The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (DPI) recently ran a story regarding the rollout of their new education dashboard. The title boasts of it as a “New Tool Launched to Provide More Transparency in School Performance”. State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said this about it:
“We want to be accountable to our students, taxpayers and parents, our teachers and our administrators. This dashboard makes important data about our education system available to any North Dakotan, and we will be adding more information in the future. This is just a start and first generation of this powerful communication tool.”
This “new tool” enables users to search for information by school, district, or state level. Searchable data includes things like enrollment, attendance and graduation rates, state testing results, etc. Again, according to Baesler:
“The additional pieces of information contributes to a new broad-based, well-rounded measurement of the performance of our schools developed by North Dakota education leaders, legislators and parents. Students, parents and community members can now evaluate schools based on their priorities, rather than simply by last year’s test scores.”
After you look at test scores on the dashboard, you may understand better why our State Superintendent would want observers to look at the more “well-rounded measurement”. The test scores are awful.
You can see the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results here. 4th graders across the state were just 37% proficient in Math and 30% in Reading. 8th graders were 32% proficient in both Math and Reading. The State Assessment results weren’t much different. You can see those here.
There’s no question that an argument can be made that we shouldn’t put much stock in the test results. I’ve heard people in both education and politics express that sentiment. Yet, that doesn’t stop us from sinking a whole lot of taxpayer dollars into these assessments. For example, our current testing vendor for state assessments submitted a winning bid to the tune of over $10.5 million last year. That’s no small amount of money.
North Dakota rates less than the national average in “The Condition of College & Career Readiness in 2017“. According to another document, 27% of our students entering two and four year colleges require remediation upon entry. And apparently that 27% must be just for those students attending UND and NDSU. Because according to this presentation from DPI, over 40% of all North Dakota students attending one of our state universities require remediation (27% of those students that choose to attend UND and NDSU).
Are these the results taxpayers expect when we nearly doubled K-12 spending from 2006 to 2016? And is it any wonder some of us are staunch supporters of school choice? Perhaps I’m being too harsh, but I’m not convinced at all that we’re getting what we’re paying for. And yet education is a sacred cow of the North Dakota budget and even exempt from the cuts Governor Doug Burgum recently asked for going into the next biennium.
In September of last year, we published an article in which I proved North Dakota still has the Common Core State Standards. This, of course, was after Kirsten Baesler paraded around the state telling anyone that would listen that we had new “standards by North Dakotans for North Dakotans” and that, “These new standards will replace the standards adopted in 2011 based on the Common Core.” In short, it was nothing short of deception.
The month after proving we still have Common Core, we also broke the news that DPI had awarded the bid for the “new” testing vendor to the same company that provided the Smarter Balanced testing for Common Core. That, of course, was after months of delays on awarding the bid.
Considering all of this, I must admit that I find it kind of amusing that Baesler and DPI would boast about transparency and accountability. After all, those two things haven’t exactly been their strengths. At the end of the day, the dashboard changes very little— unless people actually look at it and realize that it’s past time for changes to K-12 education in North Dakota.
If you haven’t yet, I’d encourage you to take a look at DPI’s new tool. See what you think. Do you feel you’re getting your money’s worth as a taxpayer when it comes to education? Or maybe – just maybe – we should finally take the steps to provide for school choice in North Dakota and allow more competition to what even our own governor recognizes as the public school “monopoly“.