This is an educator’s response to my earlier post: Are Obama’s STEM Initiatives Enough?
by Eric Klein
Evidence of the effect of external factors such as recession on academic achievement will lag far behind the actual occurrence of the factor. Let me explain what I mean with an example. Suppose Billy’s dad loses his job tomorrow and the family goes through a crisis that hinders Billy’s education. Billy shuts down academically, stops doing his schoolwork. While this will affect his grades for this year, it is unlikely to show up in his performance in standardized testing this year. However, the long-term effect of losing a year’s, two years, three years worth of learning will be exhibited in the data some years down the road.
When state and local governments choose to underfund their school systems, this same lag occurs. It takes years for the effects of educational policy to appear in the data. Thus, I suspect it is too soon to draw any conclusions. The State of Maryland tests its kids at the beginning AND end of each school year, which makes their data valuable for assessing rate of growth in student achievement. That might be worth taking a peek at. Bare in mind, that funds from the stimulus package were allocated to keep teachers in the classroom for the 2009-10 school year, so the true effects of the recession on academic achievement don’t appear until 2010-11.
That said, the recession is not the first instance of government underfunding education. The decline started 25 years ago when states began to fund their schools through sales tax, which is a regressive tax in that it does not keep up with growth in the economy. Thus, the recession cuts in education are not so much a disastrous event as the next phase in the deconstruction of our public infrastructure.
Eric Klein fills students’ brains with math and numbers as a Michigan high school teacher.