Arkansas Governor Beebe, in political ads with great fanfare says the state is 5th in Education. I guess other states are flocking to Arkansas to learn how we did it, right? Not exactly. The study Beebe is so excited about is the Education Week Quality Counts 2011 survey, which ranked Arkansas #5 based on education policies. It reminds me of the Dog Food Company meeting. The boss asked who had the best sales staff, “We do” was the reply. Who has the best company, “we do, we do” who has the best distribution, “we do”. Even so our sales are down, what’s the problem? A man called out, “The dang dogs won’t eat it!”
Even the questionable Quality Counts study gave the state low marks in two areas where the state has long struggled to advance: Student achievement and the chance for a successful career with an Arkansas education, areas where high marks really mean something!
There are a lot of organizations that rank education performance. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) gave Arkansas a C in Education Policy along with 8 other states. There were 30 states with grades higher than C. In performance Arkansas ranks 45th, thank you Mississippi and West Virginia! I believe the ALEC study provides a more comprehensive look at how state education performs based on student scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP).
ALEC researchers are heavy into various school reform measures, with high praise for different education reform programs in disparate states:
“The past two years, however, have been crucial in demonstrating that reform is not only necessary but in fact achievable. In the past, governors gave lip service to education reform but tended to simply increase spending and kick the can down the road. The 2010–2011 period witnessed something entirely different: lawmakers taking on the reactionary education establishment directly, and defeating them repeatedly. States having passed reforms must move vigorously to implementation, given the huge difference between changing law and changing policy and opportunities for subversion. Reformers in other states should carefully study the comprehensive approaches of Florida and Indiana lawmakers. Dramatic improvement results from broad, rather than incremental, reform.”
Of course the wild eyed Arkansas liberals are trying to discredit the ALEC. Dan Greenberg wrote an insightful article for THE ARKANSAS PROJECT, “Confessions of an ALEC Conspirator,” which scoffs at all the paranoid liberal handwringing about the organization with a calm look at the facts about the role ALEC plays in policymaking. Liberals don’t like facts.