- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 4, 2001

Well, the big news as Congress returns from summer recess is the economic slowdown and what effect it will or will not have on President Bush's budget priorities, including education. Of course, any politician worth his latest poll results knows that merely throwing more dollars toward schools doesn't necessarily mean students are learning or that teachers are teaching. The fact that the federal government has spent more than $125 billion on education over the last 25 years while SAT scores have dropped 37 points since 1967 proves that and more.
Indeed now is time for a reality check on what's happening inside America's classrooms, because it isn't learning by any measure. For example, 41 percent of college-bound seniors reported grades of A-, A, or A+ up from 28 percent in 1991. However, both math and verbal scores have consistently declined in those years, with the largest decline (11 points) coming among the A+ and A students.
And, if you think such obvious grade inflation is a huge problem, consider these astonishing facts. The 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math test results show negligible gains in the fourth and eighth grades, while scores for 12th-graders are down across all categories. Also, barely a quarter of fourth- and eighth-graders are performing at or above proficiency levels.
Meanwhile, results from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study show that students in math and science fell well below students from Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and 10 other nations. Moreover, American students who took the test four years earlier had higher international rankings than 2000's eighth-grade students. "In other words, the longer they stayed in American schools, the worse they did in international comparisons," the nonprofit Center for Education Reform recently said.
So, there you have the clear picture of what's happening in America's classrooms. Teachers inflating grades and giving students and parents a false reading of children's academic standing, and SAT scores and standardized tests revealing the true picture: The status quo is the winner, and America's children are the losers.
So what's being done? The Democrats' plan is to merely spend more money (as much as $33 billion in the 2002-03 school year, compared to $18.4 this year), while Mr. Bush speaks more directly to the real issue: "Send me a good education reform bill to sign, and send it quickly," the president said in his weekly radio address, "so that our children will return next year to schools that prepare them for good jobs through many Labor Days to come." The reality is that America's children deserve no less.


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