Archives for category: Data

Remember how voucher advocates claim that vouchers will “save” poor kids from “failing public schools”? T’aint so.

Stephen Dyer compared the progress of Ohio students in voucher schools to those in public schools. Guess what? The longer students are enrolled in voucher schools, the farther behind they fall.

He writes:

One thing you’d expect to hear a lot from voucher proponents is that students taking private school tuition subsidies do better the longer they’re in the private schools taxpayers are paying.

I mean, assuming these “choices” are so vastly superior to “failing” public schools, right?

Yet you never hear that argument. Now I know why: according to state test data, the longer students take vouchers, the worse they do on state tests — in some cases a lotworse. Especially in high school.

Here is how students perform on state High School proficiency rates, depending on how long they’ve been taking vouchers. You can see pretty clearly that especially in English and Math, students do markedly worse if they’ve been taking vouchers for 3 plus years than they do if they’ve only been taking it for a year.

This provides some pretty compelling evidence that students taking vouchers are better prepared by public schools, but once they enter the private system, that success wanes. Only in Social Studies is there an increase, but it’s only a 0.9% increase. Math drops by nearly 1/4. Overall, there’s, on average, a 12.1% drop in proficiency rates the longer a high school student takes a voucher….

Let me put it simply:

  • Generally, Voucher students do worse on state tests the longer they take vouchers.
  • The Black-White achievement gap is much greater among voucher students than public school students.
  • Private Schools that accept Vouchers take a Whiter population of students than the districts from whence the students come.

I just have one simple question: How is it again that Vouchers provide “better” opportunities for students of color who are being “failed” by public schools, as voucher proponents continuously claim?

Because Ohio data sure suggest that students of color are best served by their local public schools, not the private schools who are more reluctant to take them, even with significant taxpayer-funded tuition subsidies.

Stephen Dyer, a former state legislator in Ohio, writes a blog that tracks funding and privatization in Ohio. It’s called “10th Period.” He relies on state data to tell the truth about the failure of charters and vouchers. Here is the latest data on charter schools.

Dyer’s summary:

98 Percent of Ohio Charter School Graduates are Less Prepared for Post-Graduate World Than Students in Youngstown City Schools

Dayton is the lowest performing major urban district. Yet 2 out of 3 Ohio charter schools are less prepared than Dayton students

Ohio’s new report card has revealed something extremely troubling about Ohio’s Charter Schools. On a new measure called “Students in the 4-year Graduation Cohort who Completed a Pathway and are Prepared for College or Career Success”, only 9 percent of Ohio’s potential Charter School graduates met those qualifications. More than 36 percent of Ohio’s public school district students met those qualifications.

(Data Note: These data only examine students who could graduate high school, not whetherthey graduated high school. Public School Districts graduated 91.4 percent of their potential 121,968 graduates. Charter Schools only graduated 65 percent of their 4,657 potential graduates — a lower rate than any Ohio Public School District.)

Of the 43 Ohio Charter Schools with enough students to count in this College and Career Readiness measure, 18 schools had zero — that’s right, not a single student —who qualified as college or career ready. That means that 3 out of every 25 Ohio charter school graduates attended a school where not a single potential graduate was considered college or career ready.

But it gets worse.

More than 54 percent of Youngstown City School potential graduates are college or career ready. Only one Ohio Charter School — Dayton Early College Academy — has a higher rate.

That means that 98 percent of potential Ohio Charter School graduates are less prepared for post-high school lives than Youngstown City Schools’ potential graduates. Remember that Youngstown was seen as such a “failed” school district that the state created a new law to take over the district — in large part so more Charter Schools could open there.

Yet that district’s students are more likely to be prepared for post-high school lives than 98 percent of the 4,657 students potential graduating Ohio’s Charter Schools.

But wait. It gets worse.

The lowest-performing major urban school district in Ohio — Dayton — only had 5.7 percent of its students qualify as career or college ready.

Not good.

But before all you pro-charter school/voucher people scream “School Choice, Now!”, an astonishing 2 out of every 3 potential Ohio Charter School graduates attend schools with worse post-graduate preparation measures than Dayton.

Dayton is the home of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and has been a hotbed of charter and voucher activity for 25 years. It’s not like school choice hasn’t been tried in Dayton.

And it ain’t working.

More Ohio students in all schools need to be career and college ready than they currently are. Full stop.

But what’s clear is that the best place for that to happen is in Ohio’s local public schools, not in Ohio Charter Schools.

I’d also like to use some space to bring up the Ohio Virtual Academy (OHVA) — the ECOT-sized online school. OHVA was paid to educate 14,530 students last year — more students than ECOT ever was paid to educate.

Yet they are just as bad as ECOT at preparing their students for the post-graduate world. An astonishing 87 of 1,820 potential OHVA grads were considered college or career ready. That 4.8 percent rate is lower than all but one Ohio school district — New Miami Local in Butler County, which only had 1 of 44 potential graduates considered college or career ready.

There’s more. If you want to follow the terrible results of privatization in Ohio, subscribe to Stephen Dyer’s blog.

