Tuesday, August 18, 2009

School Scores Out; Response Predictable

The state released results today from the annual student achievement tests. As has been the case for the past few years, the gap between Hispanic/Black students and everyone else failed to narrow significantly.

And, as in prior years, the educational establishment decries the situation as "unacceptable" and racist, but then all the solutions that it offers will accomplish nothing.

I won't recount the test scores for our area; interested readers can look these up for themselves.

I still think it's pretty interesting that the state segregates the test results by race at all -- such data doesn't seem particularly actionable.

Oh wait. Did I say "segregated?" I meant "separated," of course. But now that I think of it, looking at the data also suggests a de facto segregation. For example, Piedmont High, smack in the middle of the East Bay, has about 2 or 3 Black students per grade. That compares with hundreds of Black students per grade in most schools all around Piedmont.

I constantly find this state of affairs bizarre. I realize the legal reasons for it, but it remains pretty strange that civil rights advocates who vigorously oppose any kind of magnet school or voucher program in Oakland are just fine with allowing wealthy whites and Asians to move to Piedmont to escape the bad Oakland schools.

In any event, California education bureaucrat Jack O'Connell claims that the educational gap is because of lack of funding (surprise) and the fact that minorities are less likely to attend preschool. That latter claim has been completely debunked elsewhere -- the benefits of preschool are a consequence of having parents who care, not a consequence of anything the preschool does for students.

The funding claim is also bogus -- it's a well-worn teachers' union claim that I'm not going to spend time debunking here. Suffice it to say it has been demonstrated that increases in teacher salary and decreases in class size do not correlate with higher student achievement.

What does appear to help minority yout is applying different educational methodologies. The Wall Street Journal has reported several times on schools in New York and Washington, DC which have achieved stunning levels of success.

The school day lasts considerably longer at these schools, and they use the extra time focus on the student's entire life -- teaching them how to behave properly in civilized society, how to study, etc. In essence, they take the place of the students' missing or disfunctional family environments.

Accomplishing all this with limited funding generally requires independence from the government apparatus, and it requires getting more done with the same amount of money.

Unfortunately, both of these methodologies run afoul of the teachers' union. The union's sole goal is to get as much money for its members for as little work as possible. And they do that job well.

So, in spite of these schools' proven success, the unions are constantly trying to shut them down.

This, then, puts the lie to the government's announcements about the school test scores. All they really want to do is prime the voters for raising teacher salaries. And, what better way than for O'Connell to announce that the current situation is racist and requires massive new preschool expenditures as a solution.

Don't be fooled by this. While there are certainly many individual teachers in the public system who care deeply about their students, in the bureaucracy and in the union, no one cares about student achievement. In fact, they'd rather it remain tepid to justify continued pointless increases in spending.

If not, then why won't they copy the successful methods from the East Coast?

And, by the way, why do we even have a teachers' union? Are there teachers somewhere being abused by the government? And, how is it that so many people fall for televised ads implying that that the union wants what's best for kids? Shouldn't anyone with an IQ over 70 be able to see that the union's best interests are exactly opposite those of the students?

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