It's always nice to get an "atta boy" from Dad, which may explain why Gov. Ed Rendell chose to have Bill Cosby -- America's dad and Philadelphia's favorite son -- at his side when he touted Pennsylvania's performance in a nationwide educational study.
A report released Wednesday by the Center for Education Policy, an independent national organization, concluded that Pennsylvania's students had the broadest and most consistent growth in the nation on math and reading tests from 2002 to 2008. The state's fourth-, eighth- and 11th-graders showed gains that held true whether students were performing at basic, proficient or advanced levels, designations that count under the federal No Child Left Behind act.
The Washington, D.C., group concluded that no other state showed improvement in elementary, middle and high schools in all performance groups, but the study does not mean that Pennsylvania's achievement levels are the highest. For example, only 56 percent of the state's high school juniors were proficient in math and 65 percent in reading.
The timing of the report, which compiled data from all 50 states, could not have been better for Mr. Rendell, who is in a standoff with Senate Republicans over education funding.
Accompanied by teachers and students as he made the announcement in the state Capitol, Mr. Rendell said the report reinforces his argument both that state funding initiatives already have triggered significant gains and that more improvement -- and more money to fund preschool, kindergarten and basic education programs -- is needed.
Mr. Cosby, the comedian who left Philadelphia's Central High School after 10th grade but went on to earn a doctoral degree in education, emphasized Mr. Rendell's point by gesturing to the children behind him and said, "No more cuts."
Dad was pleased with Mr. Rendell's report card showing the value of effective spending on education. The governor's legislative opponents should take notice.