Sand: Big Education’s Bad Month

November saw a rash of stories about the troubled public school monolith.

the public education brand is in trouble and as 2017 fades away, a wave of stories is sending the year out with not a bang or a whimper, but rather with an unceremonious thud.

A Public Policy of California report finds that just 30 percent of all California 9th graders are expected to earn a bachelor’s degree. Also, only 45 percent of the graduating class of 2016 completed college preparatory courses, which are required to be considered for admission to any state school. It must be noted that the state will spend about $75 billion on education this year, which represents about a 60 percent increase in the last 6 years. But whatever we spend, it will never be enough for the “we need to invest more in education” crowd.

In San Francisco, the statistics for black students are especially grim. In fact, SF NAACP President Amos Brown told the local school board that it should declare a state of emergency, because just 19 percent of black students are proficient in English, compared to 31 percent of black students statewide. San Francisco, a progressive enclave, has the worst black student achievement of any county in California.

In Chicago, the 5-year moratorium on public school closings which began 2013 is about to expire and the mayor is talking about shuttering 50 more. Some 190 Chicago schools have each lost more than 100 students since 2013. It’s a shame for kids who want to go to a school down the street, but when the school down the street is failing them miserably, is depopulating, and getting rid of their incompetent teachers is next to impossible, what else can be done?

In Baltimore too, the school district has just recommended closing 6 city schools because of declining enrollment and poor academic performance.

For the truly obscene, we go to Washington, D.C., where Ballou High School saw every one of its 164 seniors graduate. Sound too good to be true? Well, it is. An investigation found that the school’s administration graduated dozens of students despite high rates of unexcused absences. Half of the graduates missed more than three months of school last year, unexcused. Twenty percent were absent more than present, missing more than 90 days of school. The 2017 standardized tests revealed that just 9 percent of the students were proficient in  English, while zero percent were proficient in math. Tragically, many of the college bound students cannot read or write. (By the way, the favorite whipping boy of the ed establishment, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, managed to have a 98 percent grad rate, and 94 percent of the students moved onto a post-secondary education…legitimately.)

The naysayers will say these stories are cherry-picked, but they are not. Yes, there are some fabulous traditional public schools and districts across the country, but there are way too many San Franciscos, Chicagos, Baltimores, and D.C.s.

Read the rest here at California Policy Center.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

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