question in education reform is how do we unleash the transformational power of market forces to drive the development of a statewide education market place where all schools--public, private, and parochial--will constantly seek to improve in response to constant demand for excellence and value by parent/customers.

The answer--and the antidote to monopolies--is embodied in the notion of "purchasing power." Most of Arkansas' parents simply have no educational purchasing power (for tuitions and fees) and in this there is a disturbing irony. Government taxation at all levels, takes more than 45% of all income generated by Americans. One net effect of this on middle and low income parents--including many Arkansans--is that they are tax-deprived of the dollars they could have spent at another school toward the "purchase" of a better educational opportunity for their children.

Some of those tax dollars--a huge percentage of them in Arkansas--are used by government to fund its current public education system. Thus taxpayers and parents unwittingly-and without any alternative--strengthen and expand the entrenched monopoly that is at the heart of public education's lack luster performance. But the most ironic twist in this scenario is that many Arkansans--parents who possibly could have opted for other education opportunities were taxes not so onerous--are robbed of that choice on the one hand and then forced by the system, on the other, to accept assignment to a government-run school. And this is the case regardless of whether or not it is safe, performing academically, or suited to the needs and values of the child.

The most callused aspect of the current education monopoly in Arkansas is that it willingly and deliberately forces children--except those whose parents have wealth--to attend bad schools. And it does so with financial resources taken from parents already struggling financially and at the expense of their ability to choose a better school for their sons and daughters.

The danger to a nation
If that is not troubling enough, consider what happens when government's grab for more tax dollars, aimed at expanding its vice-like hold on our education system, continues into the future. Over time, a poorly performing education monopoly will grow bigger and more pervasive (especially influenced as it is by labor and political agendas). Purchasing power in the middle and low income groups will shrink even more, as taxes continue rising, and thus more families already struggling to find resources for alternatives to poor public schools will give up.

As this happens, the lower and middle income customer base for low-tuition private and religious schools will further erode--under tax pressure from the public system--and the number of private and religious schools will shrink in the absence of parents who can afford them. All that will remain, other than the public schools, will be very high priced private schools. And religious schools, as well, may in time disappear--unless heavily subsidized by their church.

The ultimate outcome of this scenario is an American system of education divided by class--a development the founding fathers, who urged universal education as essential to freedom, certainly would find appalling. None of them envisioned a system where "the best" educational opportunities would be reserved only for the wealthy class and all other American children would enter a substandard, government-run monopoly system manipulated by and captive to a labor movement with its emphasis on taxpayer funded skills training over academic substance and achievement.

And when that system further began to shift emphasis to work skills rather than academics, America's Founders surely would have intervened. The idea that upscale private schools would guarantee wealthy children the best colleges and their place in upper management and the professions--while most everyone else would be channeled toward the labor force by mandated participation in a government system, and at government expense, would have deeply frightened them.

The founding fathers would have, in fact, seen this as profoundly dangerous to the cherished ideals underlying America's purpose and its security. And, of course, danger is the case now. This nation's security and its way of life is threatened not only by a flawed education system driven by interest groups armed with political and social agendas, but one that fails to get acceptable results as well.

The fix to the tragic situation in our schools comes by changing the way education tax dollars are re-distributed. Under the current system, tax revenues are sent back to schools--often under complex equity formulas. The effect of this is to further strengthen government's monopoly on schools, perpetuate academic decline, and limit educational opportunity for most children. In fact, it's a practice that traps many middle and low income children in failing schools.

The fix to the tragic situation in our schools comes by changing the way education tax dollars are re-distributed. Under the current system, tax revenues are sent back to schools--often under complex equity formulas. The effect of this is to further strengthen government's monopoly on schools, perpetuate academic decline, and limit educational opportunity for most children. In fact, it's a practice that traps many middle and low income children in failing schools.

