Columnist takes aim at target-rich topic

It is good to see NPRI alum-turned-R-J-columnist Victor Joecks take on one of the false shibboleths of the progressives by pointing out that ever expanding pre-K education is little more than a hugely expensive futile gesture.

The gist of the piece:

In the past 50 years, government-funded pre-K programs have grown considerably — and so has our understanding of their impact. The federal government started the Head Start program in 1965 to



help improve the school readiness of low-income children. We have since spent more than $180 billion on this program.

In 2012, the federal government released the results of a random-assignment study of 5,000 Head Start participants. The Heritage Foundation notes that the scientifically rigorous examination found “no statistically measurable effects on any measure of cognitive ability, including reading, language, and math.”

Futile education programs could be fertile ground for Joecks.

After all, Nevada high school students are dead last in the nation in college preparedness, according to the ACT test scores. That means 90 percent of Nevada students failed to achieve benchmark scores on all four of the test categories — English, math, reading and science. ACT reports that this compares to 34 percent nationally, who failed to pass any of the tests.

Add this to the recent Education Week’s 2014 Quality Counts report that ranked Nevada K-12 education 51st in the nation, behind every other state and the District of Columbia. Nevada has never ranked higher than 48th.

This despite the fact Nevada since 1990 has spent close to $2.5 billion on class-size reduction in the early grades with nothing to show for it. A 2001 report by the Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau found that, while principals, teachers, and parents were very positive in their attitudes toward class-size reduction, achievement data did not produce results. Students in larger classes outperformed those in the smaller classes.

Over the past four decades, according to a Cato Institute analysis, Nevada has increased K-12 public school funding by 80 percent per pupil, adjusted for inflation. During those four decades student test scores have actually fallen slightly.

This past legislative session the governor pushed through nearly a $1 billion dollars more per biennium spending on feel-good education programs that may or may not improve anything. We’ll just have to wait and see.

8 comments on “Columnist takes aim at target-rich topic

  1. This week’s column. Should appear in Elko Wednesday and in BBM papers Thursday and Friday.

  2. iShrug says:

    When this came out last month, I remarked that it amounted to some $7500 per child in subsidized day care. Someone took offense to my observation.

  3. Rincon says:

    Although I agree that throwing money at education does not solve problems, it appears that Nevada’s schools are fighting an uphill battle:

    Nevada ranked 37th nationally for family income and 36th for parental employment.
    Nevada landed 49th in terms of fluency. About 73 percent of parents speak fluent English, well below the 83 percent national average. 73%? You gotta be kidding me!

    Nevada was last for its rate of college-educated parents. Only 32 percent of children have at least one parent with a college degree, short of the 46 percent national average.
    Only 30 percent of adults have a two-year or four-year degree, ranking Nevada 48th in the United States. Lastly, 66 percent of Nevada adults have steady employment, 3 percentage points behind the national average but ranking low at 45th.

    All of these factors are associated with poor academic performance. Is it possible that the increased spending has been approved in a desperate effort to improve performance? School vouchers are a good place to start, but it seems likely that more will be needed to overcome this major demographic disadvantage.

  4. Barbara says:

    Part of the problem is the administration. Until the “No Fail F” policy wherein a student can receive a 50 grade score for merely writing his name on a paper and turning it in is scrapped, there is no incentive to learn.

    I recently found one charter school, Founders Academy, in Las Vegas that uses a classical liberal approach. From their website:

    ” Classical education prepares young men and women to live in freedom and independence, and not in a servile existence. The primary art for which we are preparing is the art of living well. Job skills are a by-product and not the end of classical education.”The end is a virtuous young adult who lives not with historical or cultural amnesia, but rather with a sense of who she is in the context of human history. Classically trained students will be well qualified for future studies in law, medicine, business, engineering, technology, theology or any other professional or vocational pursuit. We aim for our students to know the story of our country, and to read and write with facility. We are clear that a young graduate who is able to use her knowledge of the past to make good decisions in the present, and to plan wisely for the future will be in high demand and prepared to flourish.

