This really shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody paying attention: Study: Most College Students Lack Skills
Nearing a diploma, most college students cannot handle many complex but common tasks, from understanding credit card offers to comparing the cost per ounce of food.Of course, this impact of this study will fly right over their heads, being unable to comprehend the significance of 50 and 75 percent.
Those are the sobering findings of a study of literacy on college campuses, the first to target the skills of students as they approach the start of their careers.
More than 50 percent of students at four-year schools and more than 75 percent at two-year colleges lacked the skills to perform complex literacy tasks.
That means they could not interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, compare credit card offers with different interest rates and annual fees or summarize results of a survey about parental involvement in school.So they'll die sooner, parrot the liberal opinions of newspaper editorialists, rack up mountains of debt, and make bad choices about schooling. Sounds about right.
The results cut across three types of literacy: analyzing news stories and other prose, understanding documents and having math skills needed for checkbooks or restaurant tips.Disturbing, yes. Surprising, no. Our schools consistently spend the highest amounts of money for the lowest amounts of achievement - apparently, the teachers and administrators don't understand the mathematical concepts of efficiency, either.
"It is kind of disturbing that a lot of folks are graduating with a degree and they're not going to be able to do those things," said Stephane Baldi, the study's director at the American Institutes for Research, a behavioral and social science research organization.
John Stossel notes in Stupid in America:
And while many people say, "We need to spend more money on our schools," there actually isn't a link between spending and student achievement.Actually, it is about the money - it's just that in the realm of public education, more money doesn't provide the incentive to perform. So what is that magic that enables private schools to succeed? The free market.
Jay Greene, author of "Education Myths," points out that "If money were the solution, the problem would already be solved … We've doubled per pupil spending, adjusting for inflation, over the last 30 years, and yet schools aren't better."
He's absolutely right. National graduation rates and achievement scores are flat, while spending on education has increased more than 100 percent since 1971. More money hasn't helped American kids.
Ben Chavis is a former public school principal who now runs an alternative charter school in Oakland, Calif., that spends thousands of dollars less per student than the surrounding public schools. He laughs at the public schools' complaints about money.
"That is the biggest lie in America. They waste money," he said.
To save money, Chavis asks the students to do things like keep the grounds picked up and set up for their own lunch. For gym class, his students often just run laps around the block. All of this means there's more money left over for teaching.
Even though he spends less money per student than the public schools do, Chavis pays his teachers more than what public school teachers earn. His school also thrives because the principal gets involved. Chavis shows up at every classroom and uses gimmicks like small cash payments for perfect attendance.
Since he took over four years ago, his school has gone from being among the worst in Oakland to being the best. His middle school has the highest test scores in the city.
"It's not about the money," he said.
Chavis's charter school is an example of how a little innovation can create a school that can change kids' lives. You don't get innovation without competition.I've got an excellent parallel example to this: Last month, we had a large party get together for dinner at Dave & Buster's. Our party of 18 had called in advance, made reservations, and showed up early. Yet we were seated late, and assigned a single server. Drink refills took north of 30 minutes (some never received refills at all), we saw our server maybe 3 times total, and after we were finished eating, it took another 45 minutes to get the checks. We all vowed that such service would get little or no tip from us - however, it was a moot point since they automatically added in an 18% gratiuity. That server knew that he was guaranteed an 18% tip and did the bare minimum (I wouldn't even be that generous, actually). What's the point in going above and beyond when there is no incentive? (Now, I recognize that this is just a reality of large-party dining, and lot of restaurants would have treated us the same way - I argue that even though it is an established standard, it is not up to the customer to live with it, it is up to the restaurant to change).
To give you an idea of how competitive American schools are and how U.S. students performed compared with their European counterparts, we gave parts of an international test to some high school students in Belgium and in New Jersey.
Belgian kids cleaned the American kids' clocks, and called them "stupid."