The better method is to redistribute education funds not to the system that so abuses them, but to all parents in essentially equal amounts based on average per student costs in their communities. Empower people--not systems, especially when the system is locked into performing so poorly.  Equalize children, not school districts. 

Empowering people, not monopolies
The better method is not to redistribute education funds to a system that so ineffectively uses them, but to parents in essentially equal amounts based on reliable per student costs for their communities. Empower people--not systems, especially when the system is characterized by performance gridlock. Equalize children, not school districts and realize that granting parents the power to choose is the essence of equal educational opportunity. Doing this provides parents the purchasing power required to transform the public system, forcing it to be driven by customer and market forces rather than by the people who have traditionally controlled it from within.

It also, however, helps preserve America's long standing tradition of three vital and important school sectors--public, private, and religious--a tradition now gravely at risk of being replaced by a single state-run system. And it makes more equal the financial ability of all parents to choose a school, from any sector, that is best suited for their children. The notion that only those who can afford good schools get them goes out the window and an education system that means so much to our nation not only survives--but thrives. Choice will not kill public schools as its detractors suggest, it will make them better.

This "people funding" as opposed to "system funding" can be accomplished by giving parents education vouchers that cover education costs and letting them cash that voucher at the public, private, or religious school of their choice.

The Murphy Commission Education Workgroup will offer much more commentary and information on vouchers and other the education choice issues in a soon to be released major study developed in conjunction with the Heritage Foundation. That study will represent the group's official position statement on vouchers and will be widely available to Arkansans.

Addendum A
Education Spending vs. Academic Performance: International Trends

The Wall Street Journal (June 22 1998) offered a perfect stage-setting commentary for this section. It featured analysis by Chester Finn, head of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a Washington-based education-reform organization. Finn is also a former Asst., U.S. Secretary of Education. Finn cites findings by the Organization of Economic Cooperation & Development (DECD), a coalition of the 29 richest nation's in the world which have agreed to work cooperatively to assess and improve educational quality on a global basis.

"Thanks to the OECD it is possible to compare gains made by students between the ages of nine and 14 across many nations. It turns out that U.S. students gain the least: on average, they make just 78 % of the progress of students in 15 other lands.

The news is similar in math and science. On the math exams in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, U.S. students made the least progress of 17 OECD nations [those participating] between the fourth and eighth grades, gaining just 73% as much ground as their foreign counterparts. In science, U.S. progress ranked second to last, covering 78% of the average gains of the 17 nations.

In all three subjects American students finished further back in the international pack than they began. Is this because Americans are cheap? Hardly. The DECD data show U.S. school expenditures to be the third highest of 22 countries, lagging behind only Switzerland and Austria. At $5,300 per student (in the most recent year for which comparable data were available), U.S. primary schools spent 75% more than the international average of $3,033. U.S. secondary schools expended 54% more money than the international average.

So the U.S. is near the top in education spending but close to last in achievement gains. Most people would call this miserably low productivity--but that is a concept practically unknown in education-policy circles. If U.S. schools were a business, they would be in serious competitive peril and probably headed for bankruptcy."

Comments on education and spending internationally by Dr. Eric Hanushek
writing in the Federal Reserve Bank's
Economic Policy Review, March 1998

"U.S. students do not perform well compared with students from other countries. In international math and science exams, U.S. students have never performed very well relative to students of other countries. To compensate for this relatively low quality, the United States has historically had high levels of school attainment (years of schooling)--that is, the United States has substituted quantity for quality. Now, however, many countries that have had higher student achievement are beginning to rival the United States on quantity grounds. This suggests that the U.S. economy faces new and different levels of competition in the years ahead.

Second, the United States has made steady and large investments in human capital. The resources invested, however, have had little payoff in terms of student performance. Thus, if the United States is to be more competitive internationally in terms of student achievement, some substantially different policies will be required in the future.

Third, the most likely changes required in schools involve radically different incentives for students and for school personnel. Few direct incentives exist today for improved student achievement, and marginal changes in resources or programs are unlikely to have a noticeable effect on overall student achievement.

