The Education Blob Continues To Fail America’s Students

Charter schoolIt was former United Nation’s Ambassador and U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan who famously said “everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts.” That quote came to mind in the wake of American College Testing (ACT) releasing their latest batch of test scores revealing American high school seniors readiness for college.

It was not a pretty sight.

ACT reported that only 60 percent of high schoolers met collegiate success benchmarks in English, 46 percent in reading, 40 percent in math and 38 percent in science. Every category – yes every category – showed a decline from the previous year. Our schools are going backward and taking our students with them.

Moynihan’s quote comes to mind because the American education establishment – I like to call it the Blob – tries to obscure continuously falling and failing test scores with a dust storm of opinions from “experts.” ACT doesn’t deal in opinions of any size, shape or form. They deal in facts, and in this case the adjectives “cold” and “hard” are exceptionally appropriate.

The cold hard facts are that only 36 percent of our seniors met “college ready” benchmarks in all four categories tested. That means almost two-thirds of our students are on the path to failure once they get to college.

The cold hard facts are that the establishment is dysfunctional for millions of America’s students, and is giving the worst education to those most in need, as Hispanic and African American students continue to lag behind their peers in every category tested. This is academic malpractice.

Moynihan was a fairly doctrinaire New York liberal for his times, but a thoughtful one never constrained by ideological straitjackets. He was an early and vocal supporter of school choice. The concept – which now applies to a number of opportunities states have created to expand options for students outside of their ZIP code – was a favorite of Moynihan’s. Moynihan passionately believed in giving parents the power to guide their kids’ education. He would be appalled that the ACT scores show that Hispanic and African-American students continue to lag behind their peers in every category tested.

All of America should be equally appalled. For 25 years now the Center for Education Reform (CER) has sounded the alarm about falling test scores and failing students. We believe, and statistics show, that we must transform education – not just tinker with systems and not just give parents more options to choose outside of their zoned schools. That is necessary but not sufficient. No,we must truly redesign the process and what we expect from educators, students and yes, the Blob. Education must become personalized to every child, every student. The vision for a 21st century education system, well articulated by iNACOL’s Susan Patrick, challenges us to use our tools & modern day technologies to help students achieve competency, not just finish a grade, before moving on. “Moving toward a competency-based education model requires fundamental shifts in the systems, structures and assumptions that the traditional model of education is rooted in. We need bold leadership to transform K-12 education systems and policy. We need to build collaborative and distributed leadership at all levels of the education system to lead this transformation,” says Patrick.

And that’s just the beginning. In the coming days CER will release its annual Parent Power Index (PPI), ranking the states on how much power they afford parents to drive their family’s education, and for the first time, taking a look at what states do to foster personalized learning, making schools student, not system centered. Such innovations in teaching and learning, along side the critical lever of expanded education opportunity so that no child is confined to a failing school because of their zip code, are critical to our nation’s future if we are to arrest the lagging education indicators that inhibit a productive future for tens of millions of Americans. As our nation moves toward yet another election, these issues should guide everyone’s decisions. Without informed and bold lawmakers at every level, we simply won’t change the status quo.

I think Daniel Moynihan would agree. These are not opinions. They are facts.

Jeanne Allen is the Founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform.