Monday, January 30, 2012

Great moments in early-ed ghostwriting

Sometimes the left hand doesn't know what the far left hand is doing.

Last year Pete Delaney, one of the business leaders involved in the OKCEO (Oklahoma Champions for Early Opportunities) initiative, took to the pages of The Oklahoman to tout what's euphemistically called early-childhood education. To help make his case, he correctly pointed out that our student achievement leaves much to be desired: "In Oklahoma, the National Assessment of Educational Progress test indicates that 72 percent of fourth-graders ... are not proficient in science."

But of course someone should have known better than to drag NAEP scores into a discussion of early-childhood education. For if NAEP scores are any indication, Oklahoma's vaunted preschool system has been ineffective if not downright harmful (as researchers at The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, OCPA, and elsewhere have pointed out). As Shikha Dalmia and Lisa Snell wrote in The Wall Street Journal,
Oklahoma, in fact, lost ground after it embraced universal preschool: In 1992 its fourth and eighth graders tested one point above the national average in math. Now they are several points below. Ditto for reading.

That's not the only time Oklahoma's early-education ghostwriters have goofed recently. Last month Oklahoma learned it was not awarded a Race to the TopEarly Learning Challenge grant (Oklahoma's plan scored 30th out of 37 applicants). One peer reviewer who analyzed Oklahoma's application noted that our state "included a large number of letters of support from a broad group of stakeholders," but the letters of support were talking about stuff that wasn't in the application. "The gap between the letters of support and the articulated plan raises questions about whether the letters of support reflect a genuine understanding of the state plan reforms."

Not to mention a genuine representation of Oklahomans' preferences.

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