Breath-Taking News From the Governor
(A better title might be "Breath-taking incompetence from the governor)
Governor Huckabee just sent out an e-letter saying , "some startling statistics last year... took my breath away." The fact that these statistics were breath-taking to the governor made me catch my breath as well. You see, the Governor has, for 10 years, been pushing educational reforms (to the tune of $1 billion in just the last three years) but did not know what the college remediation and dropout rates were in Arkansas and the nation. He was shocked to learn that " twenty percent of Arkansas ninth graders do not stay in school until graduation …and more than 50 percent of Arkansas students who go straight to college require remedial courses in both math and English.” For Governor Huckabee's e-letter see this link: http://www.arkansas.gov/governor/media/gems/09212006-1.html
And where did he learn these education facts? At the National Governors Association! Surely all he would have had to do was call up his own appointed ADE director day or night, and Ken James could have told him the state of education in Arkansas. The governor cited the national remediation rate at 42%, which, according to NCES, is the remediation rate for students beginning two-year colleges. NCES says the national rate of remediation among students going to four-year colleges is 28%.1 That is much less than the 51% rate in Arkansas, especially when one considers that Arkansas has been in school improvement mode since 1983!!
This governor, with help from his liberal democrat buddies, has pushed the personal tax burden in Arkansas up to 4th in the nation to expand the educational reforms, yet he did not even know the college remediation and dropout rates, two of the most basic education facts. Arkansans now pay a greater percent of their personal income in total taxes than 46 other states. http://www.taxadmin.org/fta/rate/05taxbur.html I wonder if that fact would take Gov. Huckabee's breath away and just where and when will he will learn about that shocking figure?
The governor apparently didn’t even bother to look at these important facts as he was pushing all his reforms in order to see where we were when they were begun, so he could see if we have now made progress or not. It is totally astounding that the governor would say he didn't know these things.
Just what does the governor propose now? More educational reforms, of course, to fix the problem caused by his last bureaucratic reforms. And just what kind of reforms? To keep all those kids from dropping out, all students starting with this year's ninth graders must take the more difficult classes, called Smart Core .
Yep, putting kids in classes that are beyond their abilities (any teacher can explain that even if some bureaucrats and a few legislators out there don't have enough common sense to understand it) really helps those kids hold on until graduation. If that doesn't do it, then I am sure that more emphasis on the three T's (Testing, Testing, Testing) will do the trick. If that is not enough to get them to hang in there, be sure and tell the students that if they persevere until 11th grade, they’ll get a chance to take a test to see if they deserve a diploma or not. (That last little incentive – requiring students to pass another test before they get their diploma - was passed this last legislative session in such a secretive manner that even the teachers and gadflies like myself didn't know what was in the law.)
(Concerned parents might want to check out the lack of success with high-stakes exit exams in states like California, Texas, Alaska, and New York.)
Governor, please don't wait 10 more years to look at the remediation and dropout rates to see if your educational reforms, especially this last one called Next Step (redesigning the high schools), are working. Teachers told the legislators and everyone that would listen that these bureaucratic reforms would be disastrous. But somehow you and your henchmen always twist the failures to make them look like they are the educators' fault and not the bureaucracy’s.
Furthermore, does anyone out there recognize the inconsistency of ADE Director Ken James touting the fantastic scores in Arkansas by writing a guest editorial on the wonders that educational reforms have wrought, and then the Governor telling us how bad the college remediation dropout rate is to show the need for more reforms? Can you have it both ways? Only in an Orwellian double speak society like we have become.
I hope the reader will now ask himself these two questions: Was the governor really demonstrating incompetence by not knowing the college remediation rate and appearing dumb enough to admit it? Or was he trying to be shrewd and play up this information to create a problem big enough so the people would be willing to finance another billion dollars of educational reform to fix it?
Please don't forget the successes detailed below that the first $2 billion increase in education funding brought to Arkansas.
· Test Scores are 11 Percentile Points lower than in 1990 (a 22% decrease)
· College Remediation Rate is 51.6% (46.6% in 1995); National Average is 33%
· Only Nine States Scored Lower Than Arkansas in 8th Grade Math on NAEP Test
· US Dept of Educations says Arkansas Benchmark Tests May Be Too Easy
· Only 28% of AR students pass test on AP courses, while 59.4% pass nationwide
· Fordham Foundation Gives Arkansas an F on Standards
· The National Report Card on Higher Ed. Gave Arkansas a D+ In High School Preparation for College .
· Educational Reforms Have Cost $1.4 BILLION which equals a 3% sales tax in AR
For documentation on these last facts presented and the entire article, see this link:
1. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/quarterly/vol_6/1_2/7_1.asp - college remediation rates