By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) – Every couple of years, the National Assessment of Educational Progress releases a short-term snapshot of how students fare in science, civics or other subjects.
But it doesn't quite answer the big question: How are students really doing?
That's the job of a report released Thursday, "The Nation's Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress 2012." It's an assessment released every four years that tracks U.S. students' performance in reading and math since the 1970s. The 2012 assessment included more than 50,000 students from public and private schools. It tracks them at ages 9, 13 and 17, regardless of grade level, and compares their performance using tests - mostly multiple-choice questions - that take about an hour to complete.
Here are five things to know about academic progress since the 1970s, according to the 2012 report.
9-year-olds and 13-year-olds outscore 1970s counterparts
Indeed, those kids scored higher in reading and math. In reading, 9-year-olds and 13-year-olds improved at every level, so even the lowest-performing kids now are ahead of the lowest-performing kids then. In fact, kids in the low and middle range showed the greatest gains.
17-year-olds? Not so much
Seventeen-year-old students aren't scoring better in reading and math, but their scores aren't falling, either. In reading, the lowest-performing 17-year-olds made gains since the 1970s, as did lower- and middle-performing 17-year-olds in math. But scores overall are about the same as in the early 1970s – and that might not be all bad. In a conference call with reporters, Peggy Carr, associate commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics' assessment division, pointed out that there are far fewer dropouts than in the 1970s; even with more kids in school, performance has remained steady.
Gender gaps are shrinking
Just as in the 1970s, girls perform better in reading, and boys perform better in math.
But female students are narrowing the math gap, or even eliminating it. "In 2012, there were no significant gender gaps in mathematics at age 9 and 13," the report says. "At age 17, male students scored higher in mathematics than female students. The gender gap in 2012 at age 17, however, was narrower than in 1973 due to the increase in the average score for female students."
Meanwhile, male students are squeezing the gap in reading by showing significant improvement at age 9.
Black and Hispanic students are making gains
Consider just how much students' demographics have changed: In 1978, 80% of U.S. students were white, 13% were black, 6% were Hispanic and 1% were Asian. In 2012, 56% of students were white, 15% were black, 21% were Hispanic and 6% were Asian.
White students still perform better than black and Hispanic students in reading, but the gaps between white and black and white and Hispanic are narrower for all ages. It's particularly noticeable among 9-year-olds: "The average score for black students was 36 points higher in 2012 than in 1971 ... and the score for white students was 15 points higher," the report says. "The average score for Hispanic students increased 25 points from 1975, and the score for white students increased 12 points."
In math, white students performed better overall, but black and Hispanic students made larger gains than white students since 1973.
Take another look at that summer reading list
At age 9, 53% of students say they read for fun at home almost every day. By age 13, it's 27%. At 17, it's down to 19%. The percentages for 9-year-olds have remained the same since 1984, when the question was first asked, but it has decreased over time for 13- and 17-year-olds. Why does it matter?
"At all three ages, students who reported reading for fun almost daily or once or twice a week scored higher than did students who reported reading for fun a few times a year or less," the report says.
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I told myself that I would not indulge, but I cannot help myself.
I have been an educator (science and math plus administrator) for over 20 years. I have taught in CA, WA, England, Germany, and Costa Rica. Before education, I was an officer in the U.S. Navy.
With that being said... the problems in the U.S. are not the fault of the children. You cannot blame a child for the way that he/she turns out. You cannot blame parents to a large degree for their parenting when our society allows such behavior. Few Americans want to accept the collective blame for our current situation. There is no one magical solution, so stop looking for one and passing the blame. Other countries are not facing the significant cultural problems in society that we are.
The education in the U.S. is FAR superior to anywhere, hands down. I will stake my doctorate on that. I have taught in Europe. The European system is poor. The only reasons that they do reasonably well are the system caters to the elite and teaches to tests. If American students came to school prepared, equipped, and willing to learn, our system would turn out extremely high performing graduates. The system, no system, can compensate for the condition our students enter schooling in. As I said, that is not the fault of the children.
We have money to pay for over-paid athletes and pop-stars, over-priced lattes, outrageously priced cars and designer clothes, and huge houses but not to fund education. McDonald's takes in 54 million dollars a day in America alone as a fast food "restaurant," but teachers cannot afford adequate equipment for students. We send the message that education is just not a priority. Kids are smarter than you give them credit for, they see what is valued in America.
