William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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A CALL TO ACTION IN EDUCATION BY MIKE BLOOMBERG:  My own sense is that education will grow into the most potent national issue, and that both school choice and standards may well be the decisive issues of the 2024 election.  From Bloomberg: 

The crisis in US K-12 public education continues to deepen, and decisions by many colleges and universities to abandon SAT and ACT scores are making it worse. Instead of demanding more accountability from high schools, colleges are expecting less.

In the latest dismal signs for students, scores on the ACT college entrance exam have fallen to the lowest level in 30 years, while fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (often called the nation’s report card) show devastating declines. Taken together, these results underscore the urgency of K-12 interventions and the necessity of reinstating testing standards for college applicants.

It’s true that remote learning during the pandemic was disastrous for students of all ages. But systemic declines in student performance began before the onset of the pandemic.

Average ACT scores have declined every year since 2018, while the share of students failing to meet college readiness standards in any of its four subject areas — English, math, reading and science — has increased by 7 percentage points. With the exception of Asian students, teens of every race perform worse now than they did five years ago.

Someone should look into why Asian kids do so well.  But it won't be the mainstream media, which has always seen Asian accomplishment as something polite leftists don't discuss.

For 2022 high school grads, the average ACT composite score was 19.8 out of a maximum of 36, the first time since 1991 that the overall score dropped below 20. Only 22% of students met college readiness benchmarks in each of the four subject areas. The share of test takers who met none of the benchmarks rose to 42% from 38% in the past year.

In elementary and middle school, too, declines in student performance began before the pandemic — and are now deepening. This year’s NAEP scores show that students in fourth and eighth grades suffered the largest declines ever recorded in math. Only about one-quarter of eighth-graders scored at a proficiency level in math, down from one-third three years ago. The decline in reading scores, while not as dramatic, was no less troubling.

The fact is: The US public school system is failing to prepare most students for college and careers, and the problem is getting worse. Yet colleges and universities are pretending not to notice. Since 2020, the number of schools that have stopped requiring applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores has nearly doubled to more than 1,800, including many of the country’s most selective colleges. As a result, fewer students are bothering to sit for the exams at all. Since 2018, the number of seniors taking the ACT has dropped by nearly 30%, even as overall college applications increased.

COMMENT:  Read the whole thing.  It's excellent.  I'm struck by the fact that it was written by Mike Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City.  I've wondered whether Bloomberg, who tried to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 and failed, will re-enter politics in another way, possibly by forming a third party.  If the Democrats do poorly a week from Tuesday, I'd imagine he'd think about it.  This piece on education could be his first step back into action.

October 29, 2022