Fourth, improved education policies will require better measurement of student performance. In addition, such policies will probably require a period of more extensive experimentation with alternative approaches and incentive schemes.

U.S. Student Performance

In terms of quality of learning, U.S. schools are not now, and have never been, very competitive when judged by the performance of elementary and secondary schools around the world. Chart 1, drawn from Hanushek and Kim (1996), presents what we know about all international testing of math and science scores for U.S. students. International examinations in mathematics and science have been given periodically since the 1960s.

The examinations have been taken on a voluntary basis by a variable set of countries. While there was some concern about selective test taking in some countries in the early years, that concern has lessened considerably validity in describing the quality of a country's labor force. For the analysis here, all the test scores for students in[ a given country in a given year are combined to produce a single country test score. The scores are placed on a scale where the world mean for each testing year is fifty.

In the chart that follows, the year of testing appears along the top of the chart. Normalized scores are given on the vertical axis, making it possible to compare countries over time.

The U.S. performance moves around over time. This drift closely mirrors the average performance of U.S. seventeen-year-olds on the mathematics and science tests of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) (see discussion below). Moreover, the key aspect of this figure is that the United States almost always falls below the median of whatever group of countries is taking the test.

The results released in the fall of 1996 for the Third International Math and Science Test placed U.S. eighth graders in the middle of world performance for 1994-95. This performance, which is not included in the figure, comes even though a very wide range of forty-one countries participated in the testing. Thus, there is no real change in the latest scores.

The basic story is that the United States has not been doing particularly well in international comparisons. This result is a bit surprising, given that the United States has an economy built on a skilled labor force. You might ask, "How could that be?" While the United States is not doing well, it is producing skilled goods that one might argue require a skilled labor force.

The answer seems to be that over a long period of time, quantity of schooling has substituted for quality. Historically, the United States has had a labor force with more years of schooling, on average, than the labor forces of other countries, even if these years of schooling have been of lower quality. That quantitative superiority is ending. DECD countries and other developing countries have dramatically increased the amount of schooling their youth receive. The United States' advantage in quantity of schooling is quickly disappearing."

Knowledge Workers extracted from The Economist. March 1997

"Given the pressure to trim budgets there is no prospect that governments will chuck money at schools without checking to see whether standards are improving. If governments could discover what it is about their education system that helps growth, then perhaps, they hope, they could do better with outspending more. A popularly-held view has it that "opportunity to learn" is the key to educational success-ie, the more time children spend on a subject, the better they do at it. Alas, the evidence so far is not encouraging for the proponents of this theory.

Taking the twelve countries which both took part in TIMSS and also had their average teaching hours measured in the OECD's recent study of school management, there seems little correlation between time spent on a subject, and performance of pupils in tests. Young Austrians spend exceptionally long hours on math and science lessons; for them, it pays off in higher test scores. But so do New Zealand's teenagers--and they do not do any better than, say Norwegians, who spend an unusually short time on lessons in both subjects.

Next--and of particular interest to cash-strapped governments-there appears to be little argument, often heard from teachers' unions, that the main cause of educational under-achievement is under-funding.  Low-spending countries such as South Korea and the Czech Republic are at the top of the TIMSS league table. High-spenders such as America and Denmark do much worse. Obviously, there are dozens of reasons other than spending why one country does well, another badly, but the success of the low-spending Czechs and Koreans does show that spending more on schools is not a prerequisite for improving standards.

Another article of faith among the teaching profession--that children are bound to do better in small classes--is also being undermined by educational research. As with other studies, TIMSS found that France, America and Britain, where children are usually taught in classes of twenty-odd, do significantly worse than East Asian countries where almost twice as many pupils are crammed into each class.

