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Campus Connection for August 5th, 2011

Article Date: 
5 August, 2011 (All day)


Often the past has a way of sounding better than it was.  Recently, some have lamented that the good old days of education were better than today.  I suggest that we investigate the good old days of education, and you be the judge.

 During the 1900s less than 10% of the population was expected or allowed to attend high school and even fewer than 10% graduated from high school. Obviously, that may have been good then, but now one could not expect to maintain a decent standard of living without a high school education. My dad dropped out of high school in the late 1920s and he struggled to make a good living!

High School graduation rates in the 1970s were below 50% nationally. During the 1970s “separate but equal” schools were just ending and attending a university still was not a necessity.  Special needs students were often told schools didn’t have the money or resources to help them achieve their educational goals, and women were not usually expected to be high academic achievers in math or science.

My mother graduated from high school, but I was the first person in my family – many years ago – to graduate from college. Since there were no compulsory attendance laws, many students simply left school never to return.  Some were even “pushed” out when they became disciplinary problems or simply didn’t want to do the work required to pass.

If you had to explain America’s economic success with one word, that word would be the opportunity for “education.” In the 19th century, America led the way in universal basic education. Then, as other nations followed suit, the “high school revolution” of the early 20th century took us to a whole new level. This is not to say that America’s high school students fared better on testing between the nations of the world, the opposite in fact is the case; somewhat due to the fact that we test all and other nations do not test all.

Many people think that in the good old days, The United States lead the world in educational achievement. The statement that America’s math and science test scores in the past led the world, but then these scores have gotten worse over time is not accurate according to Kevin Drum. In a comparison of 12 countries in the world, the First International Math Studies (FIMS) showed the following results: 

In 1964, we were 0.35 standard deviations below the mean. In the most recent tests, we were only 0.06 (1995-2007) and 0.18 (2009) standard deviations below the mean. In other words, our performance had improved nationwide. Here’s Loveless on the notion that we once led the world in education and have since collapsed:

 “The United States never led the world. It was never number one and has never been close to number one on international math tests or on science tests, for that matter…. [And] there has been no sharp decline—in either the short or long run. The United States performance on PISA has been flat to slightly up since the test’s inception, and it has improved on Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) since 1995.”

Drum stated “Now, we’re still below average among these dozen countries, so this is hardly a glorious result. But we aren’t doing any worse than we did in the supposed glory days of the 50s and 60s. We’re doing better. And as Mathews says, “If we have managed to be the world’s most powerful country, politically, economically and militarily, for the last 47 years despite our less than impressive math and science scores, maybe that flaw is not as important as film documentaries and political party platforms claim. If, after so many decades of being shown up by much of the rest of the developed world, we are improving, it might be time to be more supportive of what we already are doing to fix our schools.”

While many “believe” that our schools are worse than they used to be, the data simply does not support this belief. As a matter of fact, there has been a significant rise in the number of students that are taking higher level math and science courses with a stark increase in the number of females that are now taking these courses as compared with the past. In general there has been a nationwide close scrutiny by all involved in education and the improvements are happening.”

Now let’s talk about how Morgan School District is doing. We simply lead or are near the top of the state in most academic areas. The following data from the spring 2010 Core Test results support this:

The state average (SA) in Language Arts is 81% of students are proficient with Morgan School District’s (MSD) average being 89.9% proficient. The SA in Math is 67.6% proficient with MSD average at 81%. The SA in Science is 69.7% with the MSD average at 84%. To lead the state by 8% in Language Arts, 13% in Math and 14% in Science is a great accomplishment and should be reported and celebrated. When one considers proficiency it means that is the percentage of students that attained minimal acceptance of what the states consider as academic acceptable levels.

Morgan High School has a high school graduation rate of 99% as compared with the high school graduation rate of 90% of all seniors in Utah. This is again a statistic that should be reported and celebrated by even today’s standards.

The reason that the data was cited earlier about the United States never being a leader in math and science was to dispel the myth that education nationwide is not as good as it was in the old days. In fact education is literally teaching a larger at risk population and doing it better today in the areas mentioned than in the past.

Education in Morgan School District and nationwide will continue to get better. Utah is 51 out of 51 states in per pupil appropriations and we still lead the nation in many educational areas. Likewise, Morgan leads the state of Utah in Core Test Score results and high school graduation rates to name a few. 

Public Education and its emphasis on access to education is what has helped America to lead the world like we have and when we continue to support public education in Morgan School District; we will be assured of continual resources to maintain the dominance of the greatest country on the face of this earth, even The Untied States of America.   

I believe that the USA will continue to improve education throughout the nation. I know that the dedicated employees of Morgan School District will continue to do what we do best and that is to take good students who have been prepared in great homes and make sure that all have the opportunity to learn, because the good days of education are now!