By Patricia Tolson
According to government statistics, America’s education system is failing. According to one expert, lower expectations and the shift in focus from academic excellence in mathematics, science, reading, and history toward the implementation of social constructs like critical race theory equals fewer literate graduates.
“Public records and other evidence show that state-level and some local education officials are no longer focused on maintaining high academic standards and providing the best public education possible to students,” Liv Finne wrote in her September 2021 report (pdf) regarding the lowering of academic standards by school officials in Washington state as they implement CRT. “Instead, a concern for learning has been replaced by an aggressive political agenda designed to instill doubt, mental pain and low expectations in students. This race-centered agenda also seeks to divide children from teachers, their own communities and from each other. This harmful trend can only be resolved through policies that return high-quality academic standards to public education and well-funded and supportive education-choice programs that allow families to access alternatives services to meet the learning needs of all children.”
Finne, a former adjunct scholar now serving as Director of the Center for Education at Washington Policy Center, has been analyzing education policy for the past 13 years. Her research suggests the unmistakable decline in the literacy of America’s students from fourth to twelfth grade is a direct result of the shift from academic excellence toward social constructs such as CRT.
“Internationally, we do pretty well at the fourth grade,” Finne told The Epoch Times, “but we decline from there.” Recent statistics support her claim.
Government data for 2019 shows the average fourth grader has a 41 percent proficiency level in mathematics. By the eighth grade, the proficiency level drops to 34 percent. By the twelfth grade, America’s students have an average math proficiency level of only 24 percent. In reading, fourth graders have an average proficiency rate of 35 percent. By eighth grade, the proficiency level drops to 34 percent, and by the twelfth grade, America’s average student shows only a slight proficiency improvement to 37 percent. In writing, the proficiency levels are 28 percent in fourth grade with eighth and twelfth graders sharing a score of 27 percent.
America’s students fare worse in science, with fourth-graders having only a 36 percent proficiency rate and eighth-graders dropping to 35 percent. Twelfth-graders have only a 22 rate of proficiency in science. The worst scores come in history, with fourth-graders starting out with only 20 percent proficiency and dropping to 15 percent by the eighth grade. By grade 12, America’s students have a paltry 12 percent proficiency level in history.
Recent numbers from USA Facts show similar results.
According to Finne, there are a number of reasons for the steady decline in literacy among America’s students the longer they remain in school. Number one is “the low expectations we have of our teachers.”
The Shortage of Qualified Teachers
“We don’t expect our teachers to be particularly well educated and they are not trained to teach the science of reading,” Finne said. “So basically, we have a public school system that is negligently instructing children how to read, and it’s been going on for decades.”
Conversely, teachers blame other factors for the academic decline among America’s students.
According to a March 2021 report (pdf) by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the decline in academic achievement begins with the shortage of teachers. This shortage has triggered a domino effect, forcing principals to hire less qualified teachers or unqualified substitute teachers, which leaves students receiving instructions from teachers who lack sufficient skills and knowledge, which inevitably leads to poor levels of proficiency in basic subject matter. A May 2019 EPI study (pdf) showed nearly 30 percent of the teachers blamed low academic achievement on students “coming to school unprepared to learn.” Nearly 22 percent of teachers blamed parents who “are struggling to be involved” in their children’s education.
“More than one in five teachers (21.8 percent) report that they have been threatened and one in eight (12.4 percent) say they have been physically attacked by a student at their current school,” the 2019 report stated further. “Compounding the stress, teachers report a level of conflict with—and lack of support from—administrators and fellow teachers, and little say in their work. More than two-thirds of teachers report that they have less than a great deal of influence over what they teach in the classroom (71.3 percent) and what instructional materials they use (74.5 percent), which suggests low respect for their knowledge and judgment.”
Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University School of Education blames inequity of funding and resource allocation for the low scholastic skills of America’s students, insisting that the analyses of recent data reveal that “on every tangible measure—from qualified teachers to curriculum offerings—schools serving greater numbers of students of color had significantly fewer resources than schools serving mostly white students.” Darling-Hammond further suggests that “policies associated with school funding, resource allocations, and tracking leave minority students with fewer and lower-quality books, curriculum materials, laboratories, and computers; significantly larger class sizes; less qualified and experienced teachers; and less access to high-quality curriculum.”
Finne suggested another reason why the system doesn’t correct itself is that the education system is a monopoly run by the government and there’s no way to hold the system accountable for results. “We have tried for 40 years, since the report during the Reagan years—A Nation at Risk—revealed we were in real trouble in our education system,” Finne said.
Since then, Finne said other top-down efforts like Common Core, pushed by the Obama administration, also failed. Rather than improving education, the testing standards set by Common Core actually furthered illiteracy because those standards were “based on good intentions” and policies “to make everyone feel good, but they failed because it’s based on a government monopoly system that ultimately degrades the quality of education.”
Lowering the Academic Achievement Bar
Rather than develop curriculum that provides students with the qualifications needed to graduate high school, Finne says the education system has opted to lower the bar of academic standards.
“They’re lowering the bar in a couple of ways,” Finne explained. “Like the Ethnic Studies framework passed by the State of Washington in 2019, critical race theory concepts are now woven into the learning standards of all of the different subjects.”
As Finne explains, traditional educational standards have been reorganized into systems of oppression and the whole CRT construct—a “false philosophy from radical professors in higher education” is now being “imposed as the truth” in the standards of learning in K-12 schools.
“When you take attention away from the basics, and focus on teaching this ideology, you’re going to get a lowered level of knowledge and skill acquisition of the basics in reading, math, history, and science; not to mention learning falsehoods in history like the 1619 Project,” Finne insisted. “It’s astonishing.”
