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We don't need no education...

(Alternate title: Money for Nothing...)

The other day I heard this press release from the College Boards mentioned in the news. Apparently, employers are complaining that too many job applicants are lacking the basic writing skills needed to perform most jobs for which they are hiring.

This got me thinking. I'm no education expert, but I've always been pretty good at drawing connections and parallels that others seem to miss. It's always seemed to me (a product of public education) that we're always spending more and more and more on education, while the actual educational state of the American people seems to decline more and more and more.

Here in Cow Hampshire, I've always thought we've done OK on education -- especially in comparison to our southern neighbors in Massachusetts. It's always been a matter of pride, looking down on the Massholes. But this story finally convinced me to start digging. I went to the Web and started pulling up numbers (Google is such a godsend to amateur, pajama-clad analysts such as myself).

Hm. Turns out I was wrong. The 2004 average scores for NH college-bound seniors was 522 verbal / 521 math, while Massachusetts scored 518 verbal / 523 math, which I'd call statistically irrelevant. So much for that cherished illusion.

But how about funding? What kind of "bang for our buck" are we getting in New Hampshire, versus Massachusetts? The most recent figures I could find were for 2002, and they showed a per-student spending of $9,856 in Massachusetts, while we in New Hampshire spend $7,750 -- quite a significant difference. Sounds like we're getting more for our money here.

But is that a national trend, or just an aberration? I pulled the stats for the states (or otherwise) that spend the most and least per student. Lowest is Mississippi at $5,382, while the highest is the District of Columbia, at $13,187. Mississippi's SAT scores are 562 verbal / 547 math, while DC students are scoring 489 verbal / 476 math.

It appears my hunch was right. There seems to be an inverse relationship between educational funding levels and SAT scores. In brief, the more we spend on education, the worse an education students actually receive.

Now, I fully expect this argument to be attacked immediately. I can even predict a few lines that will be used -- the SATs are not valid measurement tools, that the SAT-taking pool is a self-selecting sampling, that there have been huge changes in expectations of what students are expected to learn, etc., etc. -- but I think this should at least put a dent in the argument that the best solution to our education problem is to spend MORE money.

Because we can't afford (in both a figurative and literal sense) much longer to keep bringing up such ignorant children.



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Comments (13)

Two things...First... (Below threshold)

Two things...

First, while it has been proven that SAT's do in fact discriminate based on "cultural differences" (especially in the verbal part of the test) most experts believe that this could be easily overcome if reading skills were improved only marginally.

Secondly, an interesting correlation is a subjective measurement of the amount of political patronage in these school districts. Big-city school systems have become one of the last refuges of machine politics. The layers of bureaucracy in the DC school system is absolutely scandalous! The actual amount spent on educating a child as opposed to what's spent on curriculum, plant maintenence, studies, and other spending not directly related to teaching children is appalling.

Also take into account that... (Below threshold)

Also take into account that the SAT get watered down every year. It's kinda sad. When 10 years ago good SATs could get you into MENSA. They don't even look at them now. Pathetic.

Kin is correct. Allen Bloo... (Below threshold)

Kin is correct. Allen Bloom brilliantly wrote about the dumbing down of America and this type of cost versus "poor result" is endemic to the Democratic way of thinking.

The results are interesting. Here in South Carolina, where people usually shout Thank God for Mississippi, the education is almost always near dead last.

Comparing the best- & worst... (Below threshold)
mike sierra:

Comparing the best- & worst-performing states [sic] won't yield any useful conclusion; gotta evaluate all of them! DC is a mess for any number of reasons.

Years ago, a friend of mine... (Below threshold)

Years ago, a friend of mine took a human relations position with a major petrochemical facility here in my area. We were talking about schooling nad high school diplomas. At that time (in the '80's) he said that they REQUIRED a high school diploma from all applicants, but it was a pro forma requirement.

He said then that the simple possession of a HS diploma signified nothing as far as literacy. Instead, they relied on their own skills assessment test to screen applicants, and that good SAT scores were a much better indicator of literacy.

