Johnny can’t read, or write, do math, or think. But teachers are demanding more and more money and resources that strapped school districts around the country can’t pay.
The question is why. Recent standardized test scores not only don’t show any improvement, they show kids are regressing. And with recent strikes in Denver, West Virginia, and the ongoing strike in Chicago, that question takes on a new urgency.
Why should teachers get more money with scores like this?
The 2019 National Assessment of Education Progress, also called NAEP or the Nation’s Report Card, was administered to more than 600,000 students enrolled in public schools and Catholic schools from every state and Washington, D.C., and also includes a break-out of student achievement in 27 large urban school districts.
Most notable were the score drops in reading, which occurred in 17 states with regard to fourth grade reading scores and in 31 states for eighth grade reading scores. On average, reading scores declined for fourth graders by 1 point and for eighth graders by 3 points compared to 2017.
“A 3-point decline for the country is substantial in as much as 31 states are driving it, large states, small states – and it’s a very meaningful decline,” Carr said.
The math scores were largely a loss with a one-point decline in fourth-graders and a one-point increase for eighth-graders.
But it’s reading skills that have experts worried.
Most concerning, she said, was that compared to 2017, the scores of lower performing students declined in three of the four grade-subject combinations and those drops are what accounted for the overall drop in average scores.
“The distributions are pulling apart, with the bottom dropping faster,” Carr said. “It’s not clear what’s happening here, but it is clear and it’s consistent.”
“The fact that students who need to make the most academic progress are instead making no progress or are falling further behind is extremely troubling,” Tonya Matthews, vice chairwoman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees NAEP, said in a statement. “We need to see all students make progress.”
The declines in scores cut across racial and ethnic lines, making it impossible to blame “racism.” But what — or who — can be blamed?
The data doesn’t tell researchers why, but we can make a reasonable guess based on logic. Logic dictates that the worst students should get the most attention from teachers. But whether through lack of effort or skill or talent, America’s unionized teachers just aren’t cutting it.
Granted, there are students who are a lost cause — addicted to drugs, gang members, problems at home, or disinterested. But realistically, that can’t be a high number. And especially in the early grades, almost all children have a passion to learn. They may be affected by violence in the streets or at home, but teachers in the primary grades are failing their students to the point that by the time the kids are old enough for high school, many have lost interests or become downright hostile to learning.
Should teaching be a performance-based profession? I think that’s a reasonable request. There have been efforts in recent decades to make teachers more accountable but the process has been fiercely resisted by unionized teachers. Hence, men and women who have no business being near a classroom become lifelong teachers.
One can understand unions wanting to shield their members from the harsh glare of accountability — and from politics and other outside influences. But to sacrifice the education of kids — our kids — in service to union goals is wrong.
We live in a time when class sizes are shrinking and schools are closing because the birth rate has severely declined. That means taxpayers are less and less willing to pony up for schools, especially since their own children are grown and long gone. School districts are trying to deal with this reality. But why aren’t teachers?
It may be time to jettison teachers unions altogether and replace them with a merit-based system that pegs pay to performance, using agreed-upon criteria that should include, but not be limited to, test scores. Otherwise, unions are likely to be captured by militant political activists who are perfectly willing to sacrifice your child’s education in service to a radical political agenda.