The Problem with Education in Massachusetts

( – promoted by Cool Cal)

I have been through a broad range of experiences with education. I am a product of the New York State school system: parochial school through Grade 6, then public high school, then private college for my Bachelor’s. In Massachusetts, I continued with a state school for one Masters and a private school for the other. My teenager spent most of her years in private schools – Montessori then Catholic school. Now, in the midst of her long-running battle with Lyme Disease, we are going the home school route.

I was shocked to find out how controversial home schooling is. It made no sense to me, until I stopped and thought about how many people don’t want parents in control: school administrators, teachers, teachers unions, the state, etc. But the reality is that home schooling has a proven track record of producing high-perfoming students.… Sadly, the US public education system does not.

According to the US Department of Education, in 2007, Massachusetts ranked first in the country in 4th Grade Mathematics, first in 4th Grade Reading, first in 8th Grade Mathematics, and first in 8th Grade Reading. Unfortunately, there is little to brag about. The US public education system spends more per student than all but a few countries, yet, on average, our students perform at or below the level of those in other economically advanced countries.

Did you know…?

• A vast majority of schools in Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Fall River, New Bedford, Lowell, Lawrence, Holyoke, and Brockton have been placed on the federal ‘In Need of Improvement’ list, as mandated under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law.… Today, in these urban districts, nearly 70% of the students score in the ‘Needs Improvement’ and ‘Warning/Failing’ categories on the MCAS test. According to the Boston Globe…

Half of all Massachusetts public schools this year failed to meet achievement standards established by the state under the No Child Left Behind Act. That includes 100 of 143 public schools in Boston, according to a report released yesterday by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The number of underachieving schools rose sharply from last year, when 37 percent failed to meet performance standards under the federal law.

• Massachusetts has been in the top 10 in per pupil spending for the past 30 years.… Since Proposition 2 ½ was enacted in 1980, the growth of per pupil spending in Massachusetts has averaged 6.4% – well above the national average. But in the latest international student comparisons, average math achievement in Massachusetts was lower than in the leading Asian nations and Belgium.… Singapore, which topped the international student achievement charts in 2007, spent $9,185 per student, 26.7% less than Massachusetts. Singapore outperformed Massachusetts in math proficiency 73% vs 51%.…

• In 2007, Massachusetts spent $11,858 per student, up 20% from 2002.… Yet enrollment in public schools in Massachusetts has fallen by 24,000 students, or 2.5%, over the past five years.… The total number of students in Massachusetts public schools is 936,000. The decline started several years ago and is likely to accelerate over the next decade. The drop in enrollment is steepest in Western Massachusetts and Cape Cod; urban districts are losing students faster than suburban districts. Additionally, the enrollment decline is more severe in lower-income areas than in middle or upper-income areas.

So where do we go from here? The archaic education system in the U.S. is under pressure from the market and from new technology. It is vital that we increase student achievement in science and mathematics to the level attained by high-performing nations, such as Finland, Korea, Japan, and Estonia. Doing so would result in increased U.S. economic growth of approximately 2/3 of a percentage point each year.… Those are results we can’t afford to ignore.

Cross posted from Worcester County Freedom Trail

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