    Classical education requires teachers who are trained in academic disciplines (literature, history, sciences, mathematics, etc.), and not just in “education”. Naturally, classical school teachers love to spend time with children, they are kindhearted, and they know how to manage a classroom. But subject matter expertise is required. Our vision is to create a faculty that is academically gifted and in full pursuit of intellectual interests, because these habits tend to positively influence students who are by nature looking for leaders to follow.”

    I recently toured the school. I was shown a 3rd grade class studying Latin. When I entered the classroom, the teacher motioned to a student. This small child got up from her chair and greeted me at the door. She explained the lesson that was being presented and asked if she could answer any questions I might have. I was in awe. Oh, and the student was black. I’m not sure how many students were in the class, but I would estimate approx. 25.

    In addition to Latin, students also study Spanish, Singapore math, and classical literature complete with how to annotate. Very amazing school. They have been open 3 years and have a waiting list for all grades except 9 – 12 because few students who do not begin in this system can perform the work required for the upper grades. As a charter school it does not cost parents to send their children to this school yet I found it’s atmosphere and academics better than any private school in Las Vegas.

  5. Rincon says:

    The school you describe sounds like it did a great job educating the kids, but it reminds me of a joke: A physics major looks at a phenomenon and wonders what causes it. An engineering student looks at and wonders if there’s a way to put it to use. A liberal arts major looks and says, “Do you want fries with that?”

    I’m all for teaching students to think, but I know too many educated fools that can’t make a decent living. I took two years of Latin and it was a complete waste of time. Memorizing hundreds of words and practicing sentence construction in a dead language may indeed teach people to think, but I suspect a science or engineering text does the same thing, only better.

  6. Barbara says:

    Latin is hardly a dead language. Consider we get more than 90 percent of our English words of more than two syllables from the Latin language. Author Karen Moore gives five reasons for studying Latin which, by the way, up until about 1920 was required in elementary education:

    1. Enhances understanding of the English language as well as English grammar.

    2. There are five modern languages that call Latin their parent language.  These Romance languages are Spanish, French, Italian, Romanian and Portuguese.  These languages derive more than 80% of the words which make up their vocabulary from Latin. (This reminds me of a joke I was told by an Uber driver when I was in Washington DC. You know what they call someone who knows only one language? An American.)
    3.Latin significantly increases verbal scores on tests such as the SAT and even GRE exams.  Analytical and problem solving scores, often associated closely with math skills, also increase
    significantly among Latin students.  (Should help those science and engineering students which you prize so highly.)

    4. Another truly wonderful feature of Latin is that it is not merely a means of communication, but a key to unlock the past.  Through the writings of Cicero, Caesar, Livy, and others we learn so much about the world of ancient Rome and Greece; a world which has greatly affected our own.

    In writing the Constitution, a document which determines our government’s structure and powers, John Adams thoroughly scrutinized the writings of Pliny and other ancient historians in order to determine the best means of governing.  He read these great works in their original languages – Latin and Greek. The documents reveal why our government is more like the Republic of Rome than the Democracy of Greece, where our Senate found its title and shape, why we choose to use jurors to determine many court cases.

    The list of Greco-Roman influences on modern America could go on ad infinitum, but must include art, architecture, music, and literature among government and politics.  The ancient past is not far removed from our modern lives, but instead is quite close and relevant.  To quote the great orator Cicero, “Whoever is ignorant of the past remains forever a child.”

    5. Perhaps the greatest benefit that Latin affords is the great door it opens into the world of Literature. To be able to read Cicero in his own language is truly to understand his famed rhetorical skill and abilities of persuasion.  To read Vergil’s Aeneid as the author penned it is to comprehend fully the poetic battles of mortal men and gods who inspired John Milton’s own epic, Paradise Lost.  To read Ovid’s wondrous tales about strange metamorphoses is to find Shakespeare’s muse.  Certainly these may all be read in English, but then one misses much of the imagery and beauty which these words possess and which are often lost in translation. 

  7. Rincon says:

    One could also study Buddhism, Greek philosophy or maybe the history of Tibet and find many similar earthshaking discoveries. As I said, do you want fries with that?

    The reason that people who study Latin do better on test scores is simple: Lazier students that want to breeze through school with as little effort as possible don’t generally study Latin. They would have gotten superior scores with or without it. Unfortunately, since the people who like Latin don’t have time to study statistics, logic or science, such concepts often escape them.

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