We didn't pick smart kids to test in Europe and dumb kids in the United States. The American students attend an above-average school in New Jersey, and New Jersey's kids have test scores that are above average for America.
The Belgian students didn't perform better because they're smarter than American students. They performed better because their schools are better. At age 10, American students take an international test and score well above the international average. But by age 15, when students from 40 countries are tested, the Americans place 25th.
American schools don't teach as well as schools in other countries because they are government monopolies, and monopolies don't have much incentive to compete.
In Belgium, by contrast, the money is attached to the kids — it's a kind of voucher system. Government funds education — at many different kinds of schools — but if a school can't attract students, it goes out of business.
Belgian school principal Kaat Vandensavel told us she works hard to impress parents.
She told us, "If we don't offer them what they want for their child, they won't come to our school." She constantly improves the teaching, saying, "You can't afford 10 teachers out of 160 that don't do their work, because the clients will know, and won't come to you again."
"That's normal in Western Europe," Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby told me. "If schools don't perform well, a parent would never be trapped in that school in the same way you could be trapped in the U.S."
This should come as no surprise if you remember that public education in the United States is a government monopoly. Don't like your public school? Tough. The school is terrible? Tough. Your taxes fund that school regardless of whether it's good or bad. That's why government monopolies routinely fail their customers. Union-dominated monopolies are even worse.
More on monopolies and competition:
When the Sanford family moved from Charleston to Columbia, S.C., the family had a big concern: Where would the kids go to school? In most places, you must attend the public school in the zone where you live, but the middle school near the Sanford's new home was rated below average.I fail to see the problem with this.
It turned out, however, that this didn't pose a problem for this family, because the reason the Sanfords moved to Columbia was that Mark Sanford had been elected governor. He and his wife were invited to send their kids to schools in better districts.
Sanford realized how unfair the system was. "If you can buy a $250,000 or $300,000 house, you're gonna get some great public education," Gov. Sanford said. Or if you have political connections.
The Sanfords decided it was unfair to take advantage of their position as "first family" and ended up sending their kids to private school. "It's too important to me to sacrifice their education. I get one shot at it. If I don't pay very close attention to how my boys get educated then I've lost an opportunity to make them the best they can be in this world," Jenny Sanford said.
The governor then proposed giving every parent in South Carolina that kind of choice, regardless of where they lived or whether they made a lot of money. He said state tax credits should help parents pay for private schools. Then they would have a choice.
"The public has to know that there's an alternative there. It's just like, do you get a Sprint phone or an AT&T phone," Chavous said.
He's right. When monopolies rule, there is little choice, and little gets done. In America the phone company was once a government-supported monopoly. All the phones were black, and all the calls expensive. With competition, things have changed — for the better. We pay less for phone calls. If we're unhappy with our phone service, we switch companies.
Why can't kids benefit from similar competition in education?
"People expect and demand choice in every other area of their life," Sanford said.
The governor announced his plan last year and many parents cheered the idea, but school boards, teachers unions and politicians objected. PTAs even sent kids home with a letter saying, "Contact your legislator. How can we spend state money on something that hasn't been proven?"
A lot of people say education tax credits and vouchers are a terrible idea, that they'll drain money from public schools and give it to private ones.
Last week's Florida court ruling against vouchers came after teacher Ruth Holmes Cameron and advocacy groups brought a suit to block the program.Let me pause here a moment so I can mentally picture slapping this idiot upsider her head. I encourage you to compete with me in this: undoubtedly, all of us competing together can contemplate a superior mental beating of this woman than just I working alone.
"To say that competition is going to improve education? It's just not gonna work. You know competition is not for children. It's not for human beings. It's not for public education. It never has been, it never will be," Holmes said.
And now the rebuke:
Why not? Would you keep going back to a restaurant that served you a bad meal? Or a barber that gave you a bad haircut? What if the government assigned you to "your" grocery store. The store wouldn't have to compete for your business, and it would soon sell spoiled milk or stock only high profit items. Real estate agencies would sell houses advertising "neighborhood with a good grocery store." That's insane, and yet that's what America does with public schools.
