Governor's Podium: What matters most? Schools, Money or Learning?

Friday, September 15th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

By Frank Keating, Governor of Oklahoma
e-mail Frank Keating.

Three bits of news about schools, money and learning recently answered a fundamental question: Which is more important to student success, how much we spend on education or what we teach? The answer is . . . learning matters most.

First, you will recall that Oklahoma 's ACT scores rose significantly for 2000. A central reason was that more than half of our high school seniors are now completing the ACT suggested core curriculum. Study more, learn more.

Second, the SAT also released their 2000 scores and said that one of the key factors in student success is taking demanding core courses, especially in math and science.

Third, a study by Secretary of Education Dr. Floyd Coppedge compared the 45 Oklahoma schools where students averaged below 18 on the ACT and 27 schools where ACT scores soared over 22. What was the difference? It wasn't money. In fact, per pupil spending for the 45 low performing schools was some $577 higher than in the 27 top scoring schools. In one case, a school spent $7,177 per pupil and averaged 17.9 on the ACT, while another spent $4,188 and averaged 22.3! What mattered were two variables -- the richer the course offerings, and the more students who took a core curriculum suggested by the State Regents for Higher Education, the higher the ACT scores.

The low performing schools offered an average of 26.3 high school credits, and just 60 percent of their students took the regents' core.

The top performing schools offered an average of 44 credits, and 72 percent took the core.

Certainly funding helps. You have to pay teachers and buy textbooks. But it is clear that it isn't how much we spend on schools as much as how we spend it that matters most.

More teaching in core subjects = more learning = higher test scores = greater life success. That's a clear formula, and it rebuts the "spend, spend, spend" approach to school reform.