BY: Joy Pullman

The latest Nation’s Report Card (formally the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP) results find just 37 percent of U.S. twelfth graders performed well enough in math and reading to indicate they would do well in college, a slight dip from the last round of scores in 2013. As always, everyone has a theory as to why. Some say it’s because percentages of black and Hispanic students are increasing, and these minorities perform dramatically worse on NAEP tests than their white and Asian peers.

“The students at the top of the distribution are going up and the students at the bottom of the distribution are going down,” Peggy Carr, one of the test’s commissioners, told The Wall Street Journal. “There is a widening of the gap between higher and lower-ability students.”

Education Secretary John King says it’s because, six years after governments mandated Common Core, teachers are still “retooling their classroom practices to adapt.” That’s what former Education Secretary Arne Duncan said upon similar results two full years ago. It must take a long time to phase in Common Core – which is another argument against it, given that American children have now spent nearly half their school careers being Common Core’s guinea pigs.

Former U.S. Education Department official Ze’ev Wurman has another explanation for the NAEP score decline, telling Breitbart: “The only plausible explanation for such an unprecedented broad national decline is the Common Core.” Cato Institute education scholar Neal McCluskey is more measured, but his conclusion points in the same direction:

“lots of things affect test scores – federal policies, state policies, local policies, economics, demographic changes, etc. – and we can’t ignore all those things and just declare whatever policy we happen to dislike the undisputed villain. But one thing is clear, no matter how you feel about Common Core or anything else: NAEP tests continue to produce awful results for the students who are about to finish K–12 education … despite huge increases in spending over the decades, as well as heavily centralized control.”

It is now painfully obvious that continually socializing our education system is not going to benefit American children or society. Neither are pitifully sized school choice programs that allow the state to co-opt private schools by measuring them using Common Core tests. The United States is spending down the future through massive debt lawmakers are using to fund ineffective schools.

The time to address this failure of public education – through serious decentralization measures, such as universal school choice programs that require public schools to compete on a level playing field with charters, private schools, and more specialized private providers – was 50 years ago. The second-best time is now. America doesn’t have money and children to waste.

Joy Pullmann is a research fellow on education policy for The Heartland Institute.

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