Now here is a surprise: Paul Petersen, editor of the conservative journal Education Next and leader of Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance, published an article with his postdoctoral student M. Danish Shakeel demonstrating the steady and impressive progress of American public schools over the past half century.

They write:

Contrary to what you may have heard, average student achievement has been increasing for half a century. Across 7 million tests taken by U.S. students born between 1954 and 2007, math scores have grown by 95 percent of a standard deviation, or nearly four years’ worth of learning. Reading scores have grown by 20 percent of a standard deviation per decade during that time, nearly one year’s worth of learning.

When we examine differences by student race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, longstanding assumptions about educational inequality start to falter. Black, Hispanic, and Asian students are improving far more quickly than their white classmates in elementary, middle, and high school. In elementary school, for example, reading scores for white students have grown by 9 percent of a standard deviation each decade, compared to 28 percent for Asian students, 19 percent for Black students, and 13 percent for Hispanic students. Students from low socioeconomic backgrounds also are progressing more quickly than their more advantaged peers in elementary and middle school. And for the most part, growth rates have remained steady throughout the past five decades.

Conventional wisdom downplays student progress and laments increasing achievement gaps between the have and have-nots. But as of 2017, steady growth was evident in reading and especially in math. While the seismic disruptions to young people’s development and education due to the Covid-19 pandemic have placed schools and communities in distress, the successes of the past may give educators confidence that today’s challenges can be overcome.

This article contradicts the foundation of the rightwing-conservative narrative that “our schools are failing,” which is the rationale for school choice and harsh treatment of teachers.

As Petersen and Shakeel show, the conventional wisdom among the “blow up public education” sect is wrong. Public schools are not failing. They are succeeding.

I made the same argument in my book Reign of Error. I showed that test scores and graduation rates for all groups are at an all-time high.

But more importantly, Paul Petersen made the same assertions in 1983, when he was the staff director for a Twentieth Century Fund commission on education. I was a member of the commission, as was Albert Shanker of the AFT, Dean Patricia A. Graham of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and other luminaries.

The commission issued a report called “Making the Grade,” which lamented the woeful state of the schools. But our staff director Paul Petersen insisted that the commission was wrong in its dire conclusion and wrote a separate statement, expressing his dissent, in which he defended the schools.

I have served on many commissions and task forces but that was the only time that the staff director dissented from the group for whom he worked.

Paul Petersen was right in 1983.

He is right now.

Our public schools are not failing.

They have been a great success.

The attacks on them by Christian nationalists, billionaires, Catholic champions of vouchers, racists, extremists, and zealots for school choice is completely unjustified.

Their attack on the schools is an attack on our democracy.

It should end now.

Virginia’s new education leader avoids the press and the public, but she is accessible to rightwing think tanks. She recently spoke at the American Engerprise Institute, where she outlined her goal for the state’s students: job readiness. Aimee Guidera comes from the Gates-funded Data Quality Campaign. She did not speak about preparing students for citizenship in a democracy. She did not speak about imbuing students with a love of learning. She focused only on meeting the needs of employers.

Virginia NPR reported on her appearance:

Virginia’s top education official says the state is “resting on our laurels” when it comes to educating public school students.

In a forum hosted by a conservative think tank last month, Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera said her top goal is preparing students for the job market.

“We are reorienting everything to how is education geared towards preparing people for the jobs of today and of tomorrow,” she said.

Guidera has kept a low profile since Gov. Glenn Youngkin named her to be Virginia’s education secretary in December. But in a forum hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, Guidera laid out her plans in more detail.

The former CEO of the Data Quality Campaign, an education reform group, pushed back on claims the administration was attempting to censor history. She said her team would push past “culture wars,” which Youngkin’s critics say were fermented by the governor.

Instead, she said she plans on focusing on meeting three “benchmarks”: creating students that are ready for “family-supporting jobs” and who are civically engaged, recruiting and retaining employers attracted by the commonwealth’s talent pool and growing the state economy.

Leonie Haimson is a New York-based education activist who has two passions: reducing class size and protecting student privacy. She is co-founder of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. She writes today in Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” about legislation that threatens the privacy of every college student. Do your part to stop this invasion of privacy by writing your member of Congress. Use the link to contact your representatives.

Haimson writes:

With practically no public notice and no public hearings, the House of Representatives passed the College Transparency Act (CTA) on Feb. 4, 2022, by slipping it into a much larger unrelated bill called the America Competes Act, intended to better position the United States to compete with China. The bill is now slated to go to conference with the Senate…

The CTA would authorize the federal government to create a comprehensive data system that would include the personal information of every student enrolled in college or another higher education institution, and track them through their entire lives, by collecting their names, age, grades, test scores, attendance, race and ethnicity, gender, and economic status, directly from their colleges, along with other highly sensitive information pertaining to their disabilities and/or “status as a confined or incarcerated individual.”

Then, as they move through life, this data would be “matched” with their personal data from the other federal agencies, including the Census Bureau, the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and the Social Security Administration.

No student would be allowed to opt out of this database, and there are no provisions for their data ever to be deleted. Instead, this bill would essentially allow the federal government to create a perpetual surveillance system, vulnerable to breaches and abuse.

