| November 18, 2013

The report cards are in

Several members of Oklahoma’s monopoly-education establishment are continuing to complain about Oklahoma’s A-F report cards. Gov. Mary Fallin, to her credit, is defending the state report cards while also drawing attention to what’s called “the nation’s report card,” which shows that two-thirds of Oklahoma’s fourth-graders are below proficient in math, while nearly three-fourths are below proficient in reading.

If state and national report cards aren’t enough, I commend to your attention the Global Report Card, a sophisticated data tool which compares student achievement in Oklahoma’s school districts against the performance of students in a group of 25 developed countries. We find that in the Tulsa Public Schools, for example, the average student is performing at the 28th percentile in math relative to students in these countries that might be considered our peers. In other words, 72 percent of students in a typical developed country would be doing better than the average student in Tulsa. If you were to pick up the Tulsa school district and drop it into Canada, the average Tulsa student would be at the 20th percentile in math. If you dropped it into Singapore, the average Tulsa student would be at the 15th percentile in math.

It’s not just the large urban districts. Even some of Oklahoma’s “best” school districts are failing to keep pace internationally. If you picked up the Jenks school district, for example, and dropped it into Canada, the average Jenks student would be at the 37th percentile in math. If you dropped it into Singapore, the average Jenks student would be at the 27th percentile.

In his latest column in The Journal Record, law professor Andrew Spiropoulos also points to Oklahoma’s woes. Referencing a passage in Amanda Ripley’s book The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way, Professor Spiropoulos, who serves as OCPA’s Milton Friedman Distinguished Fellow, notes that

If states were countries, Oklahoma would have ranked about 81st in the world in math, about the same level as Croatia or Turkey. Worse yet, one of the state’s leading employers thought so little of an Oklahoma high school diploma’s worth that it had applicants fill out documents in front of employees, so they could see if the people really understood the questions.

Most striking was Ripley’s account of the reaction of Oklahoma educators to abysmal student performance. The high school principal, for example, thought his biggest problem was expectations. They were, he said, too high. The principal wasn’t bothered that more than half of his school’s graduates who went to public colleges were forced to take remedial courses.

Oklahoma’s parents and taxpayers know what they know. These state, national, and global report cards only serve as confirmation. Now it’s time to get to work fixing our schools.

Loading Next