Scott Marion, of Rye, is the executive director of the Center for Assessment, a nationally respected Dover nonprofit helping state develop education policy. Here is his response to Sen. Dan Innis’ recent statement supporting an expanded private school voucher program:
In his August 28th op-ed, Dan Innis likes to appear like a scholarly professor in his defense of school choice, but his selective use of “research” is anything but scholarly. First, Mr. Innis erroneously cites a 40-60 percent remedial education rate. As a national expert in educational assessment and accountability working in more than 35 states, I can tell you firsthand that those figures are wildly inflated. Mr. Innis should look closer to home where our NH community and technical colleges have done a terrific job in reducing remedial education challenges. In fact, a 2016 National Student Clearinghouse Research Center study, noted that New Hampshire four-year public colleges have the second highest college completion rates in the nation: 90.2 percent of full time students who started at one of New Hampshire’s four-year public colleges completed their studies within six years—the standard metric. That sounds pretty good to me!
Mr. Innis claims that U.S. scores on international tests have fallen. That’s not true. Yes, our relative rankings are not where we would like them to be, but these international rankings are not as simple as U.S. News makes them out to be. Further, when Massachusetts participated in Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), it ranked almost as high as Shanghai. Given that NH performs at the top of our national assessments like MA, we can bet that NH would be almost as high in these international comparisons. Again, where’s the problem?
Mr. Innis’ most egregious errors, however, are when he tries to make the case for spending limited government money on school choice. He grasped at straws to find “research” to support some of his previous points, but when he comes to school choice, he equates schools with shopping for groceries and buying cars. Last I checked, it was a bit more complex to educate a diverse group of children than trying to find the best deal on eggs. In case that’s not bad enough, he tries to generalize from what is likely a 40+ year anecdote about his spouse’s attendance at the private Putney School.
If Senator Innis feels like students leaving our high schools are not well-prepared, he could have done much more during his time in Concord instead of latching onto some half-baked ideas about how to improve schools. For example, instead of trying to take money from public schools, Mr. Innis could have made an effort to increase NH’s shamefully low adequacy funding from approximately $3500/student to a level that doesn’t make a mockery of the term “adequacy.” Additionally, he could have proposed legislation to raise graduation standards so that all students have the coursework to succeed in college which is not the requirement today. He could have taken an even more effective step by drafting legislation to support high-quality pre-kindergarten for anyone who wants it. In this case there is a plethora of peer-reviewed research supporting the long-term benefits of such programs. Did Mr. Innis take any of these productive steps? Of course not! That’s why I’m supporting Dr. Tom Sherman for State Senator—someone who supports our public schools!