This bill would overturn the legal ban on the federal government’s collection of personal student data, otherwise known as a “student unit record” system. The ban was established as a privacy safeguard in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, which “prohibits the creation or maintenance of a federal database of personally identifiable student information.”

Yet the federal creation of cradle-to-grave tracking system has been among the top priorities of the Gates Foundation and many of the groups they fund for years. In September 2016, Dan Greenstein, then the director of the foundation’s postsecondary division, told Politico that “[c]losely tracking student-level data remains at the top of the foundation’s list — something the foundation says can be accomplished by working around the federal government, which is banned from tracking students as they move through college,” although he hoped that “collective efforts could also work as a ‘lever’ to push Congress to reconsider the federal ban.”

The report that the foundation put out at the same time, entitled “Postsecondary Success Advocacy Priorities,” showed clearly that their goal was to overturn this prohibition and allow the federal government to directly collect this data for all children, starting at birth. This report has since been scrubbed from their website but is archived on the Wayback Machine here.

It says in part:


GOAL: Support the development of a comprehensive national data infrastructure that enables the secure and consistent collection and reporting of key performance metrics for all students in all institutions [emphasis theirs]. These data are essential for supporting the change needed to close persistent attainment gaps and produce an educated and diverse workforce with career-relevant credentials for the 21st century.

BACKGROUND: In this era of escalating costs and uncertain outcomes, it is important that prospective students, policymakers, and the public have answers to commonsense questions about whether and which colleges offer value: a quality education at an affordable price.

The Gates report included a chart that revealed the overarching and comprehensive nature of the infrastructure it envisioned, in which all “entities” would share their data, including “institutions/providers” before children even entered school, followed by state K-12 systems, colleges, and federal agencies such as the IRS, the Social Security Administration, the Department of Labor, the Department of Defense, etc. Together, this data would be fed into a “National Postsecondary Data System.”

The year before, the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP) had been established by Congress, with the stated goal to consider “whether a federal clearinghouse should be created for government survey and administrative data.” The commission first held hearings in Washington, D.C., on October 21, 2016, where many Gates-funded groups, including New America Foundation, Data Quality Campaign, Education Trust and Young Invincibles, testified in favor of weakening or overturning the ban on the federal collection of personal data.

The organization that I co-chair and co-founded, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, submitted comments to the commission, co-signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Network for Public Education, and other organizations, strongly opposing the overturning of the ban, noting that the potential risks to privacy were enormous from such a huge, centralized, comprehensive system.

According to the commission’s final report:
The Commission heard many substantive comments about the student unit record ban and received more feedback on the issue than on any other single topic within the Commission’s scope. Nearly two-thirds of the comments received in response to the Commission’s Request for Comments raised concerns about student records, with the majority of those comments in opposition to overturning the student unit record ban or otherwise enabling the Federal government to compile records about individual students.
Nevertheless, the commission recommended that the “Congress and the president should consider repealing current bans and limiting future bans on the collection and use of data for evidence building.”


In the meantime, it recommended the creation of a “National Secure Data Service to facilitate access to data for evidence building while ensuring privacy and transparency in how those data are used. … to temporarily link existing data and provide secure access to those data for exclusively statistical purposes in connection with approved projects. The National Secure Data Service will do this without creating a data clearinghouse or warehouse.”

In any case, in May 2017, a bipartisan group of senators, including Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Orrin G. Hatch (who was a Republican lawmaker from Utah at the time), introduced the College Transparency Act, which would overturn the ban on the federal collection of student data, and instead enable the government to track the employment and outcomes of college students throughout their lives.

Similar legislation was soon introduced in the House. As the reporter from Inside Higher Ed pointed out at the time: “While the bill has support from some Democrats and Republicans alike, its passage remains in doubt because opposition to a federal data system remains on the right and the left, based on privacy concerns and philosophical differences over the role of the federal government in higher ed.”

And while the CTA was resubmitted annually, there was little action by Congress during the intervening years. Nevertheless, the Gates Foundation and its allies kept pushing this idea, and last May, in yet another report, they again promoted the idea of a “federal student-level data network (SLDN) that provides disaggregated information about all students’ pathways and post-college outcomes, including employment, earnings, and loan repayment outcomes.”

With little warning, a few weeks ago, the CTA suddenly reappeared, at the last minute folded into the America Competes Act (ACA), although the ACA was an essentially unrelated bill focused on increasing the competitiveness of the United States with China. Even reporters who had in the past written about the CTA were not alerted in advance. The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy heard about it from a D.C. insider two days before its passage, and rushed out a news release the day before, with quotes from several different advocacy groups in opposition, as well as Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.).

As Rep. Bowman pointed out:

We have been down this road before and know how people’s personal data can be abused. Under the Trump Administration we saw this play out in the form of ICE stakeouts in our communities that put people in danger of being deported, separated from their families, and having their lives completely destroyed from one day to the next. The College Transparency Act raises serious concerns about how the data of our students can be used and abused.”

The next day, the bill passed the House by a vote of 238-193, with only a few Democrats opposed, including Bowman and two of his colleagues in the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.).
The bill will now go to conference with the Senate. The Senate passed its version of the legislation, known as the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), S.1260, last summer. And though the Senate version did not include the College Transparency Act, “supporters of the bill are very hopeful it will be approved by the conference committee that will review differences between the two bills,” according to a recent article.

