WI's School Choice Program Shows that Freedom in Education is Needed to Bring Math and Reading Scores Up

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WI's School Choice Program Shows that Freedom in Education is Needed to Bring Math and Reading Scores Up

June 29, 2023 - 05:26
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Recent data highlights a concerning decline in literacy and math achievements within the American public education system.

Based on a recent assessment of national trends, the average scores in math and reading tests for 13-year-olds in the United States have plummeted to their lowest point in several decades. Officials at the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) acknowledge that COVID has played a role in this decline in educational performance. It's likely that increased instructional time spent on "woke" ideology is also to blame.

“The mathematics decline for 13-year-olds was the single largest decline we have observed in the past half a century,” said National Center for Education Statistics Commissioner Peggy G. Carr. “The mathematics score for the lowest-performing students has returned to levels last seen in the 1970s, and the reading score for our lowest-performing students was actually lower than it was the very first year these data were collected, in 1971.”

Thankfully, Wisconsin has an excellent school choice (voucher) program to help combat this issue, and earlier this month, Governor Evers signed into law a bill that increases school choice funding.

According to the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty's (WILL) fifth and most-recent edition of its Apples to Apples  report, which assesses the state of education in Wisconsin, charter schools and private schools participating in the state's choice program are demonstrating superior performance compared to public schools in Wisconsin.

On average, private choice schools in Milwaukee exhibited proficiency rates that were 8.1% higher in English/Language Arts (ELA) and 8.3% higher in math compared to traditional public schools. Statewide, students participating in school choice displayed proficiency rates approximately 3.2% higher in ELA and 2.1% higher in math compared to their counterparts in traditional public schools.

However, proficiency across the board remains below pre-COVID levels, and Wisconsin legislators are working to turn these numbers around. A new education bill that recently passed the State Assembly would make several changes pertaining to reading instruction, curriculum, assessments, and interventions. The main point of the bill is that schools will not be allowed to use programs or materials that teach reading using what is known as "three-cueing." The bill is trying to force schools to utilize phonics-based reading programs.

We certainly agree that there is a reading problem among many of our school-aged children, especially those attending government schools. We also agree something needs to be done about the problem, but we don't believe private schools participating in the school choice program should be included in this bill. Unfortunately, the bill does specifically include these private schools. A major amendment removed the requirement that these private schools would have to choose a reading program recommended by the State Department of Public Instruction, but the bill still contains more mandates for these schools than we are comfortable with. Private schools participating in a Parental Choice Program shouldn't have to give up their fundamental rights as contained in our state law, not to mention that many "choice schools" (maybe even most) already use phonics-based reading programs and have never used the highly suspect "three-cueing" method. Wisconsin Family Action provided testimony in both the Senate and the Assembly public hearings on the bill before the "substitute amendment" was offered. The Senate still needs to vote on the bill before it goes to the governor.

More choice and freedom in education, not less, is what will ultimately help bring reading and math scores up. While students are struggling nationwide, parents need to be given as many educational options as possible to find a school and a curriculum that best fits their child's needs and provides real education rather than indoctrination.

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So many think that local public schools are "Local Control" Well it kind of is, and that has many challenges of its own. Public schools have federal interference and massive rules that tie the hands of the schools, administration, and school boards. The bottom line is the only way to help this bureaucracy is to fund the Voucher system. (Eliminating the federal education department would help a great deal)

The argument that it takes money from the public system is not quite accurate. The student in private school takes almost nothing from the public school. The people running public education think that a student in private school is taking their money, they don't know it is the people's money. By offering a private alternative, we can control what is taught, and encourage the public system to do better.

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