 

Julia Whitburn of Britain's National Institute of Economic and Social Research has studied the way math is taught in Japan and Switzerland, two countries which are different in many ways but whose pupils seem to do consistently well at in the subject. She noted a number of common factors:

• Much more time is spent on the basics of arithmetic than on more general mathematical topics such as handling data;

 

• Pupils learn to do sums in their heads before they are taught to do them on paper; calculators are usually banned;

 

• Standardized teaching manuals, which are tested extensively in schools before being published, are used widely;

 

• A method known as "whole-class interactive teaching" is used widely. The teacher addresses the class as a whole class at once, posing questions to pupils in turn, to ensure they are following the lesson. American and British schools have been criticized for letting pupils spend much of their time working in small groups, with the teacher rushing form one group to the next to see how they are doing. Ms Whitburn notes that in Japan and Switzerland this method is only used in teaching arts and crafts;

 

• Finally, great efforts are made to ensure that pupils do not fall behind. Those that do are given extra coaching. This practice is implemented at the lowest grade level possible when the problem is first discovered."

________________________________

 

International trends mirror the trends established in state by state comparisons---and in Arkansas. Education input has not increased education output. Money invested has .not yielded expected results. The U.S. remains near the top of the spending category while trailing many other nations who do more with less when it comes to academic performance.

Addendum B.

A brief excerpt from Charles Sykes' landmark book, Dumbing Down Our Kids:
Why America's Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write or Spell.

There are probably a number of valid explanations for the failure of American students to know geography and elementary facts of history. But one reason for their ignorance is that their schools no longer feel it necessary to teach them such knowledge.

Educationists can advance painstaking reasons for the spreading stain of illiteracy among the nation's elaborately and expensively educated students. But one reason students write and read so poorly is the indifference of educationists toward such details as the mechanics of reading, writing, grammar, and spelling. Witness the ingenious notion of "invented spelling." It's not wrong, it's creative. Similarly, the fashionable education philosophy that insists that children no longer have to learn the basics of computation may have something to do with the number of youngsters unable to add up a column of numbers without a calculator.

Educationists frequently point to societal attitudes about learning to explain slumping test scores, but they cannot escape their own responsibility for helping to shape those attitudes. They have encouraged Americans to settle for watered-down standards and to be suspicious of any education that demands hard work and intellectual challenge. Indeed, Americans often seem more worried about depriving children of self-actualization and self-esteem than whether they will graduate dumb.

But such attitudes don't form the whole picture. Opinion polls show the public wants schools that provide an orderly environment and a curriculum focused on "the basics." The vast majority of Americans think that "schools should hold students accountable for doing their best," which they define in starkly traditional terms. Nearly nine out of ten parents do not think that students should be able to graduate from high school "unless they can demonstrate they can write and speak English well," and more than four out of five want schools to set up "very clear guidelines on what students should learn and teachers should teach in every major subject."

Why then are so many schools moving in the opposite direction? Because too often the schools are operated not by society's standards, but by those of the educationist establishment that has dominated American schools for six decades. Few of the ideas now being offered as "reforms" and innovations are, in fact, new. Most are retreads of notions fashionable in the 1920s, the 1940s and the 1950s, repackaged and renamed to obscure their discredited ancestries. The persistence of such ideas, however, reflects the pattern of reform and counterreform that has characterized the decline of American schools in the last half century.

In this book, I argue that:

• The dumbing down of America's students is a direct result of the dumbing down of the curriculum and the standards of American schools--the legacy of a decades-long flight from learning.

• American students are unable to effectively compete with the rest of the industrialized world, because our schools teach less, expect less, and settle for less than do those of other countries.

• As Arthur Bestor noted four decades ago, a sound education involves a command of the "essential intellectual tools," "a store of reliable information which the mind can draw upon," practice in "the systematic ways of thinking developed within the various fields of scholarly and scientific investigation," and finally, but only finally, "the culminating act of applying this aggregate of intellectual powers to the solution of a problem." American schools fail to provide these qualities in a systematic or meaningful way. In their place, educationists offer what they call "higher-order thinking skills," but are seldom clear about what it is that students should think about.

