NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Frenzy Without a Cause

June 27, 2016

Senior Fellow John Merrified writes in the NCPA's Education Blog:

What have we achieved with all the work towards the common core?  In another article in the Summer 2016 edition of Education Next, we see that the state applauded for having the most rigorous application of the common core standards, Rhode Island, is #39 in academic outcomes.  It is already well-established that standards don't yield the demanded outcomes. Can we please focus our energies on something that will matter at least in proportion to political effort; for example, a strong charter law, plus price de-control, or large universal education savings accounts.

Let's look at some telling correlations that will hopefully further compel reallocation of political effort.  In this article, we see that the top ("at the top of the cellar stairs" -- former Asst Secretary of Education, Chester Finn) six states are: 1) Minnesota (12, 39); 2) North Dakota (9, 8); 3) Massachusetts (6, 28); 4) Montana (44, 12); 5) Vermont (34, 14); and 6) New Hampshire (23, 17). The first number in the parenthesis next to each state is the state's per capita GDP rank. Remember all of the blather from the education establishment that schooling outcome is just a matter of wealth/poverty? NOT!! And the minimal correlation between wealth and performance rank is biased by the higher cost of living in the NE states.  The second number in the parenthesis next to each state extends the Rhode Island story.  So, for example, Minnesota is ranked #39 in standards rigor.  Increased standards rigor does not seem to boost academic outcomes, at least not all by itself, which is widely acknowledged except by state politicians that make a big deal about raising standards.  Message to them: skip that step, or declare victory and move on.

When I went to to find the article links above, I discovered yet another entirely predictable story about obsessing over the wrong things: "Detroit is the school district with the smallest achievement gap but its poor overall performance is notable"[awful!!].  How about first creating a system that maximizes every student's rate of improvement, which will maximize their earning potential and functionality as a citizen, and then see what can be done to fine-tune the system to make the rate of progress of the least advantaged a bit faster than the progress of the most advantaged?


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