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Not a record worth praising

July 24, 2012
Messenger News

Officials of the largest U.S. teachers' union, the National Education Association, have made it very clear they support President Barack Obama's bid for re-election. So plain is their intent that the NEA's annual convention in Washington was an "Obama love fest," in the words of an Associated Press reporter.

So biased were those in charge of the event and many in attendance that the reporter was told by some Republican teachers that they felt as if they were being harassed for not supporting Obama.

Mary Kusler, the NEA's director of government relations, said the union supports Obama because of "the incredible legacy and vision of this current administration."

Really? Indeed, the White House has sent tens of billions of dollars in taxpayers' money to states where budgets were managed so badly federal bailouts were needed to keep teachers from being laid off. Often some of those states' budget woes were because of lavish benefits for educators, with no thought of how they would be funded.

What about results, however?

Are students in public schools learning more as a result of that "incredible legacy and vision"?

Few tools are available to measure academic achievement on a nationwide basis. One is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which tests students throughout the United States.

The average NAEP fourth-grade reading score in 2009, when Obama took office, was 221. Last year the average was 221. The average fourth-grade mathematics score in 2009 was 240. By last year it had gone up just one point, to 241. Other NAEP testing shows similar stagnation.

What about the brightest students, those headed to college?

One way of checking on them is the SAT college entrance examinations. In 2008, the mean score on the SAT reading test was 500. By last year it had dropped to 497. In mathematics, the mean of 214 in 2008 was unchanged last year.

Obama's legacy in terms of public education, then, may be pleasing to NEA leaders - but it seems to have little, if any, effect on the quality of public schools. Perhaps that's why some teachers at the union's convention see no reason to support the president's re-election campaign.



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