• The decline of the reading and writing abilities of American children is directly attributable to the way those skills are--or are not--taught in American schools, American children are not learning many of the basic facts of history, geography, and science because their schools often are uninterested in teaching them.

• It may get worse. Under the new New Math children are no longer required to master long division, multiplication, addition, or subtraction by hand, but are permitted to use calculators as early as kindergarten. This campaign to dumb down the teaching of mathematics will result in an epidemic of mathematical and scientific illiteracy with disastrous consequences for higher education and the national workforce.

• Even as evidence mounts that American students are lacking in basic academic skills such as writing, reading, and mathematics, schools are increasingly emphasizing so-called "affective" learning that deals with the feelings, attitudes, and beliefs of students, rather than addressing what they know or can do.

• The emphasis on "feelings" means that schools frequently usurp the prerogatives and invade the privacy of families. This includes offering courses that encourage children to report their parents' attitudes and behavior if they make the child "uncomfortable." Equally troubling, American schools have become backwaters of amateur psychologizing practiced by teachers who are often unqualified and unprepared for such responsibilities.

• The ongoing dumbing down of the nation's schools is reflected in the rapid spread of a host of faux reforms throughout the nation's schools in the 1900s, including Outcome Based Education, cooperative learning, so-called alternative assessment techniques, and the reliance on vague, impenetrable, and unmeasurable "goals" such as: the "Integration of physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness," "Interpersonal Relationships," "Adaptability and Flexibility," "Environmental Stewardship," and "Positive self-concept...," in which "Students demonstrate positive growth in self-concept through appropriate tasks or projects." Although they use the language of reform, these innovations amount to a counter-reformation aimed at undoing much of the progress made by earlier reformers

• As both standards and achievement have fallen, American schools have inflated grades, adjusted or fudged test scores, or dumbed down the tests altogether to provide the illusion of success. When those measures have been insufficient, they have changed their definitions of "success."

• In the name of "equity," "fairness," "inclusiveness," and "self-esteem," standards of excellence are being eroded throughout American education. Educational levelers have become increasingly aggressive in their attacks on ability grouping, programs for the gifted and talented, and distinctions, such as graduation honors, for the best and brightest students.

• The ethical illiteracy of American education has contributed to a moral dumbing down of America's children every bit as grave as the dumbing down of academic standards. Too often America's schools substitute self-indulgence for moral reasoning, and narcissism for concern for others.

• The politicization of higher education--which has drawn so much criticism and publicity --has been reproduced at the elementary and secondary levels of education with little publicity or opposition, even though in many ways it is more toxic. Children in elementary school are especially defenseless against the appropriation of their education by propagandists, since they lack even the modest ability to debate and dissent that college students occasionally still retain.

• American education continues to be dominated by an educational oligarchy that has been aptly called The Blob-a self-interested, self-perpetuating, interlocking directorate of special interest groups that dominates the politics, bureaucracy, hiring, and policy making of American schooling. Sclerotic in its rigidity and bitterly hostile to criticism of any kind, The Blob is both the architect of the status quo and its enforcer.

• American education is facing a historic crisis because the economic, cultural, and political consequences of educational failure are greater than ever before. At one time, it was possible for our society and for individuals to get by with minimal literacy skills, but global competition has raised the stakes permanently. Until recently the system responsible for preparing children has been largely insulated from the consequences of its failures, but in the twenty-first century society can no longer be protected from the fallout from our educational bankruptcy. Conditions, therefore, are ripe for a reformation as sweeping as those that have felled other monoliths that had seemed impregnable and impervious to change... until they vanished.

The Politics of Education

If all politics is local, then the most intense local politics in America is school politics. The school wars are so bitter precisely because the stakes are so highly charged. It is no exaggeration to argue that !he education debate of the next decals could be the defining social struggle of our times, for when Americans debate our values or our definition of the good life, or what kind of schools we should have and what we should teach in them.

