Sunday, October 20, 2013

Balog's Odds on Improving Education Need Critical Thinking

Melanie Balog needs to opine on subjects she understands. Education is not one of them.

First, she startles readers with the idea that "nearly half of public students" in the United States live in poverty. She bases this misleading conclusion on a report that in 17 states, mostly southern, a majority qualify for free or reduced lunch. Apparently Balog has ignored that no one checks that those who apply for such lunches are in fact eligible! As with other well-meant programs with no checks and balances, such applications have soared.

Balog also doesn't seem to understand that school enrollments rise and fall periodically due to demographics. What a shocking thought, apparently, that more students are in southern schools than a decade ago! Somehow Balog buys into the idea that this growth means resources are spread too thinly. Doesn't she realize that those very school districts she worries about are spending more per child than they ever have before? How does that translate to "thinner resources"?

She also seems surprised to find that "'many families with school age children have not yet reached their maximum income potential,'" as quoted from Joan Lord of the Southern Regional Education Board, and so, young families must be "boosted."

Shock and awe? Balog must have come from an unusual environment where families with the youngest children were the highest earners. La-la land, perhaps.

In a report on achievements in southern states in the last decade Balog was able to find one bright spot for South Carolina: graduation rates rose faster than the national average. Now South Carolina is up to 66 percent graduating, or to put it another way, only one-third of students entering ninth grade drop out of high school. Should we brag about that?

Most of SC's "overage" is due to a drive for better record-keeping, not necessarily more graduates. If Balog had been paying attention, she'd know that.

No comments: