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Grandfather Education Report
main report, page 2 of 2
(updated July 2006)
by Micheal Hodges  (email)
- a chapter of the Grandfather Economic Reports -


Graduation Hat

GOAL: The best quality in the world, without any doubt !

Erosion of Education Quality & Productivity

[or, return to page 1, MAIN PAGE of EDUCATION REPORT ]

Acknowledgment: Dr. Walter Williams, Chairman, Department of Economics, George Mason University, said about this presentation: "It's very good and informative. I shall keep it as a handy reference. Best wishes, keep up the good work whilst keeping the faith."


  1. "I can assure you these are facts", Bill Mechlenburg - problem summary, plus productivity data table on spending and test scores*
  2. A negative correlation between educational achievement and expenditures, Dr. Walter Williams. Department of Economics, George Mason University
  3. Teachers Choose Private Schools - 35 years decline by Milton Friedman, The Philadelphia Daily News 2/14/96
  4. Competition can help reform our schools, reporting on Chrysler Corporation President Robert Lutz, by Cal Thomas
  5. What Does Private Schooling Cost? Less than public schools, Cato Institute Study
  6. Education Around the World, U.S. & News Reports
  7. Don't Blame Johnny - Apologists insist scores down because fraction of students taking the test is up. That's WRONG!- by E Rubenstein, National Review
  8. Inflated Grading Standards & Social Promotions Short-change parents and students - teachers & professors report this is the norm. by M. Hodges *
  9. Poll: Voters consider public schools Mediocre or a Failure (March 1997, Florida) - 67% cite low academic standards - 58% lax discipline - 47% incompetent teachers - 33% bad principals - 75% favor eliminating teacher tenure.
  10. Home-schoolers consistently out-score others regardless of race or economic background (stay-at-home parenting).
  11. Potential solutions and Actions by Bill Mechlenburg *
  12. Recommendations to school boards - - by author-researcher Michael Hodges.


Grandfather International Education Report - foreign nations more intense developing math & science - high % of college math & science graduates U.S. universities are foreign students. OECD claims 'U.S. primary & secondary schools mediocre at best.' *
Grandfather International Evaluation Report - new evaluation summary 11/96 -
DOE Secretary concerned - awaiting raw data *
College Standards Report - 81% reduce admission & achievement standards, fewer classroom days, compared to prior generations - - freshmen needing remedial courses escallate.*
Comments by Teachers, Students, Parents - about U.S. public education
problems and quality - - getting worse, not better *
Parental Choice & Vouchers - not a 'rich-kid' gimmick - minorities want it - with good reason *
Centralized Power & Control - half all revenues outside control of parents & local school boards*
Error-laden textbooks - - called unacceptable by experts, and honors science books of less value than simple readers during the 1940s*
Unions - the problem of union power in our school system*

Grandfather Education Report - main page *

GO To HOME Page of the GRANDFATHER ECONOMIC REPORTS* - a collection of reports of economic conditions facing young families and their children, compared to prior generations*

An Interview with Milton Friedman - a Nobel laureate - Spring 1996 - on education quality and solutions
Low Achievement, High Satisfaction - grading practices give parents wrong impression
Happy Talkers Are Wrong; Achievement Has Declined - a restructuring of the test
The True National Education Association - a research report of NEA stance on issue, by Michael Patterson
Summary Statistics from DOE source - CER statistics on spending, salaries, enrollment, etc.

(* denotes a part of the Grandfather Economic Report series)


I can assure you that these are facts
about our educational system

  1. Despite astronomical increases in spending, educational attainment levels have declined and are nothing short of criminal, especially in most of our large inner cities including our Nation's Capitol. Our graduation rate statistics are meaningless because we have been graduating students from high school with grade school attainment levels. [Twelve years of schooling is not twelve years of Education]
  2. The problem IS NOT insufficient money. It might even be too much money! Bigger schools do not improve education.
  3. Instead of improving the system we have been dumbing down the requirements! Remedial education courses at our colleges and universities have been skyrocketing, because our secondary schools have failed to prepare students for college and the real world of work world.
  4. Our public school monopoly controlled by the teacher unions and the educational bureaucracy are inhibiting real improvement.
  5. Evidently our President is convinced that our public schools are failing our youth and that the current education establishment is incompetent and will not fix the problem. His solution is to recruit one million volunteers to teach 3rd grade students how to read. Imagine bringing in volunteers to teach that which the education system has already been paid handsomely to do! This is a full admission that the public school system is completely broken, not from lack of money, but from incompetence and lack of competition.
  6. Private schools, even in the big city ghettos, are providing better education at one half to one third the cost of the public school system.
  7. The major difference between public and private schools is the systems motivation and incentives. The public schools client/customer is the education system's bureaucracy. Public schools are designed and run to satisfy this establishment - not the parents. The private schools client/customer is the parents and everything is designed to satisfy them in order to attract students. Real competition with each other to provide high quality at a competitive cost.
  8. The real solution to our education problem is to introduce parental choice and competition. Until this is done we're going to keep on just satisfying the educational establishment by allowing them to waste more money without getting performance in return.

