How do we know if the educational system is working?

I’d leave No Child Left Behind behind. At Dana Elementary last week, I learned this federal legislation doesn’t measure what counts.

Here’s how I measure the success of our educational system:

1. The teenage pregnancy rate.
We know what prevents teenage pregnancy. Sure, we debate the polarizing alternatives: Fathers dream of abstinence. Pharmacists and doctors recommend prophylactics (or not). And we are deeply divided on abortion. But we do know this: the success of our educational system can be measured by the number of young, unwed mothers.

How are we doing?
The teenage birth rate in United States is the highest in the developed world.

2. The smoking rate.
We know tobacco kills. The destruction of our economy and families wreaked by smoking is frightful to measure. Unethical people continue to manufacture and promote its use. But we do know this: The success of our educational system can be measured by the number of smokers. If you smoke, education failed you. If you smoke, we missed you.

How are we doing?
The World Health Organization projects a ten year decline in smoking in the United States.

3. The voting rate.
We know democracy is based on voting. Yet with only a minority of eligible voters actually casting ballots, the majority abdicates the democratic privilege that much of the world envies. If you didn’t vote in the most recent election (and are 18+), then we missed you. You aren’t well educated.

How are we doing?
Did you vote last week? If you did, were your polls crowded?

We missed him.

4. The tattoo rate.
If you get a tattoo, you can’t give blood for one year. (This might change, due to the changing risk of the transfer of blood diseases.) Since each donation can save as many as three lives, and healthy adults may give as many as six times per year, a tattoo prevents you from saving as many as 18 lives. If you have chosen a new tattoo over saving even one life, then education missed you.

How are we doing?
As David Brooks wrote in The New York Times, “We now have to work under the assumption that every American has a tattoo.”

What am I missing here?