Every American child should have access to a world-class education that allows him/her to successfully compete against those in all other nations, make good personal decisions, and strengthen America by adding to the contributions of our forefathers.
Nationally, however, there’s been very little if any improvement in high-school seniors’ achievement levels since at least 1972. Assessing changes in graduation rates is more problematic, thanks to definitional changes that now include those passing GED tests (research has shown that on average, they’re not as successful as high-school graduates), and wide-spread cheating (eg. the ‘Texas Miracle’ that wasn’t).
This incredible failure to improve resulted despite a near tripling in inflation-adjusted, per-pupil funding since 1972. We now spend more/pupil than every developed nation except Luxembourg, while American pupils score below the world average.
As for Arizona results — there’s neither reason nor data to suggest they’ve fared better. Arizona educators deliberately ensured its statewide data could neither be compared to other states/nations nor even prior years.
The most obvious reason is that public school educators, in general, don’t care. Elected boards, including SUSD’s, know little about education, management, and/or leadership. Educators then became skilled in hiding/confusing data rather than accepting accountability and learning from results — SUSD’s board and administration actually hid declining pupil achievement data for 11 years!
A direct results of the preceding is that SUSD has no inspiring vision, no goals to improve pupil achievement, no widespread or significant rewards for improving pupil achievement, little ability to identify ‘what works,’ no way to systematically weed out non-performing teachers with tenure, and pays useless administrators six-figure salaries.
Its leaders refuse to learn from competitors, successful teacher motivation/reward programs elsewhere, or research identifying practices that haven’t helped pupils for half a century.
Millions in SUSD tax revenues are wasted every year on overheads and other expenditures that provide very little, if any, benefit to pupils. Hundreds of millions in revenues have been lost because unhappy parents have removed their children and enrolled them elsewhere.
Hundreds of millions more have been will be wasted on building programs mostly unneeded, and contributing little/nothing to pupil achievement. More than a half-billion dollars wasted in the last decade.
I used to think “the answer” to improving K-12 education lay in educating the public as to what was possible, along with suggesting leadership and management improvements. When that didn’t work, I placed my hope in getting public schools to compete with charters as a means of maintaining enrollments, staffing levels, and community respect.
SUSD, and most other public schools in America instead chose to mostly whine about “unfair competition.”
More recently, I’ve tried appealing to the personal pride and patriotism of SUSD leaders, as well as their duty to respect and build upon the incredible achievements of their/our forefathers. That also hasn’t worked.
SUSD’s boards have proven themselves comically pompous and inept for the past decade. Hopefully that changes when new members Allyson Beckham and Sandy Kravetz are seated this January.
Editor’s note: Mr. Eskildson is a resident of Scottsdale