Walter E. Williams
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Instead of President Obama addressing school students across the nation, he might have accomplished more by focusing his attention on the educational rot in schools in the nation's capital. The American Legislative Exchange Council recently came out with their 15th edition of "Report Card on American Education: A State-by-State Analysis." Academic achievement in no state is much to write home about but in Washington, D.C., by any measure, it approaches criminal fraud. Let's look at the numbers.

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Only 14 percent of Washington's fourth-graders score at or above proficiency in the reading and math portions of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test. Their national rank of 51 makes them the nation's worst. Eighth-graders are even further behind with only 12 percent scoring at or above proficiency in reading and 8 percent in math and again the worst performance in the nation. One shouldn't be surprised by Washington student performance on college admissions tests. They have an average composite SAT score of 925 and ACT score of 19.1, compared to the national average respectively of 1017 and 21.1. In terms of national ranking, their SAT and ACT rankings are identical to their fourth- and eighth-grade rankings -- dead last.

Washington's political and education establishment might excuse these outcomes by arguing that because most students are black, the schools are underfunded and overcrowded. Let's look at such a claim. During the 2006-07 academic year, expenditures per pupil averaged $13,848 compared to a national average of $9,389. That made Washington's per pupil expenditures the third highest in the nation coming in behind New Jersey ($14,998) and New York ($14,747). Washington's teacher-student ratio is 13.9 compared with the national average of 15.3 students per teacher, ranking 18th in the nation. What about teacher salaries? Washington's teachers are the highest paid in the nation, having an average annual salary of $61,195 compared with the nation's average $46,593. Despite the academic performance of Washington's students, they have a graduation rate of 61 percent compared to the national average of 70 percent. That suggests the issuance of fraudulent high school diplomas.

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Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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