Many parents know the above statements are true. The system must be revised to provide for full parental choice and responsibility of parents for obtaining the best education possible for their children. The current situation is wasting our nation's resources, and more important it is cheating our children out of a world-class education and placing the nation's future at risk.

dataIn addition to the above, the table at the left contains data on inflation-adjusted spending per student (in 1993 dollars) and SAT scores, 1960-1994. Column #1 shows per student spending, adjusted for inflation, increased more than three times, while SAT scores fell (column #2). The last column represents an index for Education Productivity, which relates SAT output per dollar of real spending per student, with 1960 set for 100. The comparable productivity score for 1994 is 29% - - meaning, the Productivity Index fell 71% in the past 34 years. The fact that SAT scores fell, as real spending per student soared upward, is a true tragedy of U.S. education.

UPDATING: April 1997. It would be brought up to date further to include 1995, except for two problems with the base data: the Education Statistical Digest for 1996 spending has certain errors when correcting for inflation adjustments; and, since the SAT test series was revised it does not therefore provide an 'apples and apples' relationship to prior years. (author note: another, newer test series, called NAEP tests are of no value to parents since all students are not tested and no individual report goes to student's parent. With former SAT scores, students and their parents knew where they stood, compared to those taking the same test in prior years.)

What does private education cost? Less than you might think, Cato study finds
Source: The Cato Institute March 26, 1996

A school voucher for $3,000 per student per year would give more families the option of sending their children to non government schools, according to a new Cato Institute study.

In "What Would a School Voucher Buy? The Real Cost of Private Schools", analysts David Boaz, executive vice president of Cato, and R. Morris Barrett, a writer in New York, report that 67 percent of all private elementary and secondary schools charge $2,500 or less for tuition, while average public school per pupil expenditures are $6,857. "A program of vouchers or tax credits, with a figure of $3,000 or so per student, will give families the clout to bring about a revolution in education," the authors conclude. "Schools will compete, expand, innovate, and proliferate. We know that affordable, high-quality private schools are out there. Why do we not give all children access to them?"

The Cato study examined costs of private schools in four cities of different sizes and income levels in different regions and concludes that in the 1994-95 school year, each city contained many private schools that charged $3,000 or less.

Education around the world
US News & World Report, April 1, 1996

High school students in Japan, France, Germany spend more than twice as many hours studying math, history and science as US students. In these countries about half of all students take advanced examinations: a third pass. Only 6.6% of US students take advanced placement exams and 4.4% pass.

Average days in school: Japan 240 ,Korea 222,Taiwan 222, Israel 215, US 178. In addition, their school days tend to be longer, they assign more homework and apply more discipline in the classroom. [editor note: These items alone place U.S. youth at a significant competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace].

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Were you surprised when, on 20 February 1997, ABC-TV Evening News reported U.S. 8th graders scored behind 27 other nations in math? The quality gap is real, compared to foreign nations today, and to prior generations at home. (for a picture status of the international situation, see the Grandfather International Education Report )

Dr. Walter Williams, Chairman - Dept. of Economics - George Mason University

In 1983, the President's Commission on Excellence in Education published it's "Nation At risk" report.,

There is a strong case for a negative correlation between educational achievement and expenditures. In 1991, Iowa, Arizona, and Utah's were respectively, $4,344, $3276 and $2,629. Average SAT scores were respectively, 1093, 1005 and 1031. New York, New Jersey and Washington, DC respectively spend $7550, $7795 and $7550. Their respective SAT scores were 881, 885 and 840

Dr. Milton Friedman by The Philadelphia Daily News 2/14/96, by W. Russell G. Byers:

Competition can help reform our schools
Chrysler Corporation President Robert Lutz
[Article by Cal Thomas, a syndicated columnist]

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.

Don't Blame Johnny
by E Rubenstein, Sept. 26, 1994, National Review

Lack of Grading & Measurement Standards Short-change Parents
- M. Hodges


Mike-This is appalling but not unexpected in a system that has no incentive to excel. We have union assembly line teachers producing 12 years of schooling to students instead of an education. They have every incentive to avoid the hassle of being demanding of students and tough on grading. It's far easier to give everyone a good grade and pass them on up the line.