On March 14, our student privacy coalition released a letter — co-signed by several other national privacy, consumer, education and parent groups — urging Congress not to pass this bill. As our letter pointed out, the bill would authorize the federal government to not only collect a huge amount of personal information, but also add to this nearly any other kind of data in the future, as long as the Department of Education thought it “necessary to ensure that the postsecondary data system fulfills [its] purposes,” although those purposes are not clearly defined.

And we once again emphasized how the risks of such a surveillance system outweighed the potential benefits by far:

Although the CTA’s supporters maintain that creating this massive federal system holds value for prospective students, history shows clearly how this sort of data collection has been used to target and violate the civil rights of our most vulnerable and marginalized individuals and communities. We have also learned that whatever guardrails exist to protect student privacy and anonymity in the current bill could easily be amended in the aftermath of a national crisis, like 9/11, so the CTA data could be used to target current and former students simply because they are a member of a disfavored racial, ethnic, religious, or other vulnerable group. Whatever the value of such a system in terms of promoting accountability for higher education institutions may be, such benefits must be pursued through far less invasive means that do not threaten core American rights and values.

Surely, there are many less intrusive options that could be used to analyze and evaluate higher education outcomes, by using data sampling and use of aggregate data. The existing federal College Scorecard has been enhanced via the collection of aggregate, non-personally identifiable data drawn from colleges, and could be further strengthened by including aggregate data on part-time students, as well as data related to transfer students, contributed by the National Student Clearinghouse, an independent, non-governmental group. This would obviate any need for the federal government to collect and amass personal data from students and follow them throughout their lives.

Such a data system would not only be vulnerable to breaches, but also could have unanticipated negative consequences, by discouraging colleges from accepting the highest-need students to boost their ratings, and/or cause them to discourage their students from entering into careers that have great social value, but lower than average salaries, like teaching.

Please use this link to write your members of Congress and urge them to reject this Orwellian legislation.

Mercedes Schneider digs into the background of Virginia’s new Secretary of Education. She is a data collector, not an educator. On the good side, she is conservative but apparently not an anti-CRT warrior:

On December 20, 2021, Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin announced that his choice for state education secretary is “education consultant” Aimee Guidera. In the ABC8News in which I read Youngkin’s choice, political analyst Rich Meagher commented, “We don’t know a lot about this nominee just yet in part because she is not a political operative. She is a data scientist.”

We don’t know much about this nominee, but let’s unequivocally label her a *data scientist* and not just a data collector.

The ABC8News article does identify Guidera as “founder and former chief executive of the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), a leading voice advocating for improving the use of data to increase student achievement,” a statement that reads more like the pro-data-collection sales pitch than perhaps the article author realizes.

Guidera holds no degree in data collection and analysis or statistics and research. According to her Linkedin bio, Guidera’s bachelors of arts is from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (public policy), and her masters is in public policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Nevertheless, since she founded and operated a data collection organization, Guidera is cloaked in presumed credibility as a student data expert.

For those who are sketchy about founder Guidera and her DQC, allow me to offer information from several posts I have published between 2013 and 2017 concerning DQC, DQC’s controlling nonprofit, Education Trust, and her connection to Common Core and ubiqitous Gates funding, among other market-based, ed-reform connections. Then, readers can decide whether they believe “education consultant” Guidera to be more “data scientist” or just a well-funded, well-positioned data collector.

As for me, I’m going with “well-funded, well-positioned data collector.”

In the rest of the post, Mercedes (who has a doctorate in statistics, unlike Guidera) reviews the Data Quality Campaign. Open the link and read all about it.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot selected Pedro Martinez, Superintendent of the San Antonio School District, as the Windy City’s public schools.

Martinez is a “reformer.” In San Antonio, he was known for his obsession with data and commitment to opening charter schools. He is a graduate of the tattered Broad Superintendents Academy. He is chairman of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change. Chiefs for Change brings together superintendents who share the test-and-punish ideas of the failed corporate reform movement (closing low-scoring schools, opening charter schools, relying on high-stakes testing, evaluating teachers by test scores, collecting data about everything, distrust of unions, etc.).

Martinez is a graduate of the Chicago Public Schools. He holds an M.B.A. from DePaul University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. And, of course, he is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy. He worked for Arne Duncan as Chief Financial Officer when Arne was Superintendent in Chicago. He was “Superintendent-in-Residence” for the Nevada Department of Education. Prior to that, he was superintendent for the 64,000-student Washoe County School District, covering the Reno, Nevada area.

Like Arne, Martinez was never a teacher or principal.

Texas has gone overboard for charter schools, even though they consistently post worse results than public schools. In the state’s new plans, charter schools will not be held accountable for the performance of English-language learners or students with disabilities. That is grossly unfair to public schools but it should raise the ratings of charter schools.

