Friday, October 21, 2011

Anecdotes, Personal Experience, and Hard Data

I am an education professional - a college professor. My colleagues and I often share stories about problems we have in the classroom with students who are obviously ill-prepared for college.

Similar anecdotes abound on the Internet. Today, for example, Christopher at BMEWS shared his experience from tutoring hopefuls trying to get their GED.
The students I have are so deficient in math that I wonder how they even got to high school before they dropped out! They have no knowledge of basic math that I learned in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade.
Meanwhile, Grouchy Old Cripple posted this video of someone trying to form a coherent thought.

It's frightening to think that this person is allowed out in public by herself without a caretaker.

Personal experience and anecdotes are, of course, no substitute for hard data. Well, the U.S. Senate recently released a report on the status of government spending and education in America. It should surprise no one who has been paying attention that we the people have been shovelling an ever-increasing nummber fo dollars into the public education system with no improvement in results.
“Money does not necessarily correlate with student achievement… in this country in the last 30 years, we have more than doubled the amount of money we are spending per child… and the results have gotten worse, not better.”

– Michelle Rhee, former D.C. Public Schools Chancellor, February 9, 2011
Words are nice, but the data need no help speaking for themselves.

The report concludes:
We all agree on the importance of education and the necessity of providing an environment where academic achievement can flourish. In terms of investing in education, however, it is not how much money you spend but how you spend it.

(H/T to Powerline for the link to the report.)
I struggle daily with paperwork, busywork, and assorted other timewasters that have absolutely nothing to do with educating my students and everything to do with justifying the existence of a massive, cumbersome, and ineffectual bureaucracy - and its administrative overlords.

Case in point: New York state. Over a 15 year period (1997 - 2011)
the ranks of education administrators have swollen a breathtaking 34 percent over the last 15 years -- and they're overseeing fewer students...

The number of supervisory staff in public schools increased to 42,000 (in 2011) from 31,332 in 1997, even as student enrollment statewide fell and performance rankings sat stagnant...

The state's student population dropped to 2.7 million from 2.8 million -- or 4.6 percent -- during that period.

And during that same span, the number of rank-and-file teachers grew to 214,000 from 194,957 -- a 9.8 percent increase.
To recap:
  • Number of administrators up 34%...
  • Number of teachers up 9.8%...
  • Number of students down 4.6%...
  • Overall public-school expenditures more than doubled, from $26 billion to $58 billion...
  • Result: in 1997 NY ranked 40th nationwide in high school graduation rates. In the most recent rankings it is 38th.
Now repeat this across the country.

Not much bang for the buck - unless you're an administrator...

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