Conversely, when Americans debate what kind of schools we want we are debating the central questions of politics and culture. The questions become more urgent and the pressures on the schools more concentrated. Over the last half century, the schools have been asked to assume (and have asked to assume) extraordinary burdens; they are expected not merely to educate children but to deal with and help resolve society's race problems, to eradicate poverty, to be on the front lines of economic competitiveness, environmentalism, AIDS, multiculturalism, child abuse, drug addition, sexual harassment, to mediate our ambivalence about family life and sexuality, and to provide children with a morale compass.

Today, American education is breaking apart under the strain, both academically and politically. America's school wars inevitably turn on fundamental questions: What is the goal of education? What do schools intend to teach? And what do they expect their students to learn? A school that sees its ultimate product as the well-adjusted teamworker with a healthy sense of self-esteem is unlikely to adopt the same means as a school whose goal is to create individualists.

Documenting the Crisis

The failure of educational reform can be defined precisely by the size of the gap between wishful thinking and actual practice in the classroom. Educationists, of course, would like to have their ideas judged by how well they sound on paper. Unlike practitioners of other academic disciplines, educationists often offer little or no research to justify the most sweeping changes in classroom practice--insisting that innovations be implemented before there is any data one way or another to determine whether the idea works. With equal ardor, they cling to favored notions of what works long after actual practice has proven them to be abysmal flops.

This is a crucial aspect of the educationist culture, because it bears on the problem of verifiability and falsifiability. Ideologues insist that their ideas be judged on the purity of their intentions, rather than on their actual success in practice. Scientists, on the other hand, test their ideas and reject hypotheses that are not supported. As Karl Popper pointed out, this is the essential difference between the ideologue and the scientist: An ideology can never be disproved. For the ideologue, a failure is dismissed not as proof that the original idea was wrong, but rather as an indication that the effort did not go far enough, or was badly implemented.

The fundamental problem, however, of devising new schemes form scratch-whether it is a new man, a new society, a new economy, or a new school--is the question: Will it work? Are flaws in its execution mere accidents, or are they inherent in the idea itself? Was a classless society a good idea that simply fell short because of poor management, bad timing, or historical flukes? Or was it a hopelessly unrealistic daydream that ignored the realities of human nature?

Similarly, when reformers discard traditional curricula and demand that teachers assume radically different roles, or when power and responsibility are shifted from grown-ups to children, what happens in the classroom? How does the romantic blueprint play out in a fifth-grade math class? When I have chosen such stories--some of which are called "Scenes from the Front"--I have done so not because I think they tell the whole story, but because I think that they are representative of trends that are both significant and widespread in American classrooms. By themselves, however, they do not prove that a crisis exists in American education. We need to look elsewhere to see just how far the dumbing down of America's kids has gone.

The legacy of Dumbness

The result is a tragic legacy of educational mediocrity:

• More than a decade after A Nation at Risk drew attention to the nation’s educational mediocrity, the reading proficiency of nine- and thirteen- year-olds has declined even further

• The 1994 National Assessment of Educational Progress has found that a third of American seventeen-year-olds say they are not required to do homework on a daily basis.

• Only one high school junior out of fifty (2 percent) can write well enough to meet national goals.

• Less than 10 percent of seventeen-year-olds can do "rigorous" academic work in "basic" subjects.

• In the United States today, only one in five nine-year-olds can perform even basic mathematical operations. According to the 1990 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), only one in four nine-year-olds can apply basic scientific information.

• Among American thirteen-year-olds, only one in ten can "find, understand, and summarize complicated information". Only one in eight eighth graders can understand basic terms and historical relationships. One in eight understands specific government structures and relationships.