A trusted friend who works for the Texas Education Agency sent this information:

The proposed Texas Charter School Performance Framework for 2020 has been posted for public comment. On page 19, in the Operations standards, “Program requirements: Special populations” and “Program requirements: Bilingual education/English as a second language populations” are marked as “N/A for 2020” instead of each counting for one point. These indicators, 3b and 3c, are struck out on page 20. There does not appear to be an explanation for these changes.
Appropriate handling of assessments is another deletion from the Operations standards on pages 23-24.
Due to the lack of academic accountability, the manual will reflect fiscal and operational indicators only, not academic indicators.

https://texreg.sos.state.tx.us/fidsreg/202103289-1.pdf

There are no academic indicators, which makes sense because there were no tests in 2020. But the state officials removed the program indicators for bilingual and special education populations from the Operations standards on which charter schools will still be rated. These indicators measure if charters meet program requirements such as employing certified teachers in these areas.

This is not the only exception made for charter schools. Those that get a D or F rating three years in a row are supposed to be closed by the state, but that accountability is seldom enforced. Indeed, the state allows failing charters to expand.

When I served in the George H.W. Bush administration, I was Assistant Secretary for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement.

OERI, as it was then called, had almost no discretionary money. There was very little opportunity for any initiatives, which may have been a good thing at that time. I became very involved in advocacy for national standards, which I now regret. I also spoke up for the national goals (remember them?), most of which were out of reach (like, we will be first in the world in math and science by the year 2000). OERI has since been pretentiously renamed the “Institute for Education Sciences.”

However, there is one thing that I am very proud of. I initiated a statistical review of the history of American education and the best brains in the Office of Research gathered the data to show the progress of education. It was published in 1992.

It is called 120 Years of American Education: A Statistical Portrait.

I still refer to it when writing essays that require historical information about education.

It should have been updated by now, but it has not been.

It is a wonderful resource for scholars and others engaged in research about education.

This is the introduction that I wrote in 1992:

Diane Ravitch Assistant Secretary

As an historian of education, I have been a regular consumer of education statistics from the U.S. Department of Education. For many years, I kept the Department’s telephone number in my address book and computer directory. It did not take long to discover there was one person to whom I should address all my queries: Vance Grant. In my many telephone calls for information, I discovered he is the man who knows what data and statistics have been gathered over the years by the Department of Education. No matter how exotic my question, Dr. Grant could always tell me, without delay, whether the information existed; usually, he produced it himself. When I asked a statistical question, I could often hear the whir of an adding machine in the back- ground, even after the advent of the electronic calculator.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, to find myself in the position of Assistant Secretary of the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), the very home of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The latter agency is headed by Emerson Elliott, the first presidentially appointed Commissioner of Education Statistics. And imagine my delight when I encountered Vance Grant, face to face, for the first time. The voice on the telephone, always cheerful and confident, belonged to a man employed by the Department or Office of Education since 1955.

Vance Grant, a Senior Education Program Specialist, and Tom Snyder, NCES’ Chief of the Compilations and Special Studies Branch in the Data Development Division, prepared 120 Years of American Education: A Statistical Portrait. They did so enthusiastically, because—like me—they knew it was needed. Historians of education customarily must consult multiple, often disparate, sources to find and collect the information in this one volume. They can never be sure if the data they locate are consistent and reliable. This compilation aggregates all relevant statistics about the history of our educational system in one convenient book. It will, I believe, become a classic, an indispensable volume in every library and on every education scholar’s bookshelf, one that will be periodically updated. Vance Grant’s and Tom Snyder’s careful preparation of this report substantially enriches our knowledge of American education. But collecting these historical data in one volume not only benefits professional historians. As a Nation, we need to develop an historical perspective in analyzing change. Too often, newspapers report important political, economic, or social events without supplying the necessary historical context. We are all now accustomed to reading headlines about the latest test scores. Whether up or down, they invariably overstate the meaning of a single year’s change. And the same short-sightedness often flaws journalistic reports of other major educational trends.

Historical Context

One does not need to be an historian to recognize the tremendous importance of historical context. Each of us should be able to assess events, ideas, and trends with reliable knowledge of what has hap- pened in the past. If we cannot, our ability to understand and make sense of events will be distorted. This volume would become a reference for all who wish to make informed judgments about American education. We must struggle mightily against the contemporary tendency towards presentism, the idea inspired by television journalism that today’s news has no precedent. As we struggle to preserve history, we preserve our human capacity to construct meaning and to reach independent judgment.

In an age when we are awash with information and instantaneous news, it is meaning, understanding, and judgment that are in short supply. This collection of historical statistics about American education provides its readers with the perspective they need to understand how far we have come in our national commitment to education and how far we must still go in pursuit of our ideals.

I especially thank Vance Grant and Tom Snyder for their untiring efforts in assembling this book. Without their dedication, and without Emerson Elliott’s support for the importance of this work, it would never have happened.

Emerson was the career civil servant who directed the National Center for Educational Statistics, which was the heart of the original Department of Education, created in 1867. As I mentioned, in the thirty years since this publication was issued, it has not been updated. What a shame.

Since the 2020 election, when Republicans won many seats in state legislatures, there has been an explosion of proposed voucher laws, to allow people to get public money to pay for religious schools. David Berliner, one of our nation’s most distinguished researchers of education, explains why funding religious schools with public money is a terrible idea.

