Anyone listening to the confirmation hearings for the Secretary of Education would think that America’s public school system was in great shape. In fact, the Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus even warned that the new secretary “will have an incredibly harmful impact on public education and on black communities nationwide.”
Most people don’t agree with that assessment. The editorial board of the Chicago Tribune criticized the secretary’s critics. “Instead of lauding DeVos for trying to break a failing status quo in places like Detroit, a handful of U.S. senators tried their best to depict her as an out-of-touch nincompoop whose goal was to destroy public schools. Yet half of the Democrats on the committee either went to private school themselves or had children or grandchildren attending private schools.”
Let’s look at the status quo. According to the Nation’s Report Card, only a third (37%) of high school seniors were proficient in reading, and only one fourth (25%) were proficient in math. That is a disgrace, but the percentages are even worse for minority students. Only 17% of black students scored proficient in reading, and only 7% of them were proficient in math.
Here’s the dirty secret that is often ignored. These under-performing students are graduating in record numbers. The nation’s high school graduation rate increases a percentage or more every year. That means we are giving them a diploma even though they are not performing to high school standards.
That is why the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune lamented that it was so “disturbing that so many politicians can choose the best educational opportunities for their kids but refuse to allow underprivileged families the same benefit.”
Obviously the status quo is not working and it’s past time to consider alternatives that will improve student proficiency.