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Are U.S. Schools’ Standards Not Making the Grade?
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Are U.S. Schools’ Standards Not Making the Grade? Sherman Financial Group Comments

Sherman Financial Group, the global investment company that founded the Charleston, SC based Meeting School Academy, has spoken out regarding the poor standards of the American school system.

In January 2002, then-President George W. Bush signed No Child Left Behind into law, which ushered in an era of standardized test-based school reform. In the years since, according to the Sherman Financial Group, No Child Left Behind has brought with it twelve years of failure and missed goals, with many states not meeting their required average yearly progress.

The concept of yearly progress, a prerequisite of No Child Left Behind, requires that educators perform a better job with the same students than the previous year’s teacher. The reality however, is that each year brings a new class which is expected to perform significantly better than the class before them.

In an everyday classroom situation, No Child presents an impossible standard. According to a report in the Washington Post, 24 children in a 30-student third-grade class had to pass testing to meet the required standard in 2012. Last year, 28 different third-grade students needed pass to meet the higher standard. This year, each one of the 30 new third-graders must pass.

The system requires different students with different backgrounds and capabilities to accomplish higher results than the batch of students who preceded them. Consequently, the rate of No Child school failures grows each year, says Mary Fertakis, a 19-year school board director in Tukwila, WA.

“No Child Left Behind’s stated goal was that all students would achieve virtually 100 percent proficiency on each state’s reading and math tests by 2014. The law was supposed to be rewritten in 2007, but for seven years Congress has failed to exercise its legislative responsibility to rewrite and reauthorize the law. The U.S. Department of Education stepped in to do the policy work of Congress (which is an over-reach of its function) by creating a waiver process to address the reality that no state was going to achieve 100 percent proficiency in all 37 areas dictated by the law,” Fertakis adds.

Sherman Financial Group believes that the burgeoning level of failure is leaving American schools on the wane, particularly when compared to schools throughout the rest of the world. This is backed up by the results of a recent Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development report, which states that the U.S. spends $15,171 per student, while student performance lags behind many other nations. By comparison, the report states that Japan spends on average, $4,575 less per student.


Japanese students, however score higher than American students by 33 points on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test.

The PISA tests bring even more bad news for U.S. schools, as the country lags behind sixteen other world economies including Poland, Estonia, and South Korea in terms of student literacy – the ability to read, integrate, and evaluate texts. Student rankings on math are poorer still, with U.S. scores falling below countries including Slovenia, Hungary, and Taiwan. The United States also harbors some of the widest gaps in test scores between stronger and weaker students.

In terms of financial spending on students, analysis by economists Eric Hanushek at Stanford University and Ludgar Woessman at the University of Munich suggests that only Switzerland spends at a similar level to the U.S. on education per child. The Czech Republic, which marks higher that the U.S. on the PISA math tests, spends about a third of the American outlay.

Sherman Financial Group believes that while some form of standardization is essential in U.S. schools, the country needs to shift its focus to move forward. The standardized factors in the U.S. are what gets taught, and how kids get assessed. By contrast, the countries that perform at a higher level in PISA testing are standardized on factors like how the schools are funded and how teachers are trained.

This assessment is backed up by Sam Chaltain, a D.C.-based writer and education activist, who notes in an interview with Forbes, “Imagine how differently the landscape of modern school reform would look if we stopped funding schools inequitably—even the U.S. Supreme Court has characterized our approach as “chaotic and unjust”—and started funding all schools the same, regardless of the surrounding community’s property values? We’d solve the riddle of comprehensive school reform in record time.”

Benjamin Navarro, Chief Executive Officer of Sherman Financial Group, founded the Meeting School Academy in 2008 as a response to the poor standard of education available to underprivileged children in Charleston. The company funds everything from teacher salaries to school uniforms for students, and has begun to expand with further schools in the area. The fruits of their labor are being rewarded with their third graders outscoring the national average in every subject tested, but Navarro and Sherman Financial Group remain concerned about children throughout the country who are not being helped to achieve such standards.

Their hope is that the criteria being met at the Meeting School Academy can be carried out at other schools throughout the country. As Benjamin Navarro, CEO of Sherman Financial Group, explained, “We strive to provide the highest standards that are efficient and can be utilized by others in the education system.”

Stephen Elliott contributed to this article.

Latest Activity: Jun 03, 2014 at 4:01 AM

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