We don't need no education…

(Alternate title: Money for Nothing…)

The other day I heard this press release from the College Boards mentioned in the news. Apparently, employers are complaining that too many job applicants are lacking the basic writing skills needed to perform most jobs for which they are hiring.

This got me thinking. I’m no education expert, but I’ve always been pretty good at drawing connections and parallels that others seem to miss. It’s always seemed to me (a product of public education) that we’re always spending more and more and more on education, while the actual educational state of the American people seems to decline more and more and more.

Here in Cow Hampshire, I’ve always thought we’ve done OK on education — especially in comparison to our southern neighbors in Massachusetts. It’s always been a matter of pride, looking down on the Massholes. But this story finally convinced me to start digging. I went to the Web and started pulling up numbers (Google is such a godsend to amateur, pajama-clad analysts such as myself).

Hm. Turns out I was wrong. The 2004 average scores for NH college-bound seniors was 522 verbal / 521 math, while Massachusetts scored 518 verbal / 523 math, which I’d call statistically irrelevant. So much for that cherished illusion.

But how about funding? What kind of “bang for our buck” are we getting in New Hampshire, versus Massachusetts? The most recent figures I could find were for 2002, and they showed a per-student spending of $9,856 in Massachusetts, while we in New Hampshire spend $7,750 — quite a significant difference. Sounds like we’re getting more for our money here.

But is that a national trend, or just an aberration? I pulled the stats for the states (or otherwise) that spend the most and least per student. Lowest is Mississippi at $5,382, while the highest is the District of Columbia, at $13,187. Mississippi’s SAT scores are 562 verbal / 547 math, while DC students are scoring 489 verbal / 476 math.

It appears my hunch was right. There seems to be an inverse relationship between educational funding levels and SAT scores. In brief, the more we spend on education, the worse an education students actually receive.

Now, I fully expect this argument to be attacked immediately. I can even predict a few lines that will be used — the SATs are not valid measurement tools, that the SAT-taking pool is a self-selecting sampling, that there have been huge changes in expectations of what students are expected to learn, etc., etc. — but I think this should at least put a dent in the argument that the best solution to our education problem is to spend MORE money.

Because we can’t afford (in both a figurative and literal sense) much longer to keep bringing up such ignorant children.


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