Finne also cited the movement to get rid of testing.
“I see the state board of education is now working on eliminating the need for tests,” Finne noted, and while she is not a big proponent of testing and believes students are currently being “over-tested,” she believes the elimination of all testing would be a disaster because we would not know which kids are falling behind and we would lose the proof that the current standards are failing.
Finne explained that one of the things the top-down reforms did was to require state tests to measure student knowledge in math, reading, and science. Those tests revealed a huge academic achievement gap of 20 to 30 points between white and Asian students and those of black, Hispanic, and Native American children.
“So, the CRT concepts come along by virtue of the radicals,” Finne said. “Educators no longer learn how to teach reading writing and science. They learn how to teach social justice to the children. So, their priorities have been turned completely upside down. We’re not focused on teaching children who aren’t doing well in schools to a higher level. We’re lowering the bar.”
According to Finne’s September 2021 (pdf) report for Washing Policy Center, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in Washington State is now in the process of lowering learning standards in the areas of English language arts, history, social studies, math, and science, and replacing them with standards that “incorporate best practices in Ethnic Studies.” They are also developing Ethnic Studies materials for K-12 grades. The decision follows Washington State Governor Jay Inslee’s signing of SB 5044 J (pdf) in April, which requires CRT training for all school staff, board directors, teachers, and administrators in public schools across the state. Earlier, in 2019, the legislature voted to weaken the official definition of “Basic Education” by shifting learning resources away from core academic standards to “producing global citizens in a global society with an appreciation for diverse cultures.”
The Status Quo System
According to Finne, the new push by the school system to abandon efforts of academic achievement and shift toward social constructs like CRT is an effort to hide the fact that they have failed in their jobs to educate our children. “The whole idea is that if the community knew that their schools are not educating their children to basic levels they would rise up,” Finne said. “Just look what’s happening now with the uprising of parents against CRT in places like Loudoun County [Virginia] and they’re still going forward with it. It’s a huge uphill battle for parents.”
“The whole system has promoted children whether they learn the content or not,” Finne said. “So why should they care if a whole generation of children lost the content of a year? It’s consistent with their practice. They do not individualize education. They don’t make sure each, individual child is ready to go on to the next grade. They move them along, especially minority children. The only people blocking real reform are the defenders of the status quo, the ones who like it just the way it is.”
Teachers Unions are indeed the ones who fight against charter schools, school choice, and parental involvement and fought to keep kids out of classrooms during the COVID-19 outbreak. According to Finne, “if they really cared about black lives, they would be expanding their options for charter schools. But they’re not. If these critical race theorists are truly intent on helping the children, they would be going after the unions. But they’re not.”
‘Remove all Indicators’ of Failure
Through the years, schools have sought to eliminate the concept of winning to protect the feelings of those who lost. It started when teachers stopped using red pens in grading because it was suggested by experts that “the use of a red pen may convey unintentional negative emotions.” It was later suggested that teacher’s stop using behavior charts because “rewards are for training pets, not people” and “treating behavior as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is part of an antiquated paradigm that doesn’t take into consideration a child’s temperament, developmental stage or emotional needs.” Schools went on to do away with keeping score in sports, eliminating valedictorians and trophies. Now schools are trying to eliminate standardized testing because it’s supposedly racist.
“With test scores going down, now they want to take tests out altogether,” Finne lamented. “That’s not the way forward. If you study CRT ideology, it’s consistent with their thinking, that ‘the system is racist, whites are oppressors, the only reason why minority children aren’t getting ahead is because they’re unfairly treated compared to whites. So how do we fix that? We remove all indicators that show we aren’t doing well as educators.”
On July 14, 2021, Oregon Democratic Gov. Kate Brown quietly signed a bill that drops the requirement that high school students demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, or math before graduation.
In the effort “to address learning loss due to the 2020-2021 school closures,” Virginia’s Alexandria City Public Schools instituted a new policy (pdf) that stopped requiring students to complete homework assignments on time, declared final exams grades “will only be counted if it does not lower the student’s final grade for the course,” and ruled that “the lowest grade that may be awarded on a final exam is 50 percent.”
In November 2021, California State University proudly announced the dramatic growth in the number of graduates after lowering the standards for graduation.
In July of 2021, Nevada’s Clark County School Board voted to revise the district’s grading policy to only allow grades above 50 percent, to allow students to revise assignments, retake tests, and to eliminate some behavioral factors like attendance and participation from grades.
Citing racial inequity as the motivation, several schools in Southern California have directed teachers to ditch the standard A-F grading system and apply grades based on whether or not they believe students have learned what was expected of them rather than penalizing them for behavior, work habits, and missed assignment deadlines. New York did the same thing in January 2021.
The Silver COVID-19 Lining
Ironically, Finne believes the greatest hope for the education of America’s children will rise from the ashes of the COVID-19 school lockdowns.
“The silver lining is we will eventually figure out how terrible it has been,” Finne said. “Through the COVID shutdowns it has become clear how far behind so many kids are and the movements to expand school choice is not going away, because parents have woken up. That’s what’s so exciting about the COVID school shutdowns. Together with the takeover of the schools by this crazy critical race theory idea that children are bad and if they’re white they’re racist and if they’re not white they’re victims, that is going to lead to lawsuits.
“Maybe out of the ashes of this, school choice will arise,” Finne opined of the educational chaos that ensued during the lockdowns. “This is still a democracy. The exchange of ideas is still happening in education because we do care about our children. That’s what I’m hoping; that people will see the wisdom of giving parents real control, not just window dressing like involving parents and having parent involvement coordinators, but real control.”