Why Religious Schools Should Never Receive a Dollar of Public Funding

David C. Berliner

Regents’ Professor Emeritus

Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

Arizona State University

I believe in separation of church and state. I think it has done the United States a lot of good to honor Jefferson’s metaphoric and aspirational “wall” between the two. I also believe that money corrupts too many people and too many institutions. Holding those two beliefs simultaneously means 1.) I never want to see any local, state, or federal money used to aide any religious group, and 2.) I don’t want to see any religious group, or affiliated religious organizations, donating to the campaigns of public officials. The latter may be impossible to stop in an era of “dark money.” But the former—government support of religious institutions– is almost always done in public view and is worth stopping now, immediately, as it could easily damage our fragile republic.

Overstated? Hardly! Read on! Few citizens pay attention to the expenditure of public dollars for support of religious schools, but it occurs frequently. It can cost citizens billions of dollars annually, and ends up supporting some horrible things. A contemporary example of this is the criteria for entrance to the Fayetteville Christian School in North Carolina. 

Fayetteville Christian School (FCS) are recipients, in a recent school year, of $495,966 of public money. They get this in the form of school vouchers that are used by students and their families to pay for the students’ religious schooling. The entrance requirements for this school, and other religious schools like it, are quite frightening to me, though clearly acceptable to North Carolinians. From their website, in 2020:1

“The student and at least one parent with whom the student resides must be in agreement with (our) Statement of Faith and have received Jesus Christ as their Savior. In addition, the parent and student must regularly (go to) a local church. (We) will not admit families that belong to or express faith in religions that deny the absolute Deity/Trinity of Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior and path to salvation. …. FCS will not admit families that engage in behaviors that Scripture defines as deviate and sin (illicit drug use, sexual promiscuity, homosexuality (LGBT), etc.)

Once admitted, if the student or parent/guardian with whom the student resides becomes involved in lifestyles contradictory to Biblical beliefs, we may choose to dis-enroll the student/family from the school.” 

So, despite the receipt of public money, the Fayetteville Christian School is really notopen to the public at all! This school says, up front and clearly, that it doesn’t want and will not accept Jews, Muslims, Hindu’s, and many others. Further, although supported by public money, it will expel students for their family’s alleged “sins”. Is papa smoking pot? Expelled! Does your sibling have a homosexual relationship? Out! Has mama filed for divorce? You are gone! The admissions and dismissal policies of this school–receiving about a half million dollars of public funds per yearare scandalous. I’d not give them a penny! North Carolina legislators, and the public who elects them, should all be embarrassed to ever say they are upholders of American democracy. They are not. 

Besides the anti-democratic admission and retention problems in many religious schools, Christian or otherwise, some have serious curriculum problems as well. Those curriculum problems actually terrify me when they occur in publicly supported religious schools. With public money–my money–many of these schools spread ideas that are objectively/scientifically untrue. And some are simply repugnant! 

Do you remember Bobby Jindal? A few years back, Jindal was Governor of Louisiana and even, for a short time, a candidate for president of the United States of America. He pushed hard for publicly supported charter and voucher schools. The curriculum materials in these schools frequently came from one of two sources: Bob Jones University Press (associated with the scandal-ridden university), or from A Beka Book, a publisher of Christian books (now called Abeka). Between them, with the public’s money, these publishers have taught our youth some amazing things, as reported either by Deanna Panor by Alice Greczyn.3

Pan and Greczyn share some very interesting text excerpts. For example, I never learned from the textbooks in my public school that “The majority of slave holders treated their slaves well.” Nor did I ever imagine that “To help them endure the difficulties of slavery, God gave Christian slaves the ability to combine the African heritage of song with the dignity of Christian praise. Through the Negro spiritual, the slaves developed the patience to wait on the Lord and discovered that the truest freedom is from the bondage of sin.”

I also didn’t know that “The Ku Klux Klan in, some areas of the country, tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross. Klan targets were bootleggers, wife-beaters, and immoral movies. In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians.”

I admit that I didn’t exactly get an “A” in my high school algebra course, but I never thought that abstract algebra was too complicated to learn. Perhaps I was wrong. An A Beka book states that “Unlike the ‘modern math’ theorists, who believe that mathematics is a creation of man and thus arbitrary and relative, A Beka Book teaches that the laws of mathematics are a creation of God and thus absolute…A Beka Book provides attractive, legible, and workable traditional mathematics texts that are not burdened with modern theories such as set theory.” (Italics mine.)

Another analyst of Christian school text books, Rachel Tabachnick,4 also informed me of things I never suspected. I simply never knew that “Global environmentalists have said and written enough to leave no doubt that their goal is to destroy the prosperous economies of the world’s richest nations.” This quote is from Economics: Work and Prosperity in Christian Perspective, 2nd ed., A Beka Book, 1999.

Through Tabachnick I also learned that children receiving their education in some Christian schools supported with public money are informed that gay people “have no more claims to special rights than child molesters or rapists.” That quote is from the Teacher’s Resource Guide to Current Events for Christian Schools, 1998-1999, Bob Jones University Press, 1998.

