Union taught WI public school students have lower test scores than non-union Texas.

Contrary to widespread public perception, the public union educational system in Wisconsin on average does no better job of educating students than that of 5 states that do not permit teacher collective bargaining, viz, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, or Virginia. See http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2011/03/longhorns-17-badgers-1.html

Actually, Wisconsin students categorized as “black, hispanic, or asian” generally perform poorly when compared to black, hispanic, or asian categorized students from these southern states. Indeed, Texas scores are almost uniformly better than Wisconsin test scores when one compares similar ethnic categories including those categorized as “white”.

The evidence, examined, raises a question as to why?  The differences cannot be explained by per pupil spending.  Looking at 2007-2008 school year data: WI spends $10,680 per pupil on average whereas the non-union states spend ($10,659 VA; $9,788 GA; $9,170 SC; $8,320 TX; and $7,996 NC.  So although Wisconsin spends over 25% more per pupil on average than Texas it yields lower scoring students.

It may be that State test scores have a significant correlation to cultural factors relating to education. In any case, the data does not suggest that the unionized Wisconsin public school system is intrinsically superior e.g. with regard to 4th or 8th grade reading or mathematics.

Sometimes ACT scores are pointed to as indicating a supposed better education system in Wisconsin, but again when one compares ethnic groups, including a comparison of students categorized as “white” to “white” a different picture emerges.  See: http://www.act.org/news/data/10/states.html?utm_campaign=cccr10&utm_source=data&utm_medium=web

The ACT test scores when comparing ethnic categories show lower composite scores for Wisconsin when compared to North Carolina, Texas or Virginia regardless of whether the category is white, black, hispanic or asian. Wisconsin ACT composites were higher only compared to students categorized as “white”in South Carolina and Georgia (23.0 WI vs 22.1 SC & 22.9 GA).
Arguably, there may be differences due to % students taking the ACT test. WI has 69% taking the ACT versus 16% NC, 22% VA, 33% TX, 44% GA, and 52% SC. However, 100% of Illinois students take the ACT and even there Wisconsin student composite ACT scores are lower for students categorized as “black”, “hispanic” or “asian” and the “white” scores are: WI 23.0 versus IL 22.4.  It would appear that the Milwaukee school system with its heavy population of “black” categorized students is much worse than those found in states as diverse as Illinois or Texas, but is it?

An alternative view is that there is something different about the culture of those students categorized as “black” or “asian” or “hispanic” in Wisconsin when compared to other states. Some say that Wisconsin’s relatively high welfare benefits created a migration of sorts from nearby Chicago to Milwaukee.  Isn’t this the kind of question that  a daring sociologist should study?  Perhaps it isn’t culture at all, or alone, or there may be other reasons e.g. the “soft bigotry of low expectations”, but in any case there is a definite difference in test scores that merit a serious study.  However, one thing stands out, if there is a case to be made for collective bargaining or higher per capita expenditures producing better educated students, then one cannot find support with Wisconsin’s national test scores.

Get Alerts