Chavous, who has worked to get more school choice in Washington, D.C., said, "Choice to me is the only way. I believe that we can force the system from an external vantage point to change itself. It will never change itself from within. … Unless there is some competition infused in the equation, unless that occurs, then they know they have a captive monopoly that they can continue to dominate."
Competition inspires people to do what we didn't think we could do. If people got to choose their kids' school, education options would be endless. There could soon be technology schools, science schools, virtual schools where you learn at home on your computer, sports schools, music schools, schools that go all year, schools with uniforms, schools that open early and keep kids later, and, who knows what else. If there were competition, all kinds of new ideas would bloom.
As you can expect, the firestorm over this article has been intense - jumping over to John Stossel's followup...
"Stossel is an idiot who should be fired from ABC and sent back to elementary school to learn journalism." "Stossel is a right-wing extremist ideologue."No surprise that the first to get their panties in a bunch were the primary beneficiaries of the education monopoly, the NEA. And the first point of contention? We need more money.
The hate mail is coming in to ABC over a TV special I did Friday (1/13). I suggested that public schools had plenty of money but were squandering it, because that's what government monopolies do.
Many such comments came in after the National Education Association (NEA) informed its members about the special and claimed that I have a "documented history of blatant antagonism toward public schools."
The NEA says public schools need more money. That's the refrain heard in politicians' speeches, ballot initiatives and maybe even in your child's own classroom. At a union demonstration, teachers carried signs that said schools will only improve "when the schools have all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber."
Not enough money for education? It's a myth.Having experienced public schools, private schools, and Christian private schools, I can personally testify as to the relative qualities of each - the private schools well out-performed their much better-funded public counterparts.
The truth is, public schools are rolling in money. If you divide the U.S. Department of Education's figure for total spending on K-12 education by the department's count of K-12 students, it works out to about $10,000 per student.
Think about that! For a class of 25 kids, that's $250,000 per classroom. This doesn't include capital costs. Couldn't you do much better than government schools with $250,000? You could hire several good teachers; I doubt you'd hire many bureaucrats. Government schools, like most monopolies, squander money.
America spends more on schooling than the vast majority of countries that outscore us on the international tests. But the bureaucrats still blame school failure on lack of funds, and demand more money.
In 1985, some of them got their wish. Kansas City, Mo., judge Russell Clark said the city's predominately black schools were not "halfway decent," and he ordered the government to spend billions more. Did the billions improve test scores? Did they hire better teachers, provide better books? Did the students learn anything?
Well, they learned how to waste lots of money.
The bureaucrats renovated school buildings, adding enormous gyms, an Olympic swimming pool, a robotics lab, TV studios, a zoo, a planetarium, and a wildlife sanctuary. They added intense instruction in foreign languages. They spent so much money that when they decided to bring more white kids to the city's schools, they didn't have to resort to busing. Instead, they paid for 120 taxis. Taxis!
What did spending billions more accomplish? The schools got worse. In 2000, five years and $2 billion later, the Kansas City school district failed 11 performance standards and lost its academic accreditation for the first time in the district's history.
A study by two professors at the Hoover Institution a few years ago compared public and Catholic schools in three of New York City's five boroughs. Parochial education outperformed the nation's largest school system "in every instance," they found -- and it did it at less than half the cost per student.
Unless there is a vast sea change in public education (like its complete abolishment), I don't see how I could ever send my hypothetical children to a public school. If that means that I and my hypothetical wife have to sacrifice dearly to afford a private school or do home-schooling, then so be it. I refuse to let myself or my children be a slave to the state.
BTW, I apologize in advance to any of my friends who are in the education profession. While I realize that your job performance may be stellar compared to the national average, I would argue at this point you're merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.