Mike Klein Online

Maryland Leads 4th and 8th Grade Gains; Georgia Steadily Improves

Mike Klein

What’s in the Maryland water?  A student performance analysis that contains encouraging news about Georgia also leads to the inescapable conclusion that Maryland has really gotten its act together during the past decade.  In a comparison of 2003 and 2011 students, Maryland led the nation in fourth and eighth grade reading improvement and it also led in eighth grade math.

Comprehensive data from the Atlanta-based Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) also shows Georgia fourth and eighth graders made great strides during the same eight-year span.  Georgia students did not lead the region or nation in any category but cumulatively, Georgia students posted some of the best overall gains achieved in any of SREB’s 16-member states.

SREB used data from National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) achievement tests to report state results in math and reading, and some other categories including high school graduation and college enrollment rates.  SREB did not create a side-by-side comparison for its 16-member states but a Georgia Public Policy Foundation analysis shows that Maryland clearly led the field and Georgia should take heart that its students are moving in the right direction.

Extensive data is available in 16 individual state reports posted on the SREB website.  NAEP achievement tests show Maryland students improved by 13 percentage points in fourth grade math, 13 points in fourth grade reading, and 9 points in eighth grade reading.  Those were the best results nationwide, although in some cases the results tied other states.  Maryland ranked fifth in the SREB region with a 7 percentage points improvement in eighth grade math.

There likely are reasons other than water for Maryland’s performance.  SREB notes Maryland has a statistically lower percentage of students approved for free or reduced price meals, 42 percent in the state vs. 58 percent in the SREB region and 52 percent nationally.  The childrens’ poverty rate is 9 percent lower than the U.S. rate and 13 percent lower than the SREB region.  Poverty itself is not an indicator for academic performance but it can be a contributing factor.

Maryland – like Georgia, a national leader – had publicly funded preschool program enrollment that was 400 percent greater than the number of 4-year-olds living in poverty in 2008.  However, that declined to 274 percent by 2010, which could show up in later school readiness analysis.

Here is another potential reason Maryland students perform well: parents emphasize education.  SREB noted, “The percent of working-age adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher in Maryland topped the region and nation.”  Maryland’s average beginning teacher salary is also higher than salaries in neighboring states, the SREB region overall and the nation.

If you’re looking for another SREB region sleeper state in this report, consider Kentucky.  Blue Grass state fourth graders improved NAEP math achievement scores by 13 percent, which equaled Maryland’s performance.  Compared against other SREB region states, Kentucky fourth graders had the third best improvement rate in fourth grade reading, fifth best in eighth grade math and ninth best in eighth grade reading.

Overall, most SREB region states performed better than national averages in fourth and eighth grade testing, and as we wrote above, there is good news for Georgia which has been much maligned in recent years for sometimes real and sometimes perceived poor academics.

Mathematics has long been one of education’s greatest classroom challenges.  States including Georgia have tried several teaching methods as they realigned curriculum.  For instance, should algebra and geometry and other math disciplines be taught simultaneously or consecutively?

Georgia students transitioned through at least two different methods of learning math within the past decade.  Performance suggests they transitioned well.  Fourth graders improved their NAEP test scores by 8 percent and eighth graders boosted their scores by 9 percent between 2003 and 2011.  Fourth graders nationally improved 6 percent and eighth graders by 5 percent.

Georgia eighth grade students posted a 59 percent achievement score on 2003 NAEP math tests.  That improved to 68 percent in 2011, a 9 percent gain that is well above the 5 percent improvement for eight graders nationally and better than 6 percent achieved in SREB states.

Georgia’s high school graduation rate was 68 percent last year, lower than the average of all 16 SREB states (75 percent) and lower than the national rate (76 percent).  It is, however, up from eight years earlier when just 57 percent of Georgia students graduated.  The state has a distinct focus on how to increase graduation rates from both high school and higher education.

The bottom of this post contains links to NAEP 2011 state snapshot reports on Georgia.  These sites have deep level data about how Georgia is positioned against other states nationally.  For instance, Georgia eighth graders achieved the second best reading improvement rate in the 16 SREB states.  But where does that place them nationally?  The answer is middle of the pack: equal to one dozen states, higher than ten states and lower than the others.

This SREB biennial report was the fifth released over ten years.  It comes at a unique moment because nearly every state – not Texas, not Virginia – will launch common core standards this fall. In simplest terms, common core is an attempt to standardize what Jack and Jill are taught so if they move between school districts or between states what they learn in their new school will have some common threads with their previous learning.