This weeks issue of US News & World Report had an article on how computers were being used to help teach algebra. They were talking about 14 and 15 year old students. As an example of how the teacher assisted students they mentioned a girl that could not solve the following problem. A person making ice cones made 50 cents on each cone. She sold 200 cones and had to pay $50 rent. what was her profit? The teacher had to show her how to solve this problem! This isn't an algebra problem. It's just old fashioned early grade school arithmetic!

Industry could not survive without product and performance standards. Why do we not run our schools with equal effectiveness? I submit that it is because schools are essentially a monopoly with little or no competition. What you get is the Communist automobile that was overly expensive and didn't run very well.

What is needed is the ASTM of education that establishes industry wide standards for each grade level and then annual testing once a year of all students at their grade level. Testing should be administered by an outside unbiased source to prevent diddling the results. And the results for each student should be sent to each parent and overall results for each school should be widely published so parents have objective comparative data on schools. Don't ask me how to prevent the teacher unions from blocking these reforms. I wish I knew. Bill (for another input on unions, see Union Report.)

Comments from teachers, professors and students confirm that dumbing down of quality standards, grade inflation and social promotion are not only the norm, but escalating - and teachers are much less effective than years ago and they are embarrassed, scared, and frustrated. (see the Comments by Others Report

Poll shows Florida voters consider public schools mediocre or a failure

67% said low academic standards - 58% lax discipline - 47% say incompetent teachers

75% favor elimination of teacher tenure - 55% for much smaller school districts with local control
Mason-Dixon Florida Poll - AP, also published in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, March 31, 1997 (excerpts from)

Miami - More than half of Florida voters in a new poll (March 21-24, 1997) consider their county school systems mediocre or a failure, while only one-fifth give schools good marks. The Mason-Dixon poll found dis-satisfaction running high among the well-educated, white suburban voters. This is an ominous sign for public education, since well-educated suburbanites have long provided support for financing, said Bob Joffee, pollster - and that same group provides much of the crucial swing vote in statewide elections.

Among the key findings: 67% cited low academic standards, 67% overcrowded classrooms, 58% said lax discipline, 47% cite incompetent teachers, 33% cite incompetent principals, more than 20% cite incompetent administrators, cronyism and wasteful spending. 75% favor elimination of teacher tenure, 55% in favor of splitting large school districts into much smaller ones. Many districts are so large, making local control of schools a myth.

"In 1998, 70% of Florida's 10th graders scored below the basic reading level. Only half of our students graduate from high school." (quotes from June 1999 newsletter by State Representative Mark Ogles to his constituents).

Author note: The results of this poll further confirm the significant degradation in our education quality, despite years and years of massive inflation-adjusted increases in per student spending, as shown in The Education Report - and a 35-year 71% decline in the Education Productivity Index. Meanwhile, the established education bureaucracy and union try to explain away all responsibility, claiming the tests need to be revised, plus placing all blame on parents. This a 'criminal' dis-service to our young - as if such approaches will make the issue disappear. This recent poll sends one of many loud and clear messages: taxpayers want meaningful corrective action - - and of a type they accept - which requires a major re-structuring of our primary and secondary public education delivery system - from one end to the other - - not tinkering at the edges and more money or rationalizations. They have called the present system "mediocre and a failure", by a large margin. This 1997 poll of Florida citizens uses the same word, mediocre, in describing U.S. public schools - - the very same word used by the respected international Organization of Cooperation and Development (OECD) which described U.S. schools as mediocre, at best". (see also the Centralized Power Report).

Additionally, its interesting that 47% blame incompetent teachers in the above poll and 75% call for elimination of public school teacher tenures, while so many public school teachers send their own kids to private school for reasons of quality and discipline, yet few private schools offer tenure to their teachers. (according to the Philadelphia Daily News approximately half of its public school teachers send their own kids to private schools; according to Imprimis April 1997 (Hillsdale College) 53% of Cleveland's public school teachers do the same thing; in Boston its 49%; in Los Angeles its 39%). Parents cannot be pleased with the output of quality, as shown by the above poll - - in Florida 42% of the state's students who enter college require remedial education, according to Jeb Bush, chairman, Foundation for Florida' Future.

Bottom-line: The trend in the level of dissatisfaction with schools is accelerating, to the point of overwhelming majorities. And, the above poll shows more than half of Florida's voters are dissatisfied with their public school - - about the same percentage of public school teachers in the above areas that reject use of public schools for their own kids.

