New research2 shows no correlation between spending and performance:
“. . . essentially no link between state education spending (which has exploded) and the performance of students at the end of high school (which has generally stagnated or declined).”
Delaware’s decline in performance is obvious and has accelerated over the past five years.
Some want us to believe Delaware’s dead last ranking in SAT scores is to be expected because the state mandated universal testing in 2011. However, Andrew Coulson’s study adjusts for high participation and demographic differences. Even after adjusting, the poorer Delaware performance persists.
“First, the adjustment formula looks at SAT participation as a function of the 18-year-old population; and, second, Delaware has a relatively large number of 18-year-olds who do not remain in school through to graduation. So while Delaware has a high share of graduating seniors with SAT scores, many of its 18-year-olds never graduate, so the state’s test-takers actually represent a smaller share of the eligible population than it might at first seem.
The importance of this factor can be seen in the rather different results for the state of Maine, which also introduced a universal SAT program in 2006. Like Delaware’s, Maine’s raw SAT scores tumbled after the program was introduced, but its adjusted SAT scores did not . . . The difference is that far more 18-year-olds in Maine remain in school through to graduation, and so Maine’s SAT participation rate (83 percent) is substantially higher than Delaware’s (73 percent).
Maine does disproportionately well . . . whereas Delaware does more poorly than would be expected for its rate of SAT participation.” (Emphasis added)
The faces and voices of parents, grandparents and teachers in Delaware is a strong indication of concern for a system that is failing children.
It is seen in the sadness of a grandmother who worries about another generation of children in her neighborhood who are falling behind. Who are graduating to a career on the street with little hope of a job and a high potential for a life of crime.
It is seen in the mother of a fifth grader who worries her daughter will not win the lottery for a charter school; and if not, whether she and her husband can afford a private school because public school is not an option.
It is heard in the anger of an eighth grade algebra teacher who is retiring because of the way her teaching skills are treated like a commodity by the Department of Education, and her concern the “Common Core” curriculum is hurting her pupils by “moving them backwards” and “not preparing them adequately for college.”
We want to believe traditional public education is the springboard for all to move up in society. That leads taxpayers to invest heavily in public education and its promise of equal opportunity for all to have a quality education.
But we should ask ourselves: Has all the spending created more opportunities for students, or has the spending created a dependency model that only gives a feeling of progress because more money is being spent?
Education needs cash. That’s a fact, and the total amount contributed by Delaware taxpayers and landowners is one of the highest in the country.2
Another fact is that to be competitive the state needs children well-prepared by an efficient and effective K-12 education system.
Delaware’s performance to this point: spending is up and performance is declining.
Andrew Coulson adjusting test3 results for factors such as participation rates and student demographics and validated against state-level test results, makes is possible to compare state performance and achievement gap over the past forty yeas. The outlook?
“The performance of 17-year-olds has been essentially stagnant across all subjects since the federal government began collecting trend data around 1970, despite a near tripling of the inflation-adjusted cost of putting a child through the K–12 system. (Emphasis added)
Much of the recent information promoting the roll out of another government program called Common Core, is high on promise and low on supporting research. As with many government programs today, the delay in public discourse is because it is only after implementation are details of the program learned. The National Education Association says Common Core is a botched implementation and requires rethinking.
“. . . there has been essentially no correlation between what states have spent on education and their measured academic outcomes. In other words, America’s educational productivity appears to have collapsed, at least as measured by the NAEP and the SAT.
Two generations seems a long time for a field to stand outside of history, particularly when those generations have witnessed so many reforms aimed at improving education. Perhaps it’s time to ask if there are inherent features in our approach to schooling that prevent it from enjoying the progress typical in other fields.“
Two generations is a long time. Delaware needs to worry about future of the next ill- prepared generation.
Delaware’s poor position in education continues to be pointed out by researchers like Andrew Coulson. Yet we continue to march down a path that claims progress but demonstrates continuing decline. How much longer will Delaware continue to tolerate an education system that has failed children in years past, and continues to fail children today?
Delaware: It is time for an alternative. One that affords families the opportunity of the best education for their children, freeing them from the government-selected experience simply because a few people “believe in public education” and think you should be forced to believe so as well, regardless of whether or not the traditional experience is right for your child.
1 Andrew Coulson, State Education Trends, Academic Performance and Spending over the Past 40 Years,” Policy Analysis, Cato Institute, Number 746, March 18,2014
“The state-by-state results of this investigation are reported in the subsections that follow,
but the overall picture can be summarized in a single value: 0.075. That is the correlation between the spending and academic performance changes of the past 40 years, for all 50 states. Correlations are measured on a scale from 0 to 1, where 0 represents absolutely no correlation between two data series and 1 represents a perfect correlation. Anything below 0.3 or 0.4 is considered a weak correlation.”
3National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and SAT-College Board test results.