OK students do OK on civics re-test

Are Oklahoma students so ignorant of civics that they averaged 2.8 correct answers out of 10 questions taken from the citizenship exam passed on the first try by 92 percent of immigrants applying for naturalization. We’re talking about a test that asks: Who is George Washington?

An Oklahoma legislator repeated the Strategic Vision survey with high school seniors in his district, reports FiveThirtyEight. They aced the exam.

They answered an average of 7.8 out of the 10 questions correctly. By comparison, the high school students that were purportedly surveyed by Strategic Vision had gotten just 2.8 out of the items correct. 98 percent of the students on Cannaday’s survey — not 23 percent — knew that George Washington was the first President. 81 percent — not 14 percent — knew that Thomas Jefferson had written the Declaration of Independence. 95 percent — not 43 percent — knew that the Democrats and Republicans are the major political parties.

Why the stark difference? In comments on The Quick and The Ed, Matthew Ladner says he and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, which commissioned the poll, are investigating the survey’s validity. It’s possible that students didn’t bother to try on a phone survey.

The know-nothing party

To become a citizen, immigrants must answer six of 10 basic civics questions, such as: Who wrote the Declaration of Independence? What do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution? Who was the first president of the United States?  When the Goldwater Institute asked Arizona public high school students 10 random questions from the citizenship list, only 3.5 percent got six or more questions right, writes Matthew Ladner in a preview on Jay Greene’s blog. Half the students got only one question right.

Fifty-eight percent knew the Atlantic Ocean is off the east coast and half identified the two major political parties. However, only 29.5 percent identified the Constitution as the supreme law of the land, 25 percent identified the Bill of Rights as the first 10 amendments to the Constitution and 23 percent knew Congress was made up of the House and Senate. Only 9.4 percent said the Supreme Court has nine justices.  Thomas Jefferson was named as the writer of the Declaration of Independence by a quarter of students; 14.5 percent answered that Senators are elected for six-year terms and 26 percent knew the president runs the executive branch.
Finally, only 26.5% of students correctly identified George Washington was the first President. Other guesses included John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Barack Obama.

Seniors did no better than freshmen. Ethnicity made little difference.

Profound ignorance is quite equally distributed in large measure across students in the public school system.

Arizona eighth graders are supposed to be taught everything needed to ace the civics test, Ladner writes. Charter students passed at twice the rate of students in district schools; private school students were four times more likely to pass. “Still pathetic,” he writes.

Here’s part one of Freedom From Responsibility.

The $100,000+ teacher

Pay six-figure salaries to top teachers, argues a Goldwater Institute report by Matthew Ladner. It’s easily affordable by increasing class size, which would give more students access to the best teachers.

. . . Students learning from three highly effective instructors in three successive grades learn 50 percent more than students who have three consecutive ineffective instructors. These results are consistent across subjects and occur after controlling for student factors. Teacher quality is 10 to 20 times more important than variation in average class sizes, within the observable range.

They propose using value-added assessment to identify “master teachers.”  These high-fliers would be asked to teach more students in exchange for two-thirds of the revenue for the added students. Class sizes in the low 30s could generation six-figure incomes for top teachers, even in Arizona, which has relatively low teacher pay.

It’s already happening, in a quiet way, writes Stephen Sawchuck on EdWeek. Principals ask their best teachers if they’ll accept more students in exchange for more pay. The school saves by not having to hire a new teacher.

In some places, average (or very bad) teachers earn more than $100,000.  Take Francisco Garabitos, the computer teacher who threatened to blow up his Bronx school after he was suspended for allegedly attacking a student. From the New York Times:

A spokesman for the school system said Mr. Garabitos’s service has included more than a dozen allegations of misconduct, mostly for corporal punishment of students. Two of the allegations have been substantiated and two remain under investigation, including Thursday’s incident.

Twice in the last three years, Mr. Garabitos spent time in a reassignment center for teachers and other school officials removed from the schools. He also received two unsatisfactory ratings from the principal of his school. Because of his long experience and advanced degrees, Mr. Garabitos earned $100,049 a year.

He’s still on the payroll, complains the New York Daily News.