         Writing in Salon Magazine, Wilson5 documents other outrageous claims made in these curricula materials, some of which are purchased with public money for Christian schools in the USA, although these curriculum materials are in use throughout the world:

  • Only ten percent of Africans can read or write, because Christian mission schools have been shut down by communists.
  • God used the ‘Trail of Tears’ to bring many Indians to Christ.
  • It cannot be shown scientifically that man-made pollutants will one day drastically reduce the depth of the atmosphere’s ozone layer.
  • God has provided certain ‘checks and balances’ in creation to prevent many of the global upsets that have been predicted by environmentalists.
  • The Great Depression was exaggerated by propagandists, including John Steinbeck, to advance a socialist agenda. 
  • Unions have always been plagued by socialists and anarchists who use laborers to destroy the free-enterprise system that hardworking Americans have created.

Religious schools should not be subject to much state oversight—I understand that. But many such schools claim to offer curriculum compatible with neighboring public schools, thus allowing their students to move to the public schools should they or their parents request that. For example, it is not uncommon for students in Christian schools to transfer at 6th or 9thgrade to a traditional, public junior or senior high. Or, with a high school degree after years of private Christian education, a student might seek admission to a public college. Since student transfers like these are common, shouldn’t there be more inspection and approval of the curriculum and instruction in private Christian schools? Shouldn’t Christian schools, or Jewish or Islamic or any other school receiving public money, be inspected regularly by some agency of the government so they can be certified not to be teaching anti-democratic, anti-scientific, and anti-communitarian values? We have enough strife in this country without paying for schools whose values and curriculum are antithetical to our increasingly secular democracy. 

Am I overreaching? Although ordinarily private schools should not be subject to public scrutiny, if they accept public funds and if they are teaching age-inappropriate or anti-democratic content to their students shouldn’t the public know? Shouldn’t all public funds be subject to some kind of public audit? 

         For example, Rawls6 cites an adult whose memory of sixth grade instruction in a Christian school was still quite vivid. The teacher “passed around shocking photographs of dismembered babies to teach about abortion.” Sometimes abortion in Christian schools is compared to the holocaust. Other times elementary school students have been taken to local and state abortion protests, even to national events in Washington DC. Some schools regularly take their students to abortion clinics to protest. Are public expenditures for curriculum materials and activities like were just cited appropriate? Shouldn’t we know what is taught and learned in schools supported by public funds?     

Naturally, as part of their anti-abortion campaign, many Christian schools worry a lot about sex. So, they pass along unsubstantiated claims about condom failure and the horrible and life-long consequences of sex outside of marriage. It is often public money that supports curriculum and instruction of this type. Should that be the case? Should the state, often with comingled federal funds, support schools with anti-abortion programs when many state courts, and the Supreme Court, has ruled that abortion is legal? I have absolutely no issues with debate about abortion issues in upper grade levels, but should schools be providing anti-abortion education for our youth with public funds? 

Pregnancy, as might be expected, is often greeted with expulsion for girls at Christian schools. I certainly don’t know anyone who recommends teen parenthood, but if it occurs, shouldn’t the mother be helped, not thrown out of school? Wouldn’t that be the Christian thing to do? 

To accommodate the fact of teen motherhood, a public high school I visited proudly showed me a classroom-cum-nursery, allowing teen mothers a safe place to leave their infants while attending classes to earn their high school diplomas. In fairness, one might ask if that is a proper role of a public school. I believe, as do many Americans, that preparation for successful adulthood is the mission of our public schools—even if it entails these kinds of accommodations to keep youth in school and help them to graduate.7

         Another curriculum question is this: Is it appropriate for American education to promote lessening tensions between nations and religions? I think so. But public funds support Christian schools that teach “[T]he darkness of Islamic religion keeps the people of Turkey from Jesus Christ as their savior.” They teach that “[O]ver 500 people saw the resurrected Jesus Christ, [but] no one witnessed Mohammed’s supposed encounters with the angels.” And they teach that Islam is “fanatically anti-Christian.” 3 

         Finally, I want to point out the almost unanimous call to end corporal punishment of minors by the UN and by psychologists and other social scientists. Because of this I ask, should public money be used to support schools that still engage in corporal punishment? Sadly, both Christian and public schools, particularly in the Southern United States, approve of and still engage in spanking, or “paddling.”8

Although physical punishment of children has not disappeared in contemporary times, it appears to be more prevalent in Christian schools than in public schools because many of them operate on the principle of “spare the rod spoil the child.” Codes of conduct for many Christian schools say it is their obligation to use physical punishment, citing Proverbs 23: 13 and 14, among other biblical sources. There they are told “do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul…” 

Thus the “rod,” switch, or paddle, along with other harsh punishments to ensure proper child rearing, is recommended in many Christian advice books for Christian parents.So it is not surprising that more physical abuse takes place in fundamentalist Christian schools than in public schools. For example, in 2007, a Chicago Christian school was sued for injury and surgical costs after forcing a 14-year-old boy to kneel in place for nine days, causing a hip injury. In 2011, a Christian school teacher in Orlando was arrested on charges of beating a boy at her home with a rusted broom handle.6 And in 2015, at the Christian based Zarephath Academy in Jacksonville, Florida, a cell phone video shows male students holding down a female student, while her teacher paddled her in front of the whole class. The horrible offence the student committed? Running in the cafeteria!10

         Conclusion: There are certainly debates to have about the admissions and retention policies, qualifications of teachers, and especially the curricula used in all our schools—public, private, charter, religious or secular. We, the American people, settle controversial debates about issues like these in public forums. We rely on an open press, and we settle these debates through citizen voting and in our courts. Public oversight of public funds is part of the American tradition. 

