EDITORIAL: Stagnant achievement

The country’s high schools are in an achievement holding pattern. The most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, an achievement test administered to high school seniors every four years by the federal government, contained no good news for American students and taxpayers.

The test, also known as the nation’s report card, was given to about 92,000 12th-graders last year, and the results were released last week. Among the findings:

— Reading scores were unchanged from 2009, but still down from 1992. Less than four in 10 high school seniors were considered proficient.

— Math scores also were unchanged from 2009, but up slightly from 2005, when the test was changed, making comparisons with previous rounds of testing impossible. Just 26 percent of seniors were proficient in math.

— The reading achievement gap between white and Latino seniors remains wide and unchanged in 15 years, and the gap between white and black seniors has worsened because black reading scores are dropping.

It’s hard to look at this data and believe that public school districts can, by themselves, lift achievement to levels that will ensure the United States remain a global economic superpower. Testing was supposed to drive accountability, yet across the country, failing campuses remain open, largely unchanged, year after year.

This report card is unacceptable, and the best fix is competition. Parents — especially low-income racial and ethnic minorities — should not see their children trapped in underperforming schools. They should be able to choose from charter schools or use vouchers to enroll their children in private schools. How can anyone not be pro-choice when it comes to education?

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