Looks like even that is going away. Also going away are high expectations and standards. It's getting tow where many managers don't have difficulty with poor writing becuase they cannot recognize it themselves. Poor math on the other hand has a way of making itself painfully obvious.

Coupla' things:Kin... (Below threshold)

Coupla' things:

Kin: that sliding appreciation scale as to the SATs is because it's expected that everyone who takes the test in our contemporary times is highly coached, or, at least bought a practice book and did some studying.

When I took the SAT, we never knew it was coming. Last class of the day, instructor told everyone that we were asked to go home after school, skip any extracurricular activities, get an early supper, no T.V., and get to bed early and that next day of school, bring our own lunch along with a snack, because the school had some special evaluations planned for everyone that would take all day, and to meet in the library at 8:30 A.M. class start instead of our Home Room classes.

So, then we show up and were given these instructions, these test sheets and booklettes, advised as to time and testing procedures, and then took the tests, went on all day, break for lunch, break for the snack in the afternoon and then dismissed a half-hour early for the day.

That was it. No one panicked, no one felt ultra competitive, no one was frightened (I don't think), no one actually understood the implications of the test itself (it was the SAT for sophomores, us being a college prep high school and we were all subject to advance placement at our state universities because of that early SAT testing and how we fared).

I did really well. I never discussed with anyone else how they did or how I did because I never understood what "good" was on the SAT. I just took the test, filed my university application and got accepted in my Junior year of highschool to a very good university and that was that.

I found out later that the SAT was the measure for most among the college prep level academic records (most everyone had B's and A's, very few if any C's, and were involved in school and other projects, it was a good school and town environment).

Anyway, today, people plan for the tests, study, and study and take these practice tests and read all the prep books and all that and by the time they take the tests, it's not an accurate measure of what someone actually knows by that point, but about how well they've studied how to take the test itself. So, I think it ought to be not allowed -- all that coaching and peek knowledge of the test itself -- and that high schools should do less publicity about the tests and do what my school did and how.

About the measures, all I know is that I scored far higher than those averages quoted and the two universities I was admitted to require far higher mean scores than those averages even to file an application. AND, disappointingly, I just read that the L.A. area has some huge majority -- MAJORITY -- of residents that cannot read bus schedules or write adequately enough to even fill out a job application, or read a menu, or road signs, for Heaven's sake. In L.A., that'd mean millions of people.

The public shools need an overhaul of some sort that is beyond my expertise, but clearly what's become of our American public schools is disasterous. When the Liberals decry the unfair divisions of incomes in our society, they fail to examine the obvious causes of that disparity: public education and the terrible decline in so many public school systems nationwide. No wonder many folks prefer home schooling, and that is because they can better provide a quality education for their children when living among poor public systems.

It's not a case of more money but change. The public education system, nationwide, needs to change. Starting with qualifying teachers and requirements for students would be a great idea, along with more stringent requirements for school infrastructure and environments -- less class sizes, safer environments, better materials and far better educators. Some of my most inspiring moments in life -- I mean this quite sincerely -- were from and with specific teachers I had in high, junior and grade school. Would not have made it without them, their influences in my life, I assure you.

Oh, and I **CAN** spell. I... (Below threshold)

Oh, and I **CAN** spell. I just type poorly... Must be the pajamas...

I teach 6th grade science a... (Below threshold)

I teach 6th grade science at a public school that is pretty evenly divided into thirds - white/black/hispanic. Not counting those children with learning difficulties that will never do well on a standardized test, I am confident that I can accurately predict who will and who won't do well, not just on the SATs, but in life. And it all pretty much comes down to whose parents show up for Open House.

- Maureen makes a very good... (Below threshold)

- Maureen makes a very good on point comment about parent participation. But at times, with some parents its even more deliberate than simply not supporting their children's academic process. Among children of illiterate parents I have seen on occasion active resentment and deliberate undermining of a child's chances. Particularly when children have a variety of learning disabilities or obstacles.