• Only one in eight thirteen-year-olds can understand and apply intermediate scientific knowledge and principles. The NAEP found that the percentage of American thirteen-year-olds who understand measurement and geometry concepts and can analyze scientific knowledge and principles "was among the lowest of many countries in the developed world. The 1009 NAEP concluded that "Large proportions, perhaps more than half of our elementary, middle, and high school students are unable to demonstrate competency in challenging subject matter in English, mathematics, science, history, and geography. Further, even fewer appear to be able to use their minds well.

• The writing ability of American students is little short of appalling. American schools, according to the NAEP, produce few students who can write well. Only 3 percent of American fourth, eighth, and twelfth graders can write above a "minimal" or "adequate" level, according to the 1992 "Writing Report Card." The test, which rated students’ writing abilities on a scale of one to six, found that fewer than one in thirty American children earned a score of five or six, which meant they could write effectively and persuasively. Only one out of four students even managed to write at the "developed" level, which earned a score of four. "Even the best students who could write effective and informative pieces had difficulty" writing persuasively, the study found. In 1988, only 3 percent of American high school seniors could describe their own television habits in writing above an "adequate" level.

• A "reading report card" finds that 25 percent of high school seniors can barely read their diplomas. A standardized test given to 26,000 Americans sixteen and older "concluded that 80 million Americans are deficient in the basic reading and mathematical skills needed to perform rudimentary tasks in today’s society." A 1993 study by the U.S. Department of Education found that 90 million adults—47 percent of the population of the United States—demonstrate low levels of literacy. The level of literacy among adults had fallen by 4 percent since 1986.

• Only 15 percent of college faculty members say that their students are adequately prepared in mathematics and quantitative reasoning—a lower proportion than among higher-education faculty in Hong Kong, Korea, Sweden, Russian, Mexico, Japan, Chile, Israel, or Australia. Only one in five faculty members thinks students have adequate writing and speaking skills.

• A Washington, D.C., grade-school teacher reports that many of the fifth- and sixth-grade students in her geography class were unable to locate Washington, D.C., on a map of the United States, even though they lived in the nation's capital themselves. A survey by the Gallup Organization found that one in seven adults can't find the United States on a blank map of the world. This shouldn't be surprising. In one college geography class 25 percent of the students could not locate the Soviet Union on a world map, while on a map of the forty-eight contiguous states, only 22 percent of the class could identify forty or more states correctly.

• Despite the growing importance of scientific knowledge, surveys have found that Americans are woefully ignorant of basic scientific facts. A majority of Americans, for example, do not know that the earth and sun are part of the Milky Way galaxy, and a third of them think humans and dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time. A 1994 survey by Louis Harris & Associates and the American Museum of Natural History found that only about one adult in five scored 60 percent or better on a test of basic knowledge of subjects like space, animals, the environment, diseases, and earth.

• Teachers report that the fall of Communism and the demolition of the Berlin Wall was greeted with blank indifference by many students who knew too little about history to understand or care about the events. "I'm sorry," one high school senior asked during a class discussion of the Eastern Bloc, "but what is this talk of satellites?"

• In the late 1980s, a national survey of high school seniors found that fewer than half could define even basic economic terms. Nearly two thirds of the seniors were unable to correctly define "profit," and less than half could define a "government budget deficit." Most seniors were also baffled by the concept of "inflation." The author of the "Report Card on the Economic Literacy of U.S. High School Students" concluded that "our schools are producing a nation of economic illiterates," and that the level of economic knowledge of students who had the benefit of twelve years of education is "shocking." Especially damning was the finding that even students who took basic high school economics answered only 52 percent of the questions correctly. Students who took "consumer economics" got only 40 percent of the answers correct, while students who took social studies courses were right only 37 percent of the time. A 1992 survey by the National Center for Research in Economic Education and Gallup Organization yielded similar results. High school seniors answered basic economic questions correctly only 35 percent of the time.

