Pros and Cons of Local Control

I certainly can understand the pros of local control of public schools when one argues from the vantage point of values.  If, as progressives would argue, morals should depend on the majority opinion of the culture, then local control would better nurture the values of the local culture.

But one piece of local control seriously warps many of our children’s futures: local math assessment.  While any test can be good or bad, local tests allow districts and entire states to fool parents into thinking their children are advancing normally.  Here’s how it works:

  1.  State A designs a math test for its students.  That means State A defines what “proficient” means for each grade level.  State B designs a different test for its students.  State B defines what “proficient” means for each grade level…differently.
  2. State A announces that 95% of its students are proficient.  State B announces that 75% of its students are proficient.  The difference is that State A’s test is 2 grade levels behind State B.

Had State A students taken State B test, only 40% of State A’s students would be “proficient;” and the parents would be howling.  If that continued year after year, people who understand the importance of education would likely head elsewhere or bury their legislators in complaints.  Clearly states have a reason for making their math tests super simple.

We have ACT and SAT tests, but those assess college readiness with mostly high school students.  By that time, parents have been kept in the dark for over a decade. A student’s success rate in college is largely set by then.  At a minimum, we need common math tests every other year.


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