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Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

America's failing public school students continue to get worse and worse (or dumb and dumber)

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It’s rare to find myself agreeing with the Reverend Al Sharpton, but I think he, sadly, is accurate in the following assessment:

“Today, a public school education is the same as sitting in the back of the bus for black, Latino

and other minority students.”

A study released by McKinsey & Company in April paints a very grim picture of our public schools with the shocking conclusion that the longer our kids stay in school, the dumber they get. The achievement gaps are real, and are costing America dearly.

It’s not easy getting the masses to take notice of 24-page institutional report. America needs to take this seriously. It is very scary stuff.

“The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America's Schools” examined four achievement gaps in education: (1) between the United States and other nations, (2) between black and Latino students and white students, (3) between students of different income levels, and (4) between similar students schooled in different systems or regions.

The findings are alarming. Socio-economic status doesn’t matter according to this report that states (emphasis mine):

The United States lags significantly behind other advanced nations in educational performance and is slipping further behind on some important measures. In addition, the gap between ours and others’ performance widens the longer children are in school. The facts here demonstrate that lagging achievement in the United States is not merely an issue for poor children attending schools in poor neighborhoods; instead, it affects most children in most schools."

A public school education in America is merely a slow, agonizing trip that starts at mediocrity and ends up at miserable failure. Again, quoting from the report:

“The longer American children are in school, the worse they perform compared to their international peers. In recent cross-country comparisons of fourth grade reading, math, and science, US students scored in the top quarter or top half of advanced nations. By age 15 these rankings drop to the bottom half. In other words, American students are farthest behind just as they are about to enter higher education or the workforce.”

Again, I submit, scary.

All of this has an incredibly devastating impact on our nation’s economy.  From the report:

“• If the United States had closed the international achievement gap between 1983 and 1998 and raised its performance to the level of such nations as Finland and Korea, US GDP in 2008 would have been between $1.3 trillion and $2.3 trillion higher, representing 9 to 16 percent of GDP.

• If the United States had closed the racial achievement gap and black and Latino student performance had caught up with that of white students by 1998, GDP in 2008 would have been between $310 billion and $525 billion higher, or roughly 2 to 4 percent of GDP. (The magnitude of this effect will rise in the years ahead as blacks and Latinos become a larger proportion of the population.)

• If the United States had closed the income achievement gap so that between 1983 and 1998 the performance of students from families with income below $25,000 a year had been raised to the performance of students from homes with incomes above $25,000 a year, then GDP in 2008 would have been $400 billion to $670 billion higher, or 3 to 5 percent of GDP.

• If the United States had closed the systems achievement gap so that between 1983 and 1998 states performing below the national average on NAEP were brought up to the national average, GDP in 2008 would have been $425 billion to $700 billion higher, or about 3 to 5 percent of GDP.

Put differently, the persistence of these educational achievement gaps imposes on the United States the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession. The recurring annual economic cost of the international achievement gap is substantially larger than the deep recession the United States is currently experiencing. The annual output cost of the racial, income, and regional or systems achievement gap is larger than the US recession of 1981–82."

Suddenly the occasional rosy numbers we’re spoon fed that are spun by the public school monopoly in Wisconsin known as the state Department of Public Instruction don’t seem so optimistic.

So what’s the answer?

I agree with columnist Walter Williams who asserts that the competition that can be derived from decentralization of pubic schools and the voucher system can turn things around because let’s face it, folks. What we’ve got right now just ain’t working!

Williams also makes the case that more money being tossed at the almost guaranteed to fail public school system isn’t the solution.

Williams’ column is

The McKinsey & Company report is here. Please take some time to read, and think.

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