It's been no secret for centuries that knowledge is power, and in Pennsylvania, the Education Department is getting ready to empower the taxpayers by sharing what it knows about the performance of Pennsylvania's 501 school districts.
In an effort to make it easier for residents to access and understand the wealth of information that the state has amassed about Pennsylvania's school districts, the department has turned to the private sector.
Standard & amp; Poor's, a company that is famous for rating the fiscal health of corporations and government agencies, will release its assessment of spending and academic performance for each school district in September. Everything will be available on the Internet.
We'll be interested to see how detailed Standard and Poor's information is.
Ohio does a pretty good job of making its annual "report cards" on the state's school districts available on the Internet, but only pretty good.
Back in 1998, the General Assembly allowed political correctness to get in the way of sharing information when it ordered the Ohio Department of Education to suppress some of its data.
What isn't seen: The lawmakers told the educators not to include a comparison of student proficiency scores by race and gender for every school building in each of the state's 611 school districts. An active and vocal cadre of school superintendents got the legislature to step in so as to avoid, as one superintendent put it, "a lot of finger-pointing that would be bad for kids."
These people would rather not know -- or at least would rather that the public not know -- if one race, or one gender or one school building full of kids is failing, while another group across town is succeeding. To these folks, knowledge isn't power; ignorance is bliss.
More damage has been done to American students in the name of making them feel good about themselves than anyone can calculate.
There's an interesting phenomenon in public education in America. While most people seem to think that public education is in trouble, especially in the nation's cities, when people are asked about their own schools -- even in the weakest performing districts -- a majority of people say they're satisfied with their child's school. Clearly, feelings have more to do with these assessments than facts.
And that's why it is important that people be given as much factual information about the performance of their schools as is available. Even if it hurts someone's feelings. Even if it makes some people re-evaluate how they perceive their own child's teacher or principal -- for better or for worse.
Just the facts: Standard & amp; Poor's has a reputation in business for not pulling punches. They make an assessment based on facts, not feelings.
We hope Pennsylvania allows Standard & amp; Poor's to provide the state's taxpayers with all the available information they could possibly want, which is something Ohio's politicians couldn't bring themselves to do.