Frequently, oversight of public funding is carried out by inspector generals. In fact, the first inspector general of the USA was appointed, in part, because General Washington had an ill-trained army for the task he had ahead. So, our very first inspector general was charged with identifying an educational problem, and asked to rapidly fix it! 

Now, literally thousands of people work for various offices of federal, state, and (occasionally) municipal inspector generals. Each are typically responsible for identifying fraud, waste, abuse, and criminal activity involving public funds, programs, and operations. But outside of the federal government, few inspector generals are devoted to education, even though roughly 45 percent of all state budgets, and 45 percent of all local budgets are used to support educational activities11. Thus, there is little oversight of how educational dollars are spent, and some of that spending has turned out to be scandalous!12 Just as bad, I think, is that there is even less concern about what is taught and what is learned in secular charter and private schools, or religious schools, that receive public money. This is not how it should be. I certainly would rest easier if there were inspectors spending a bit more time in the field overseeing what is taught and what is learned in our schools, in addition to their worries about how public money is spent. In particular, we need to examine religious institutions receiving public funds, so that the public has the information needed to maintain Jefferson’s wall, as best we can. 

In fact, if I made law, I would see to it that no private school– religious or not—ever received a dime of public money! Such schools can too easily sow seeds of separateness, privilege and dissension, hindering the achievement of one of our nations most cherished goals: e pluribus unum. Out of our many, one!

1.   Fayetteville Christian Church, Admissions. Retrieved February 8, 2021 from https://www.fayettevillechristian.com/copy-of-criteria-1

2.   Pan, D. (2012, August 7). 14 Wacky “Facts” Kids Will Learn in Louisiana’s Voucher Schools. Retrieved February 13, 2021 from https:/www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/08/photos-evangelical-curricula-louisiana-tax-dollars

3. Greczyn, A. (2020, Blog of June 7). Christianity’s Role in American Racism: An Uncomfortable Look at the Present and the Past.

Retrieved February 2, 2021 from https://www.alicegreczyn.com/blog/christianitys-role-in-american-racism

4. Tabachnick, R. (2017, January17) Vouchers/Tax Credits Funding Creationism, Revisionist History, Hostility Toward Other Religions. Talk to Action. Retrieved February 18, 2021 from: http://www.talk2action.org/story/2011/5/25/84149/9275

5. Wilson, B. (2012, June 19). Shocking Christian school textbooks:Thousands of Louisiana students will receive state voucher money to attend religious schools. What will they learn? Retrieved February 7, 2021 from: https://www.salon.com/2012/06/19/shocking_christian_school_textbooks_salpart/

6. Rawls, K. (2015, January 12). 10 Frightening Things Happening at Conservative Christian Schools That May Be Funded With Your Tax Dollars. AlterNet. Retrieved January 29, 2021 from https://www.alternet.org/2015/01/10-frightening-things-happening-conservative-christian-schools-may-be-funded-your-tax/

7. It is worth noting here that public schools frequently do spend our public money counseling such students and their families, while private schools frequently do not. It is a simple fact that all sorts of “problem” students, the more costly ones, not just the sexually active or pregnant, are frequently expelled from charter and private schools of all kinds, and sent to genuine public schools. Moreover, most charter and voucher schools frequently find ways not to accept special education students, either. Thus, the public schools incur educational expenses that most charter and voucher schools receiving public money do not. So public schools face budgeting challenges that private schools receiving public money do not. Thus, when one hears that charter or voucher schools are more cost efficient than “wasteful government schools,” these facts must be kept in mind.

8. So common has been physical punishment that the precise size and thickness of paddle to be used has often been codified, eg., specifying the type wood, length of paddle, thickness of paddle, etc. Moreover, there is a likely reason that paddling is more common in Southern schools. Severe paddling was used to punish slaves so as to not leave any scars. A whip-scared slave was of less value than an unscared one, because the scars indicated an uncompliant slave and/or a runaway slave. Severely paddled slaves, it was believed, obeyed their masters better–as is desired of children by many adults.

9.  Berliner, D. C. (1997). Educational psychology meets the Christian      right: Differing views of children, schooling, teaching, and learning.  Teachers College Record, 98, 381-416. 

10. Retrieved February 10, 2021 from: https://www.news4jax.com/news/2015/03/10/video-shows-girl-held-down-paddled-in-school/

11. The Condition of Education, National Center for EducationalStatistics (2020).  Retrieved February 20, 2021 from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cma.asp

12. Berliner, D. C. (2022, in press). The Scandalous History of Schools That Receive Public Financing, But Do Not Accept the Public’s Right of Oversight. In Berliner, D.C. and Hermanns, C. (Eds.), Public Education: The Cornerstone of American Democracy. New York. Teachers College Press.