Monday, July 30, 2007

Connecticut Mastery Test Results

Well, the CT test results are in.
And it isn't very good news.
Here are the actual results, town by town.
For all the money CT spends on education, it looks like we've had some pretty disappointing results here.

The Hartford Courant had this to report:
Despite spending nearly $190 million to bolster public school reading programs over much of the past decade, the state reported slight erosion of reading scores on this year's Connecticut Mastery Test, continuing a gradual downward trend that began five years ago.

"It's quite serious," said state Education Commissioner Mark K. McQuillan
A grade of 66 overall, in my opinion, is a failing grade - and CT has failed it's kids and the taxpayers who dump millions into education in this state. Sorry, but it is no longer acceptable to say - "but yeah, at least we are better than (insert some other state name here)".

Of course we all know where this will lead... asking the taxpayers to dig even more deeply into their pockets to add yet even more funding to a system that is obviously failing. For all the highly paid, Master and Doctoral Degreed specialists that our schools have in CT this is still what we end up with.

And of course the mantra continues to be we need more teachers, more specialists, more administrators, more, more, more.

Everyone seems to forget that better education is not directly proportional to the amount of money spent on it.

The studies abound, like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) reports, to prove it.. but the myth that more money is needed continues to live on robustly.
"Raising student achievement levels and improving our schools is not a matter of spending more money doing the same things as before but rather using the resources we have available in better and more innovative ways," said ALEC Education Task Force Chairman Rep. Jane Cunningham from Missouri.
Hartford alone spends over $13,000 per student to educate them and yet they have fallen dead last in the CMT scores.
So what gives?
Blame it on what now?
Blame it on lack of funding to train teachers better?
Blame it on lack of funding to attract the best and brightest and most well equipped educators? (I keep hearing how CT has the highest paid and highest qualified teachers in the nation)
Blame it on the parents who don't have a book at home? (Well - who taught them to read or to love reading?)

Demand longer school days? It's stressful for children. And some studies have suggested that the time allocated doesn't translate into better performance.

Demand costly mandatory pre-school? This has already been proven not to work.

Demand year round schooling? Well this employs more people that's for sure, and it is a very costly endeavor. Many parents object to it as it infringes on family time.

Demand school dress codes or uniforms? This discourages gang wear - but hasn't proven to raise performance dramatically - A study published in The Journal of Education Research by David L. Brunsma,(University of Missouri), and Kerry A. Rockquemore,(University of Notre Dame) found that student uniforms neither improved attendance and discipline nor decreased drug use. According to Brunsma and Rockquemore, uniforms did not significantly improve academic performance or students' attitudes toward school, peer-group relations were not improved, and that uniforms actually had a negative effect on student attitudes.

It doesn't look like anything they have been studying and talking about is working.
They have been "attacking this problem" for years and still have come up short.

It looks to me like they ought to be looking at curriculum substance instead of style.
It looks like they ought to be looking at time on task versus school day distractions.
It looks to me like they ought to get the fluff and nonsense out of the curriculum and focus on the basics.
It looks to me like they need to eliminate busy work and meaningless assignments.
It looks to me like they ought to be putting more money in the classroom instead of in administrators' pockets.
It looks to me like we need some choice in education and have schools compete with each other. While I am not a fan of vouchers, I think we need competition.

Schools need to demand more from the kids and have some real discipline. Give the kids some respect and some real reasons to cultivate self respect and self esteem. Let them work hard to achieve results they can be proud of. Hire teachers who really understand what learning is all about. Have a curriculum in place that is interesting, and not just busy work. Believe it or not, some of the more successful charter schools in my area are doing the things I have just mentioned. Furthermore, I would, cut the school hours in half, and allow the kids to have a life and interests of their own choosing. There would be no homework because any work needing to be done would be done in school. Parents need to be fully involved in the endeavor of their kids’ learning. Kids should not be fed and clothed by the school system. If parents are not doing their job of taking care of their children’s needs then they should be prosecuted according to the laws having to do with parental neglect of duties.

Somewhere along the way people have forgotten what educating kids is all about. It has become more of an indoctrination of political correctness and less about actual learning and exploration. There is way too much fluff in the schools as they attempt to “teach” about sex education, AIDS awareness, gay and lesbian issues, anti-smoking, anti-drugs, and every other campaign that comes down the pike. The current "cause du jour" is Global Warming. Kids are not spending enough time actually learning the things that they need to learn. It seems to me that there is precious little on task time being spent on the essentials. Kids are not learning enough history or civics to become active informed citizens. The reading lists at most schools contain such contemporary trash and little in the way of real literature. It has been shown that kids who regularly read classic literature learn to read, speak and write better because they learn by example. Basic mathematics has become a confusing maze of "nouveau jibberish". Kids are not learning enough higher math or science and they cannot even read or write properly. This is evidenced by the huge number of remedial classes that colleges now have to offer in order to get their students up to speed. That is shocking!

Now just as a local anecdote: The superintendent in my school district (West Hartford, CT) just got a raise that gives him a salary of $188,000 per year. Perhaps they should have held off on his raise until they saw these test scores. We as a town have now budgeted $117.8 million dollars alone on education. Our test scores range from 65.9% to 79.6% of students who are at or above state goals. That puts us in the bottom of our District reference Group which compares us to similar towns. This leads me to suggest that perhaps we should be spending more on the classroom and less on the guy with the big office in the Education Center in Town Hall. But perhaps he is paid that highly because he can dream up all the excuses as to why we have been funding the schools more and getting much less in return.

I can't wait to hear how much more money we'll need to spend locally and as a state to raise our kids' performance.