Thursday, October 12, 2006


An education guru on my www.education-consumers.com listserv shared new stats from last school year for his state, Vermont, which he says prove that the real problem with K-12 education isn't a better start -- but a better middle and finish.

Since 85% of the state's second-graders meet or exceed the state's learning standards for that age group -- more than twice as many as in the higher grades -- that shows that parents are already doing a good job sending their children to school ready to learn. The problems, and the needs, are much later than preschool and early primary grades.

If you look at the test scores and dropout rates for disadvantaged vs. advantaged kids, he says, it's clear that paying for more early-childhood education services wouldn't make much of a difference and would be, in his words, "an academic waste of time."

On the other hand, he pointed out, shaping up the middle-school and high-school curriculum and instruction has a lot of potential, without adding any cost, because that's where the need really is. That doesn't mean lower class sizes -- Vermont already has the lowest class size in the nation, with close to the top in per-pupil spending -- and yet it has a dropout rate of 25%, one of the highest in the nation.

The findings inform Nebraska voters who must decide whether to start treating -- and funding -- early-childhood education from birth through age 5 the same way we now treat and fund K-12.

In Vermont:

-- approximately 40% of K-12 students fail to meet minimum state standards;

-- 2nd graders continue to perform best of all students with 85% meeting minimum standards;

-- student success rates continue to decline consistently from 4th grade to 8th grade to 10th grade assessments;

-- student enrollments continue a 10-year decline (15% statewide, 45% in his district);

-- student/teacher ratios have decreased from about 16:1 to 10:1 over the 10-year period;

-- per-student costs have nearly doubled during the period, from about $6,800 to nearly $12,000 per student.

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