The results from the U.S. Department of Education’s 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are in, and they are ugly.

Here’s the heartbreaking news from Detroit:

“Results from the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress exam released Wednesday show 5 percent of Detroit fourth graders scored proficient or above in math, compared to about 40 percent nationally and 34 percent statewide.

“Six percent of Detroit fourth graders were proficient or above in reading, compared to about 36 percent nationally and 29 percent in Michigan.

“Four percent of Detroit eighth graders were proficient or better in math, while only 7 percent were proficient or above in reading.

When more than nine out of ten students aren’t even “proficient” in reading or math, it is no longer a problem. It is a crisis.

And this isn’t a new crisis in Detroit. In 2009, Detroit Public Schools “posted the worst scores on record” in a related assessment.

Unfortunately, the problem isn’t just in Detroit. Nationally, “[r]esults from national math and reading tests show slipping or stagnant scores for the nation’s schoolkids.”

Already, advocates for traditional, bureaucracy-driven education are pointing the finger at funding. But in this case, simply asking for a blank check doesn’t make sense. Over the past 20 years, the amount of money we spend on education per student each year has gone up a lot — from about $8,500 to $12,605.

The U.S. Department of Education has also seen its budget explode since 2008, going from $56 billion to $77 billion, a $21 billion increase.

Detroit is in a unique place, with the city going through bankruptcy and the public school system’s finances being turned over to an emergency manager. Still, despite the crisis for the city’s students and families, it’s not for a lack of money. DPS brings in revenue of $12,931 per student — above the national average.

So when simply raising taxes and increasing the school district’s budget doesn’t work, what will?

The answer very well may be a seed that’s been planted in Detroit already. Earlier this year, one study found Detroit public charter schools are blowing public non-charters out of the water in the amount of learning students receive:

“Detroit schoolchildren in charter schools are getting a better education in reading and math than students in the city’s conventional public schools according to a report released Wednesday by an organization described as the ‘nation’s foremost independent analyst of charter school effectiveness.’

“[The study] found that each year students in Detroit charter schools receive the equivalent of a few weeks to as much as several months of additional learning (emphasis added) in reading and math compared to their peers at conventional public schools.

“Lynn Woodworth, a research analyst with CREDO… said the benefits of being in a charter school instead of a conventional public school had ‘a big impact’ for Detroit schoolchildren.

“In Boston, Detroit, the District of Columbia and Newark, charter schools outperformed conventional public schools in both reading and math.”

That’s an incredible difference that adds up over the life of the student, and in Detroit, 46,524 students need access to that additional learning, and the opportunity it brings to open the door for them to escape poverty and pursue the American Dream.

Generally, we can improve education outcomes by focusing on early childhood reading, getting parents involved, and providing families the flexibility to choose where to educate their child.

Find out more about the best way to give children equal access to a great education on our Education page, and share your thoughts for creating better outcomes for students on our Facebook page.

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