At surface level this idea sounds terrific but as with most new ideas, it comes with its share of controversy.  Some contend that common core is the start of a nationally mandated curriculum.  Others are not pleased the Obama administration made some federal education grants to states dependent on teaching to common core standards.  Bill Gates is heavily invested in common core, pushing its creation and investing hundreds of millions of dollars into the project.

Georgia adopted common core.  We will be writing more about that soon.

Additional NAEP Resources

Click here for Georgia 4th grade math and click here for 4th grade reading.

Click here for Georgia 8th grade math and click here for 8th grade reading.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

August 3, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Debt, Failure to Educate Are Biggest Threats to U.S. World Power

Mike Klein

Georgia Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers predicted the economic future of the United States will be decided by how the country educates children when he addressed a Georgia Public Policy Foundation audience.  “We cannot continue to nibble around the edges when you consider the problems we are facing,” Rogers told Foundation guests last week at the Georgian Club.

Rogers’ presentation can be viewed on the Policy Foundation’s YouTube channel: http://tinyurl.com/286fk8x.

“I can say unequivocally the United States is the greatest nation on earth today and the greatest nation God ever created,” Rogers said.  “American exceptionalism is a reality.  I really believe we were divinely inspired as a nation and put here to do many good things which we’ve done.

“Do we get it right every time?  Absolutely not, but when you consider that we live in a nation that has given more treasure and more human lives to the purpose of freeing other people around the globe, there is no shame to that.  That is what American exceptionalism is all about.”

As state Senate Majority Leader, Rogers already had a platform from which to influence how Georgia spends education dollars. Then this year Rogers was selected to join the national Digital Learning Council established by former governors Jeb Bush of Florida and Bob Wise of West Virginia.  The DLC goal is to advance digital learning as an important national initiative.

“We have the opportunity to continue to be the greatest power that the earth has ever known and a cause for what is good and right.  We have been given, as individual Americans, one simple requirement… That is, to take this incredible treasure we have been given known as the United States of America and leave it better off than we found it.”

Rogers said two factors threaten U.S. superpower dominance:  Public debt, now $13.8 trillion at the federal government level, and failure to educate children.  Last year the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said American students’ rank 27th worldwide in math, 22nd in science and dead last in reading among the 32 most developed nations.

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers

“I’m not exactly sure how we remain the nation the rest of the world wants to immigrate to because of freedom when we will become simply economic slaves to our debt holders,” Rogers said. “Thirteen point eight trillion dollars of debt is not going to be erased when we are near the bottom of the world in those things that prepare our child for a global economy.”

Rogers told 75 Public Policy Foundation guests the United States “will crumble under debt that is going to be accumulated because we simply cannot compete on the worldwide marketplace in the next generation if we don’t prepare our children to do so.  These numbers are inexcusable and frankly, they are an embarrassment.

“For us to simply stand here and pat ourselves on the back and point to a single educational facility that may be doing a halfway decent job, or at least in our mind we think they are, and say ‘We’re doing okay,’ we’re not doing okay,” Rogers said.

National Assessment of Educational Progress tests show one-third of American 4th graders and one-fourth of 8th graders are functionally illiterate.  “We’re not even close to doing okay.  If this country’s future matters to you, if you believe as I do that we have one single responsibility to leave this (country) for our children better than we found it, then you have to admit we’re failing.”

Rogers grew up during the 1960s in what was then rural Cobb County.  Education was available in two styles: one private school and Cobb County schools. It was brick-and-mortar or brick-and-mortar.  You just had to choose between the public version and the private version.

Education today comes in evolutionary styles: traditional brick-and-mortar schools, virtual schools, hybrid public schools that blend traditional and online learning, home schools, private schools and home school hybrids that mix home instruction with brick-and-mortar school classes. “Wouldn’t it be nice if every parent had a choice from among all of them?” Rogers said.

“We’ve got to provide educators – whether they are public, private or parents – with the tools they need through digital learning and then we have to give parents the opportunity to choose that setting that is best for their individual child.   No longer can we ignore students’ abilities (and) their interests, by simply giving them one option and that is a brick-and-mortar setting based on (their address). That is foolish, has been for some time and it has got to stop.

“I don’t know how else to say this but literally our future depends on this,” Rogers said.  “Again, (the United States is) 27th in math, 22nd in science, 32nd in reading among industrialized nations, $13.8 trillion in debt, mainly to foreign nations who now don’t even want to use our currency.  We are in a whole world of trouble and the only way we get out is to produce the next set of children who will compete in the global marketplace and maintain American superiority.”

Rogers noted that long-ago American President John Adams asked, “Why do we spend money on education?”  Adams answered his own question:  “It’s because an educated society is a lot cheaper than an uneducated society.”

Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

December 13, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment