Mitt Romney is out on the campaign trail, pushing vouchers and charters and online learning and for-profit schools and larger class size as the answers to our “failing” public schools.
I wish someone would give him some actual facts to work with. Are our schools failing? No, they are not.
According to the latest federal data, the high school graduation rate is now at the highest point in our history for every group: for white students, black students, Hispanic students, low-income students, middle-income students, and high-income students.
According to the National Assessment of Education Progress, test scores in reading and math are at their highest point in our history. Forgive me if I quote an earlier blog from this site:
“Proficient [on NAEP] is akin to a solid A. In reading, the proportion who were proficient in fourth grade reading rose from 29% in 1992 to 34% in 2011. The proportion proficient in eighth grade also rose from 29% to 34% in those years. In math, the proportion in fourth grade who were proficient rose from 18% to 40% in the past twenty years, an absolutely astonishing improvement. In eighth grade, the proportion proficient in math went from 21% in 1992 to an amazing 35% in 2011.”
“When the scores are broken out by race, you can really see dramatic progress, especially in math. In 1992, 80% of black students in fourth grade were below basic. By 2011, that proportion had dropped to 49%. Among white students in fourth grade math, the proportion below basic fell in that time period from 40% to only 16%.”
“The changes in reading scores are not as dramatic as in math, but they are nonetheless impressive. In fourth grade, the proportion of black students who were below basic in 1992 was 68%; by 2011, it was down to 51%. In eighth grade, the proportion of black students who were reading below basic was 55%; that had fallen to 41% by 2011.”
These numbers tell a story not of failing schools, but of steady–and in some cases, very impressive–progress.
Should we do better? Of course. But people don’t do a better job if you keep telling them (falsely) that they are failing. It is important to acknowledge success if you want to keep moving forward.
Mitt Romney tried pushing his education policies at a charter school in West Philadelphia. He probably thought that what he was offering would be greeted with cheers, but he looked very foolish when he told his audience that class size didn’t matter.
Steven Morris, a music teacher at the school, said: “I can’t think of any teacher in the whole time I’ve been teaching, over 10 years — 13 years — who would say that more students would benefit them. And I can’t think of a parent that would say ‘I would like my kid to be in a room with a lot of kids,’” Morris said. “So I’m kind of wondering where this research comes from.”
Romney knew better than the teacher, it seems, because he cited a study by McKinsey saying that class size doesn’t matter. No doubt, he also had heard the same from his stable of uber-conservative think tank experts.
Had Romney consulted a wider body of research, he would have known that class size does matter.
Had he thought about the choices he made for his own children, he would have not been so foolish as to suggest that class size doesn’t matter. I don’t know where they went to school, but I have read that they were educated in private schools. I am willing to bet they had class sizes of 12-18. (A reader informs me–see comments below–that the Romney children attended an elite school where average class size was 12. Wonder how that would work in the public schools of Detroit, Cleveland, Fresno, Philadelphia, and Baltimore?)
Why would Romney propose that children who need as much or more attention as his own children should get less?