The latest data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows that public schools in Oklahoma aren’t making any gains. “Seventy-five percent of Oklahoma’s 4th-graders cannot read at grade level, with an astonishing 40 percent not being able to read at even a basic level,” Bruce N. Shortt writes in the March issue of Perspective magazine. “By 8th grade, 75 percent of Oklahoma’s children still cannot read at grade level, with 28 percent being unable to read at even a basic level.”
“Seventy-one percent of the state’s 4th-graders are below grade level in math, with 21 percent lacking even a basic grasp of mathematics.” Nor, Shortt shows, does the news get better in the higher grades.
“By 8th grade math illiteracy is burgeoning in Oklahoma: 79 percent of students are below grade level in math, with 37 percent lacking even a basic understanding of mathematics,” he writes. Meanwhile, “76 percent of the state’s 4th-graders are below grade level, with 30 percent lacking even a basic knowledge of science,” he notes. “By 8th grade, 75 percent of Oklahoma’s children are below grade level, with an amazing 33 percent lacking a basic grasp of the subject.”
Perspective is published by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. “Lest anyone be under the impression that the NAEP has unusually high academic standards, testimony before the NAEP board of governors indicates, for example, that the advanced mathematics questions for the 8th-grade NAEP are at best comparable to 5th-grade questions in Singapore’s math curriculum,” Shortt points out. “So, while the NAEP may not require high levels of academic competence, it does highlight Oklahoma schools’ systematic failure to educate.”
But this failure does not come cheaply. “Note, too, that Oklahoma’s public schools manage to produce these prodigious levels of academic failure by spending, according to their own Enron-like accounting standards, roughly $7,200 per student per year (more than $11,000 per student per year using accounting standards that would keep regular folks out of prison),” Shortt writes. “Obviously, these amounts would pay tuition at many, many excellent private schools in Oklahoma.”
Shortt is an attorney in Houston. As he relates, education officials in the Sooner State have come up with creative ways to camouflage their less-than-stellar achievements.
“Unfortunately, Oklahoma parents generally don’t know much about the actual academic performance of Oklahoma’s public schools,” Shortt writes. “This isn’t entirely their fault.”
“Oklahoma’s highly trained education professionals diligently work at making sure that parents aren’t getting the facts.”
“Oklahoma’s education bureaucrats, together with their legislative enablers, have adopted, for example, a state ‘accountability test’ (the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test) with standards so low that parents can be told that 83 percent of Oklahoma’s 4th-graders are reading at grade level, rather than the 25 percent that the NAEP reports.”
“But the bravura swindle by Oklahoma’s highly trained education professionals doesn’t end there,” Shortt avers. “They’ve also managed to reduce the number of Oklahoma public schools failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind by 85 percent through the simple expedient of lowering standards.”
Although parents may be kept in the dark about such maneuvers, students seem to know intuitively that something is amiss. “Oklahoma is among the national leaders in underreporting its dropout rate (Oklahoma ranks 12th out of 47 states in the national dropout lie-a-thon),” Shortt shows. “So, parents and taxpayers also don’t know that roughly 30 percent of Oklahoma students leave high school before graduating.”
“Interestingly, 57 percent of dropouts said in a survey that their schools didn’t do enough to make students feel safe,” Shortt relates. “Even higher percentages wanted increased supervision and more classroom discipline.”
“Evidently, rather than being the slackers they are often portrayed to be, most dropouts recognize that their schools are dangerous.” Maybe they should run the schools.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.