‘Report Card on American Education’ a mixed bag for Oregon

EDUCATION UPDATE: ALEC’s annual Report Card on American Education shows both promising and concerning results for Oregon’s educational progress.

By Chana Cox | U-Choose Education Forum

Oregon doesn’t have the best marks on its report card when it comes to education.

Last month, the American Legislative Exchange Council published its 19th annual Report Card on American Education. Its focus was on education for low-income children–defined as children on subsidized or free school lunches. These students have few school choice options and little hope of escaping a life of poverty. In America today, 88 percent of prison inmates are unable to read at third grade levels.

Although the political left and the labor unions are committed to the notion that school outcomes are a function of public expenditures on traditional public schools, ALEC analysts claim there is little evidence of that in the research literature. The left and the unions are also committed to the position that teacher college training is essential to good teaching. But again, there is little evidence that degrees in teaching can consistently be mapped to better teaching outcomes.

On the other hand, there is increasing evidence that training in the fields the teachers are teaching does contribute to better educational outcomes. ALEC recommends that retired professionals in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields who would like to teach part time in public schools should be encouraged to do so.

What of Oregon?

In 2009, Oregon’s overall ALEC rating was 32nd among the 50 states. By 2011, we had dropped to 40th. Our graduation rate is 76.3 percent, and despite the fact that there is one full-time employee for every seven students in Oregon, average class size is 20.6.

Still, Oregon is showing encouraging signs of success. Thanks to the pressure from No Child Left Behind, standardized NAEP tests in reading and mathematics are given to all public school fourth graders and eighth graders. ALEC shows that Oregon children in “large urban districts” have improved their test results by 12 months, i.e. from fourth month third grade to fourth month fourth grade —the largest gain of its kind in the nation.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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