Thursday, August 26, 2010


Not exactly a Chamber of Commerce week in education news: on top of the announcement that Nebraska is tied for first in the nation in the size of its graduation gap between the races (83% for white males and 40% for black males), comes now the atrocious scores on a statewide reading test posted by the Omaha Public Schools.

Only 52% of the OPS students scored as "proficient," which is generally considered to be at or above grade-level reading skill.

So if you attend an OPS school, you have basically a 1-in-2 chance of being functionally illiterate. Of course, the inner-city schools are much worse than the suburban ones within OPS, so it's more like a 9-in-10 chance, in some places. But the overall effect is atrocious.

OPS defenders say that the statewide reading test was only a quick "snapshot" of how the kids did on one day. Their own assessments take place over much more time than that, with lots of opportunities for remediation, and so their own reading test scores are much higher than the state's.

But even if the scores are only a snapshot, think about this: a picture is worth 1,000 words.

Ironically -- or tellingly -- in the Omaha Public Schools, scores were even worse in high school. At Benson High School, for example, only 35% of the students could read proficiently. And yet reading is the schools' basic mission, and these kids have been in high-priced public school for quite a few years, which reflects even worse on the low scores.

Lousy reading doesn't bode too well for their college prospects, or for the future workforce in this state.

And just think of the impression these students now have of what their fellow Omahans and units of government really think of them, to allow them to be in school for so many years and remain unable to read. Can we really blame them for turning to crime, unwed pregnancy and welfare?

Shame, shame, shame . . . but tomorrow, an idea for change!

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One doesn't know whether to cry, give up, get angry, scream, sigh or what when one reads such disgraceful and depressing OPS statistics.

"Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe" (H. G. Wells.) Despite good intentions, if things don't change quite decisively at OPS, we may be losing that race here in River City.
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