Signicantly outscore public school students
in SATs,  ACTs,  spelling & geography bees.
Three times more students are home-schooled than in charter schools,
and growing 11% per year
- stay-at-home parenting.

(also see the section on Textbooks)

Potential Solutions to Education System Problems, and Actions
By Bill Mechlenburg

First: we must make certain assumptions based on objective data.
Our present public school system, despite escalating spending per student, has seen declining and intolerable educational attainment.

All enterprises work to satisfy their client/customers. The basic incentives, in public education, to improved performance are wrong. The public school client/customer is the educational bureaucracy.

In private schools the client/customer is the parent and this is why private schools out perform public schools. Because public school students are assigned by the school system to their schools their is no competition to satisfy the client/customer, the parent.

Potential solution:
We know from experience in the private economy that free market competition drives costs down and quality up. We need to create a market driven educational system with the emphasis on improving the quality of education. To accomplish this, parents must have free choice on where to send their children to school including vouchers so that they will have the financial where with all to actually exercise this free choice.

Secondly parents must have available to them, objective data on the quality and performance of all schools so they can make an informed choice.

To accomplish this we need to do the following:
Close down the Federal Dept. of Education and discontinue all federal regulatory involvement in education. Send the money back to the local communities via a tax reduction equivalent to the cost of this department - about $35 billion dollars.

Encourage states to establish free competition in their educational system via the following or some similar system that provides parental choice and competition:

  1. Change all public schools to a paid tuition system instead of free.
  2. Provide tuition vouchers to all students equal to present average cost per student in the local area. Permit all parents to send their children to the school of their choice, private or public, using these vouchers.
  3. The Governors Association should establish an Educational Assessment Board to establish standard Educational Attainment tests for each grade level - one through 12. These tests, administered annually will permit parents to objectively evaluate each schools performance against all others.

Because 85% of private schools have some religious affiliation and are also the most effective educators it is necessary to permit the use of vouchers at the schools under the provision they not be used for religious education or functions.

Can vouchers be used to pay for education at schools operated by religious organizations? Of course they can. The first amendment to the Constitution states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, etc."

Vouchers do not do anything "respecting the establishment of religion" . Pell grants, student loans and other government grants go to religious Colleges and Universities with no constitutional problems. This will effectively set up free market competition between the schools and make them compete for students. The competition would be weighted in favor of quality of education versus cost, which is as it should be.

Like all things in this world, nothing is perfect. Special classes and vouchers will have to be provided at higher voucher cost for the learning impaired but this is needed under the present system. Students of normal or high learning ability should not be held back by others who cannot keep up. It is ridiculous and an unconscionable waste of talent to lower our whole educational system to the lowest common denominator.

There will be some schools which have low cost and good performance that will get a flood of students and their large profits will permit them to build new facilities and expand to meet the demand. Other high cost schools or schools of low quality will not make a profit and will need to either shape up (the most likely scenario), cut back , merge with a better school system or close down. Just like in the private economy, over time, high performing schools will thrive and grow and poor performing schools will wither and disappear. This competition will work to constantly upgrade the quality of our educational system.

There may be other ways to solve this problem but it is critical that they contain the following minimum requirements:

  1. Competition between schools is critical to success. Full parental choice is critical to obtaining this competition. Real and effective school choice requires that parents have vouchers that permit them to send their children to the best schools available - public or private.
  2. Each school must have maximum freedom to make decisions on how their school will be operated. Government regulation must be kept to an absolute minimum. All federal regulation should be eliminated. State regulation should be minimized in favor of local regulation and this held to an absolute minimum.
  3. There must be standard objective (quality measures) data available on the performance of all schools and this data must be available to the public so parents can make informed choices. And, the standard tests to produce said data should also include examination type items from the best foreign schools - - to help assure proper attention to global competition.

As long as these minimum requirements are met the details of the system are secondary.

from research-author Michael Hodges

except reporting collective results by district

From my years of extensive research, compiled in the Education Report series - - the following recommendations are offered to produce a world-class education quality system in America - - one that can top all other nations, instead of sadly lagging most others as today's status.



If you are as concerned for our youth as we then perhaps if you notify others of this web-site, plus print these pages and deliver to your congressional representatives


Home page web site address of the Grandfather Education Report is:

Grandfather International Education Report- foreign nations more intense developing math & science - high % of college math & science graduates U.S. universities are foreign students. Paris-based OECD claims our schools are mediocre, at best.

Return to Education Report page 1

GO To HOME Page and Table of Contents of the GRANDFATHER ECONOMIC REPORTS - a collection of reports of economic conditions facing young families and their children, compared to prior generations.

Exchange information via E-mail to Michael Hodges


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