Time for the State to Terminate the Duquesne School District

Almost a decade ago, the Allegheny Institute reported on the dreadful SAT scores recorded by Duquesne High School students.  In 2003, we noted that Duquesne’s average combined 2001 SAT score-math and reading-was 693, one of the only schools in Pennsylvania showing a score below 700. 


Continue reading

SAT Scores Point to Educational Poverty

Sarcastically borrowing from Carl Sagan, we can say, billions and billions and billions of dollars poured into K-12 education and what do we get? The lowest SAT reading scores and a combined drop of 18 points in reading and math over the last five years. "No child left behind" appears to have turned into "more students lagging behind". In fairness to Mr. Sagan we are talking about hundreds of billions upon hundreds of billions of dollars to achieve this sorry result.

The latest report from the College Board, the firm administering the SAT tests, informs us that, according to their research, a combined score of 1550 on reading, writing and math seems to be necessary to achieve a successful freshman year at college. Only 43 percent of test takers scored that high in the 2011 round of exams.

What does that mean for the nearly 60 percent who fell below the 1550 level? Will they not get into college? No, it means that additional billions of dollars will be spent on remedial education by the colleges. It means that extra years will be spent getting a four year degree-time essentially wasted by the students and classroom space. It means lower admission standards. It means continued dilution and degradation of the educational quality received. It means more watered down, politically correct course offerings in subjects that have little or no relevance to any post-graduation job skill requirements.

The SAT scores point to a disastrous waste of resources and a dumbing down of the American student population at a time when our students already lag far behind those in other countries in math and science. But the educational establishment refuses to adopt measures that might have a chance of turning the situation around. And it is time to ask the question. Is college really the best post high school choice for many of these kids? Are we setting them up for failure in higher education when there are careers in which they can make a good living and be happy in their work with a high school diploma and some specialized training?

New PSEA Head Wants to Improve PA Education—Really?

Quoted in Monday’s Tribune Review, the new president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association-the teachers’ union-says he wants to work with the Governor and other state officials to make public schools the schools of choice. He also maintains that our schools are doing really well although there are still problems. Naturally, these are problems he believes could be solved with more resources, i.e., taxpayer dollars.

How sad that the teachers’ union has appropriated the title "education association" for itself rather calling themselves what they are-a union for teachers.

The new president says assessment test scores are improving in every grade. But that claim is dubious. SAT scores have not improved and that is the litmus test of how schools are doing. Moreover, as the Allegheny Institute has documented in its Policy Brief series, the big improvements in the 8th grade scores are questionable. Then too, 11th grade reading scores have not improved and the math scores remain dreadfully low. And, if we look beyond the reading and math tests, where so much time is spent preparing students for the tests, to the performance on science, we find abysmal results.

The teachers’ union president wants to make public schools the schools of choice which means he wants to protect public school employee jobs. If he truly cared about quality education for Pennsylvania’s students, he would be focused on helping create alternatives to the public school monopoly. But as is sadly the case for union leaders, he cannot square the circle. The union is about promoting the union members’ interests; the interest of students will always be secondary-if not even less important. The union’s interests include electing legislators who will serve them first and foremost. Students and taxpayers always receive short shrift from these elected officials. If they were honest and opened their eyes they would see the damage resulting from teacher strikes and the law disallowing layoffs for economic reasons. These union-coddling statutes represent massive assaults on the marketplace and unconscionable degradation of taxpayers. And so it goes in Pennsylvania.

Things Are Not Great in Pittsburgh Promise Land


In late December the Pittsburgh Promise Program secured a corporate grant from BNY Mellon.  The $500,000 gift is the Program’s second largest corporate donation, trailing only UPMC’s pledge of $100 million.  While corporations are certainly allowed to donate money as they see fit, we question whether they are doing a lot of good with the Pittsburgh Promise contribution-especially when compared to other worthy education grant opportunities.



Continue reading