Thursday, January 27, 2005


Nebraska public-school students did unbelievably poorly on the Advanced Placement exams that are a reliable indicator of K-12 educational quality and can earn a student college credit for next to nothing.

It’s a scandal. When you lay that dismal showing next to the Politically Correct, nonacademic, so-called “education” legislative bills that are proposed this session in the Unicam, you can see how the focus in Nebraska public education is ‘way, ‘way off academic excellence . . . and more and more on left-wing, dumbed-down, socialistic, governmental “programs.”

The facts: Nebraska juniors and seniors ranked 49th in the percentage of students able to demonstrate college-level mastery of various academic subjects on the 2004 Advanced Placement exams given by the College Board. (See the full report, www.collegeboard.com)

The national average: 13.2 percent of high-schoolers scored a 3, 4 or 5 on an AP exam, which equates to a C, B or A, respectively, on an introductory college course in the same subject matter.

But only 4.0 percent of Nebraska kids could muster that mastery, worse than every other state except genetically-challenged, marry-your-cousin Louisiana.

Only one Nebraska kid got a 5 on the advanced Calculus test; only one got a 5 in Physics; only 2 got 5’s in Spanish, and puny handfuls aced key subjects such as U.S. History, English Literature and Composition, and Chemistry.

Nebraska students now look like bottom-feeders to the rest of the nation. Niiiiiiiiice. Some economic development draw.

Now, these numbers exclude private-school students who took AP tests last year. Private-school students always do tons better on national tests like this than their public-school counterparts do, because they’re better-prepared for college. And state officials are saying, well, Nebraska is so rural, you know, and we can’t get crackerjack teachers out in the sticks, and that’s why our kids didn’t score as well.

Riiiiight. Other states have lots MORE private-school students than ours does, and this measurement is only of public-school kids. So by all rights, we should have done BETTER. And plenty of states just as rural as Nebraska, if not more, outscored us, including a couple of dozen which pay their teachers LESS. Most importantly, Nebraska’s demographics are very favorable compared to other states. We have less poverty, fewer immigrants and better home life, for the most part. Those are all huge advantages in test-taking. They all should be paying off in superior academic achievement on national tests.

Instead, we look like cornheads.

Meanwhile, what are our august state senators working on this session, to make Nebraska schools the best they can be? Is there some kind of SWAT team to improve academics? An E.R. set up to fix the way we teach reading so our kids can learn better? Some help being sought from corporate Nebraska to beef up that math and science pedagogy?

Noooooo. There’s just no room for academics in the education-related laws we’re looking to pass in Nebraska.

Instead, we get LB 126 – kill the country schools, one of the fewer ed models that actually works.

And we get LB 239, let illegal aliens have the same educational perks as American citizens.

And we have LB 264, send government nannies into the homes of infants and toddlers to snoop and nitpick “at-risk” parents into signing up for government programs.

And we have LB 285, ban pop and candy in our schools . . . yeah, if we can just keep those molecules of Twinkies and Mountain Dew from coursing through their veins, all of our kids can miraculously get 5’s in AP Calc and Chem. . . .

Think about it. This is embarrassing. This will not do. This has one solution:

If we expect Nebraska to lead in academics, we have got to get the government and the union out of our schools.

That means downsize and restructure the State Department of Education, pull out of federal funding, give Commissioner Doug Christensen a nice buyout and sunset that job entirely, repeal our expensive and no-account standards and assessments system, restore the academic mission, deep-six the social engineering, incentivize teaching, and privatize our public schools.

Radical? You bet. But can we afford to hit bottom like this, and stay there? No way.

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