Student performance slipping despite cash thrown into public education
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Published: 26-Sep-2012

Despite school spending increases during the past decade, Oklahoma ranks among the nation’s four slowest states for closing student achievement gaps, a Harvard study shows.

The study was conducted by Harvard researchers over a period of nearly two years from 2009 to 2011. The examination focused on the pace at which schools helped under-performing students catch up with peers.

The others ranking poorly were Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa. Oklahoma ranked third worst. Iowa ranked dead last. The states in the lowest four only improved performance by one-half to three-quarters of a school year, on average.

States improving student performance at the quickest pace were Maryland, followed closely by Florida, then Delaware and Massachusetts. They closed the achievement gap by two years or more.

The most successful states closed the performance gap two to three times faster than the slowest states. That translated to more than a two-year jump in student achievement, according to the study.

Oklahoma’s poor showing did not surprise state Rep. Jason Nelson, a member of the House Education Committee.

For years, the education establishment has diverted attention from school performance by claiming more cash was the magic bullet.

“It just shows that more money without reform doesn’t work,” said Nelson. “It’s always been about numbers,” he said, referring to pleas for more funding.

The study concurred, noting “According to another popular theory, additional spending on education will yield gains in test scores.” However, “….The data offered precious little support for the theory.” Just about as many high-spending states showed relatively small gains as showed large ones.

Under then-Gov. Brad Henry, Oklahoma paid $62 million-plus for fully paid health-insurance coverage for teachers and raised average teacher salaries from $34,000 to $40,000 annually.

Henry also backed expansion of Indian gaming, which has since injected $207 million into elementary and secondary education.

Brandon Dutcher, Vice President for Policy for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, said families should be empowered to act immediately when their children aren’t being served.

“If a child is in a poorly performing public school, his parents deserve a voucher or a tax break or an Education Savings Account which would enable the child to choose a private school. If the goal is for underachieving students to make gains, there’s no better policy than parental choice.

You may contact Stacy Martin at, and follow us on Twitter: @capitolbeatok. 

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