“We’re in crisis in education in our state.” That’s the message Oklahoma state Superintendent Janet Barresi delivered to the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce on April 7, 2011.
In March, we learned that nearly 43 percent of first-time freshmen who entered Oklahoma’s public colleges in the fall of 2009 were not prepared for college. In January, results from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that 72 percent of Oklahoma fourth-graders taking the test and 75 percent of eighth-graders taking the test fell below “proficient” in science. And research by Stanford economist Eric Hanushek that compared top-performing math students all over the world showed that Oklahoma ranked far down on the list near developing or struggling nations like Bulgaria, Chile, and Thailand.
These school-performance woes cannot be blamed on a shortage of financial resources. As President Barack Obama said in 2010, “when you look at the statistics, the fact is that our per-pupil spending has gone up during the last couple of decades even as results have gone down.” This is true nationwide and also in Oklahoma, as the following charts demonstrate.