The following illustration, created by Andrew J. Coulson, Director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, depicts the troubling lack of correlation between increased educational spending and resulting student achievement in U.S. schools over the past two generations.
According to Coulson, the results speak for themselves.
“Clearly these data suggests that our educational productivity has collapsed: the inflation-adjusted cost of sending a student all the way through the K-12 system has almost tripled while test scores near the end of high-school remain largely unchanged.”
Sure enough, the estimated cost (adjusted for inflation) of sending a child completely through K-12 was $56,903 in 1970. Forty years later, in 2010, that estimate jumped to a staggering $164,426.
Critics of Coulson’s research contend that the overall static performance on test scores is a result of changing demographics. Proponents of this theory argue that the data reflected is misleading because of an increase in the participation of historically lower-scoring ethnic groups.
In his response, Coulson points out that the trends for white students, who still form the majority of test takers, is essentially a flat line as well, meaning that their lack of improved performance is more responsible for the stagnation than any increase in the amount of historically lower-scoring test takers.
Other critics claim that socio-economic and other related at-home factors are to blame for making students harder to teach.
However, a teachability study led by Dr. Jay P. Greene from the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research indicated that children have actually become slightly more teachable and concluded that “teachability cannot serve as an excuse for the education system’s failure to perform.”
With the U.S. ranking 5th in the world in overall educational spending, yet 17th in test results, we cannot afford to ignore the facts any longer.
It would be revitalizing to the educational system as a whole if our political leaders would stop searching for justifications for poor performance and acknowledge the indisputable point that blindly throwing money at our public schools is not going to improve test scores.