Closing the Real Achievement Gap
I recently took my grandkids to lunch. They are being homeschooled by my daughter but attend a one-day-academy near my house once a week for classes in certain subjects (they loved their course in robotics). The kids are thriving on homeschooling and are learning faster and going farther than in public school. After the last school year my daughter unofficially gave the kids the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test. The homeschooled kids did fine but the middle-school kid that had, instead, remote learning from a public school struggled. She is being homeschooled this year and is doing much better.
I bring this up because I just read an editorial in the Wall Street Journal by Bill McGurn titled the Real Structural Racismin which he noted that the National Assessment of Educational Progress reported that test results from 27 urban school districts showed that few black eighth graders were proficient in reading or math. The results ranged from a high of 24% in math in Charlotte and a high of 20% in reading in Boston, to a low in Detroit of 4% in math and 5% in reading.
And it is not just urban schools and minority kids that are doing poorly. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a worldwide study done by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), shows that in 2018 the United States ranked in the middle of the pack for developed economies despite spending more per pupil than almost any other country. Globally it ranked 38th in math behind Hungary and Spain although it did a bit better in science and reading. This mediocre performance impedes the ability of the United States to build the human capital necessary for global leadership in the twenty-first century
Within the United States, the 2015 ranking showed that Whites and Asians outperformed Hispanics and Blacks. Many people have tried to figure out the reason for the black-white achievement gap and have come up with about as many different reasons as there are studies. Everything from genetics, to poverty, to class size, to culturally and racially slanted testing, or some other cause. But despite studies and plans, the gap has remained stubbornly resistant to improvement.
What has been the response of the education establishment to resolve this achievement gap? Money! More money spent on education will solve the problem, they say. More money for free pre-K. More money for more teachers to reduce class size. More money for free community college. President Biden’s American Families Plan promises even more hundreds of billions of dollars for education.
There is only one problem with all this additional spending on education. If all of our previous spending on education (and keeping in mind that we already spend more than almost any other country) has not closed the achievement gap or produced highly educated children, how is this additional money going to solve the problem? Remember the definition of insanity (the fact that Albert Einstein did not actually come up with this definition does not mean that it is not true).
So, what other ideas have Democrats and progressives promulgated to solve this problem? If the achievement gap discriminates against blacks because they do poorly on tests, then get rid of the tests. Elite colleges are no longer using SAT and ACT exams in the application process. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to eliminate competitive entrance exams for the city’s elite schools like Bronx Science High because few blacks can pass the exams. But if only 10 percent on New York ‘s black eighth graders are proficient in math, eliminating the exams won’t make those students any smarter, it will only make those elite schools just like all the other crappy schools in New York City. All this despite New York spending over $28,000 per student in 2019, the highest in the nation.
The school board in Fairfax County Virginia is trying to eliminate competitive exams to get into the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology where minorities are underrepresented and whites and especially Asians overrepresented. Parents attending school board meetings are vociferously protesting the elimination of these exams at Jefferson, which has been ranked the number one high school in America (at least until the school implements its proposed changes).
There is only one problem with the education spending plans and other changes proposed by the Democrats and the progressive left (other than the fact that they don’t work). There are schools that have been able to close the black-white achievement gap – charter schools. Of course, not all charter schools are great. There are all sorts of charter schools, and some are good and some are not so good. But because they are not publicly funded schools, not so good charter schools don’t tend to last very long.
But the good charter schools succeed by demanding excellence, not by making excuses for victims. Many of them have 100% graduation rates and 100% college acceptance rates. And a much higher ratio of former charter students graduate from college because they got there on merit, not affirmative action. So, we have a hypothesis for revamping education in America and we have some empirical evidence that it might actually work, unlike critical race theory or other progressive theories and dopey ideas that have never been proven to work. So parents, its home school, charter school or the same old crappy public school.
One of the things that my grandkids and I discussed at our lunch, was China’s new rules limiting how much time Chinese kids can play video games. The new rules prohibit kids under 18 years of age from playing any video games during the school week and allowing only one hour of gaming play time per day on weekends and holidays. My grandkids thought this was evil. If only they understood how really evil it is. The Chinese Communist Party actually controls all the so-called private sector companies in China (including high tech gaming companies), and party cadres sit on the boards of directors of these companies making sure that the party’s orders are followed. Play time will be monitored or even blocked for young players, and any violations will likely end up lowering their social credit scores – permanently.
This is all part of Xi Jinping’s plan to inculcate Chinese kids in party lore and history, infuse them with patriotism and even chauvinistic nationalism, and to prepare them to be the future soldiers and scientists that China needs to become the dominant power in the world. While the PISA ranking of US students is in the doldrums, China’s ranking is superb, number one across the board. While Chinese students are drilled with stories about how great China is, US students are told that America is an irredeemably racist country and that all Americans are either racist white supremacists or oppressed victims.
China is preparing its children, just like it is building up its nuclear arsenal. They are shown videos that glorify China and sing songs that glorify China such as “I love you, China.” Textbooks extol the thoughts of “Grandfather” Xi Jinping, including many quotations and sayings. These children will be the foundation of China’s march to global dominance.
Children in the US are being taught to hate America. To be ashamed of our history. When I was in school, we started the day with the pledge of allegiance and we often sang patriotic songs like “America, the Beautiful,” and “My country tis of thee.” These activities to honor America are now absent in many schools. I was taught that George Washington could not tell a lie because he confessed that he had cut down the cherry tree with his hatchet. It wasn’t true – but it did teach us that it is important to tell the truth. School in the 1950s shaped us to be good American citizens and productive contributors to society.
Those days are gone. Now truth is a social construct that depends upon your identity. Now kids are taught that George Washington was a slave holder and a white supremacist (omitting the fact that he knew it was wrong and that he freed his slaves in his will). We need to get back to really reaching kids math, science and history and not lowering standards to accommodate unproven theories of systemic racism. We need to eliminate the achievement gap by raising black kids up, not by dragging others down. The achievement gap that really concerns me is the gap between American kids and Chinese kids because that is the issue that will determine if my grandkids (and yours too) will know the blessings of liberty secured by our Founders.
We need to keep a single principle in mind when we discuss public education in America. The sole reason that we have public schools paid for by taxpayers is to create an educated, productive and patriotic citizenry (whether white, black, Hispanic and Asian) that provides the human capital necessary to support our nation as leader of the free world. I do not want my taxes spent on converting our country into an egalitarian socialist state where citizens are the wards of government, and the entire world is left in thrall to Chinese authoritarian dominance.
Parents, take back your public schools – or take your kids out of them.