Education Week, the prominent trade newspaper and website that focuses on education, recently released its annual report grading schools and education systems. The results are disquieting. The United States received a grade of only 70.2 percent, just barely a C-minus. That’s up from 69.7 percent the year before, but it’s hardly cause for celebration.
When measured against other industrialized countries, America continues to fall behind in global rankings. The international Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s annual report places the United States below the international average in every major educational category, and the situation continues to worsen. “The U.S. slipped from 25th to 31st in math since 2009; from 20th to 24th in science; and from 11th to 21st in reading,” reported The Wall Street Journal.
This is entirely unacceptable.
Many in the educational establishment use statistics like these to bolster the case for increased funding of education. Indeed, they have been largely effective in increasing the amount of public revenue flowing into the current system. State, local and federal governments in America are projected to spend more than a trillion dollars on education this year, which is about $150 billion more than the country plans to spend on national defense.
More tellingly, we spend more on education than any other country in the world, yet we lag behind on many international education standards. To pick one example, last year we ranked 31st in math literacy among 15-year-old students.
More money doesn’t seem to correlate with better student performance.
Utah is consistently criticized for its low per-pupil spending, yet it has one of the country’s highest graduation rates. By contrast, Alaska spends $16,663 per student, which is the fourth highest amount of spending in the country, yet it has the fourth lowest graduation rate. Other countries seem to be able to get better results with fewer resources. We ought to be able to follow suit.
Unfortunately, calls for more money often come from bureaucrats and unions that have historically been resistant to any substantive changes to the existing system. The emphasis has been on demands for more money while at the same time rejecting demands for accountability in how that money is being used.
Whatever the proposal, whether it's for charter schools or merit pay for teachers, critics complain that public education will collapse if things aren’t left exactly as they are, and with more money coming in to district coffers.
That’s how the education system has done business for far too long, and it needs to change. Business as usual works well for some bureaucrats, but it’s failing our students.