• SAT verbal scores have dropped from a mean of 478 in 1962 to 423 in 1994- a drop of 54 points. The SAT mean math score has fallen from 502 to 479--a drop of 23 points. While math scores have risen 8 points since 1984, they are still below 1974 levels. The national verbal average has fallen 3 points since 1984. During the same period (1960-90), spending on elementary and secondary education increased more than 200 percent, after inflation. Class size has decreased by one third, enrollment has declined by 7 percent, and the number of teachers has increased by 17 percent. Moreover, the decline in test scores came at a time when average teacher salaries and the percentage of teachers with advanced degrees both tripled.

There are obvious real-world consequences for this decline.

• American businesses are now spending $30 billion on workers' training and lose an estimated $25 to $30 billion a year as result of their workers' weak reading and writing skills.

• A survey by the National Association of Manufacturers found that nearly a third of American businesses said the learning skills of their workers are so low that they are unable to reorganize work responsibilities. A quarter of American businesses say their ability to improve their products is limited because of the inability of their employees to leans the necessary skills.

• In a recent year, the Bellsouth Corporation in Atlanta found that fewer than 10 percent of their job applicants met minimal levels of ability for sales, service, and technical jobs. At the same time, MCI Communications in Boston reported that some of its jobs were going unfilled because the company could not find enough qualified applicants.

• In late 1992, executives at Pacific Telesis found that 60 percent of the high school graduates applying for jobs at the firm failed a company exam set at the seventh-grade level.

The Cost of Dumbness

It is hard to put an exact number on what the dumbing down of American education costs the economy, but it is possible to make some approximations. One recent study of job skill requirements found that the average twenty-one- to twenty-five-year-old American was "reading at a level significantly below that demanded by the average job available in 1984 and are even further below the requirements of jobs expected to be created between 1984 and the year 2000." The researchers ranked language skills required for various jobs ova scale of one to six, with a level of six required for scientists, lawyers, and engineers. The vast majority of jobs required a reading skill level of three and four, the requirement for sales and marketing positions. But the study found that 97 percent of young adults had skills only at the two and three levels, suitable for farming and transportation work.

Economist John Kendrick of George Washington University argues that "the knowledge factor" may account for as much as 70 percent of a nation's productivity trends, either up or down. The skills of our workforce, and their ability to adapt to a knowledge-based economy seem certain to be critical factors in our ability to compete. Kendrick's thesis argues that much of the decline in productivity in American society can be linked to the decline in education and to the resulting gap between the requirements of the economy and the reality of the workforce.

Cornell University Economist John H. Bishop does not go quite as far as Kendrick, but confirms the link between economic growth and the "knowledge factor." At least 10 percent of the "unexplained" slowdown in productivity in the 1970s can be attributed to the decline, in achievement scores that began in 1967, Bishop concluded. But the effects of dumbing down will accelerate over time. He projected that the decline in what he called the General Intellectual Achievement (GIA) accounted for 20 percent of the decline in the 1980s and a full 40 percent of the decline in the 1990s. Writing in the American Economic Review, Bishop noted that productivity growth and the test scores dropped almost simultaneously.

That decline, which was severe and unprecedented, meant that students graduating in 1980 were more than a full grade level behind graduates of twenty years earlier. Our schools had produced lower quality workers, which in turn depressed both wages and productivity. If test scores had continued to grow after 1967 at the same rate as they had the previous quarter century, Bishop estimated that the nation's gross national product would have been $86 billion higher than it was in 1988 and $334 billion higher in the year 2010.

This would seem to make a compelling case for spending more money on education, if any link could be shown between higher spending and higher achievement. But national education spending rose more than 25 percent in real terms in the 1980s. And since 1967--when the decline in test scores began in earnest--spending per student had risen faster than it had in the twenty years prior to 1967 (4 percent a year in real terms versus 3.3 percent). In the lower spending years prior to 1967, as Bishop notes, "student test scores had been rising steadily for more than 50 years."

If the usual scapegoats of educationists--parents, society, and money--cannot account for the decline of American education, then we have to look to the schools themselves and the values that dominate American education in the 1990s.