- Denial can be a real problem to overcome when you're trying to do the best for a child's future and the parents decide to be defensive instead of helpful...

- On the subject of schooling effectiveness versus money spent, I'm reminded of an old government work efficiency saw that states "non-essential work expands to fill the time and funding alloted it"... Out here in Cal we have an added layer of "administration" whose purported purpose is to act as the lead control and watchdog to guide, support/write/administer legislation, and generally assure excellence in our public school system.

- In fact it wastes greater and greater budgets each year on ineffective programs that nobody needs or wants. Thats because it operates outside the purview and control of the electorate, being largely an arm of the liberal special interest groups that infest Sacramento.

- I could name you any number of ways this structure tosses away money. One of the more insidious tricks they use is when a piece of operational legislation is enacted that they don't like they simply make sure there's never enough money to proceed.

- This in spite of the fact that every year sees a marked increase in state school spending from the year before. They also take every opportunity to disparage and downgrade home schooling, which they see as a definite threat to their fiefdom. In spite of their tactics more and more families are resorting to home or private schooling.

- This is just the tip of the schooling scandal iceberg, but Arnold baby is causing a great deal of consternation in the halls of the Cal legislature since he's not going to "play-ball".

- In the meantime the simple answer that the school higher ups use as a guideline is "If you can't improve true learning in the schools then the answer is to lower the standards"... The dumbing down of America....real shame....kids are our future....

Way to steal my thunder, Ma... (Below threshold)

Way to steal my thunder, Maureen. It often seems like parents, and especially students, are the only ones who aren't expected to have any responsibility for the child's education. And without them, nothing else matters.

I would like to see these c... (Below threshold)

I would like to see these changes in school:

1) Vouchers! This will invoke competition into the educational bloodstream which would streamline education. Better performance with less money and higher results for the stockholders. This is the business motto and would work great for schools. Iím sure dress codes would come back if not uniforms which should also help students focus more on knowledge then appearance.
2) The current liberal teachers union and school board to be dismantled. Besides, doesnít the constitution state that the government should not be involved in education anyway?
3) Longer class room time and less diversified curriculum. Why send a student home to parents who probably forgot trig by now, just to have both fight the work? Have the homework turn to classwork so the teacher can assist those who need help before they learn bad habits. Get back to basics in schools so you will have more time in class for Reading (to include reading contracts, bills, news, manuals, etc), Writing (to include resumes, communication skills, and turning ideas into understandable text as applicable in life), Math (to including personal accounting and budgets, retirements plans, money, and such math that is used on a daily basis), Science & Technology (to include health, nutrition, real computer skills). I find in my 15 years of managing drug stores, that kids might know the Ďtalking pointsí (or study points), but donít know any practical information to get them through life. Just had recently someone that took computer skills in school such as Excel and could not even change the wallpaper on her notebook or log on properly to the school web mail.
4) Get the lies out of text books along with social issue oriented classes. Get back to basics and get that firmed up first. Schools should not be social engineers.

I believe these points will bring education back to the pursuit of knowledge and the inheritance of wisdom through its proper application.


ĎDonít commit Hairy Kerry; Vote Responsibly!í

Expenditures per student ca... (Below threshold)

Expenditures per student can be very misleading. Here in California, a HUGE amount of our Education-related expenditures are use to support redundent and ever-increasing bureaucracies. Indeed, per-student expenditures continue to increase, but little reaches the students in the classroom.

Fixing our education system... (Below threshold)

Fixing our education system is very simple.

Fire the State Board of Education.

Fire 90% of the administration in your local school district.

Put 2 teachers aides in each classroom.

Give the rest of the money to the principals and teachers to budget for their classroom.

My mother was a schoolteacher for years, and she saw countless state programs that did the following:

1. More paperwork for the teacher
2. No Materials for the classroom.
3. No Equipment for the classroom.

Net result: less teacher time to spend on the students, dumber students.

This is one of the reasons I'm a big advocate of No Child Left Behind. There's no negative feedback in education for bad programs, so all we have are bad programs and a bloated state board of education.

More on my blog here






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