February 1, 2006
Is Our Children Learning?
schools spending more than $100,000 per student on K-12 education,
you'd think they could teach students how to read and write.
is one of many states to have trouble with this. It spends $9,000
per student per year, and its state school superintendent told
me South Carolina has been "ranked as having some of the
highest standards of learning in the entire country." So
let's ask the infamous question, "Is our children learning?"
told me he wants to learn to read. He's 18 years old and in 12th
grade, but when I asked him to read from a first-grade level book,
he struggled with it.
they try to teach you to read?" I asked him.
time to time."
Gena Cain, has been trying to get him help for years. If Dorian
were in private school, or if South Carolina allowed parents to
choose schools the way we choose other products and services in
life, Dorian and Gena would be "customers" and able
to go elsewhere -- if any school were dumb enough to serve a customer
as poorly as Dorian has been served. But since Gena is merely
a taxpayer, forced to pay for the public schools whether they
do her any good or not, she can't even demand a better education
for her son. "You have to beg," she said. "Whatever
you ask for, you're begging. Because they have the power."
They do. What are you going to do -- go elsewhere? Gena can't
eventually got results -- just not results that helped her son.
What the school bureaucrats did was hold meetings to talk about
Dorian. (Bureaucrats are good at holding meetings.) At the meeting
we watched, lots of important people attended: a director of programs
for exceptional children, a resource teacher, a district special
education coordinator, a counselor and even a gym teacher. The
meeting went on for 45 minutes.
seeing great progress in him," said the principal. "So
I don't have any concerns."
still had a concern: Her son could barely read.
just incapable of learning? No. ABC News did see great progress
in him -- when we sent him to a private, for-profit tutoring center.
In just 72 hours of tutoring, Sylvan Learning Center brought Dorian's
reading up more than two grade levels.
In 72 hours,
a private company did what South Carolina's government schools
could not do in over 12 years.
Bush's answer to school systems that pass students like Dorian
on to the next grade year after year was "No Child Left Behind."
It demands that states test students, and it establishes consequences
for schools whose students consistently do poorly. Teachers in
at least one South Carolina school responded to the pressures
of the law by giving some students the answers to the test in
advance, said Dale Hammond, grandmother of one such boy. "They
were teaching him to cheat!" she told me.
pulled her grandson out of that government school and enrolled
him in private school, but most parents can't afford that. Once
you've been taxed to support the public schools and other wastes
of public money, you don't have a lot left to spring for private
is good news, said the state school's superintendent: South Carolina
is seeing great progress in some areas. "We are ranked No.
1 in the country," she bragged, "on improvement on SAT."
But when you're ranked at the bottom, improvement doesn't mean
much, and South Carolina, even after its "No. 1 improvement"
is still last among states. SATs don't make for perfect comparisons
because states have different participation rates, but South Carolina's
participation rate is about average, and yet its students perform
well below the average.
good. Yet the superintendent said, "We are making tremendous
progress in South Carolina, and we're very proud."
monopolies, that's how bureaucrats think.
JFS Productions, Inc. Distributed by Creators Syndicate