Multiple choice has been the bane of this country's educational system. I attended schools outside of the US, where kids had to write full answers to questions using clearly written, gramatically correct, coherent explanations. Math and Science problems were required to show or illustrate all the steps with which the correct answer or problem solution could be obtained.
Unfortunately, the US has become a nation of proficient multiple choice 'test takers'. We even have an entire (very lucrative) industry dedicated solely to improve test taking performance. For the right price, your kids get taught a series of very clever gimmicks that help him/her guess with some degree of statistical accuracy whether the right answer is a,b,c,d, or none of the above. This approach produces so many 'qualified' applicants, that colleges have to keep raising tuition because of high demand and students get up to their necks in debt as a result. Perhaps a good place to raise the bar, would be to outlaw multiple choice tests altogether, but then too many kids wouldn't be able to graduate high school!
They've become 'dumber than bricks'! (repeat that 5 times)
I think that most kids today have the attention span of a cat. All they want to do is text their friends or play video games.
They clearly can't live without their cell-phones...how sad!
Good job, you've taught them how to take tests. That will be useful for them later in life. I've seen a number of job openings for test takers.
Defiantly have gotten dumb, also most have been indoctrinated with liberal propaganda.
Maybe you should learn how to spell definitely, otherwise you are in the category you have posted.
It is propaganda at it's finest! I am an IT professional and cannot find anyone coming out school that has good Computer Science education. They all come from India, Packistan, Russia. China. I list job openings and that is all that shows up. These kids today are coming out of school with Liberal Arts degrees. People in other countries laugh at how stupid a degree that is. They say this is why this country is so far behind. We focus on indoctrination in the schools instead of a real education. It's very sad! Liberal Arts is the new Basket Weaving Degree!
Yes, and when they text it's "u" for "you." Annnnd ya wonder.
Ray, been in a classroom lately?
Not buying the report... not in the least. The US is trailing way behind European countries in academics. High-stakes tests are based on curriculums that are centered around these exams. Our kids are missing out on quality education. Testing questions created for children are sometimes biased, if not skewed. The educational system in this country needs a reboot because it stinks.
Read the stats – they are doing better. Re: tests other nations put more emphasis on them than we do. Compare apples with apples – they sort their kids at 12 and only the top ones go to high school, if you compared those kids with our top ones ours would come out ahead. It is very true that the schools are being asked to do too much with too little – it is also true that most teachers fear being sued (unnecessarily), but in spite of these shortcomings our schools do a fine job.
You know what the problem is? It's this culture of "everybody is a winner"! You can't fail Johnny because his parents might sue! You're to blame for everything that goes wrong in the class! Well, no... If Billy or Sue come from a broken home, illiterate, poor, apathetic parents, and they don't give a crap, I CAN'T DO ANYTHING! PEOPLE MUST HELP THEMSELVES FIRST! IT'S NOT TEACHERS! IT'S LAWYERS AND ADMINISTRATORS!
anybody else notice how they've failed to include Asians?
That's because us Asians are way too smart that they don't need statistics or research to prove it/support claims. You can just say, "Man that Asian probably has 2000 IQ" and it would scientifically be accepted as fact. That is the trade-off though for having squinty eyes (widescreen HD TV 1080)
Slow down Pal. This Eastern Euro-Jew would suggest The Bell Curve as reading material pour vous before you go beaking off to much. lol
I worked at a major state university and I will tell you that the students being admitted are, many times, illiterate. They are admitting students with GPA of 2.0. The universities are offering remedial classes because the incoming students cannot do basic things like math etc. In one program I've heard about, the students have to take, sometimes, 4 remedial classes, for no credit, before they are even eligible/qualified to take the beginning classes in that program. Students say 'I was at the top of my class". But their high schools did not prepare them at all for college or anything else. They cannot write a complete sentence or a complete a basic resume. They cannot spell, nor use spellcheck. They are incompetent as student workers and cannot follow basic instructions. BUT, they are getting the degrees awarded and going out into the world. I have now heard that cursive is not being taught any more. Will these students be able to read it if they get a letter written in cursive? What is our school system thinking?
All that is a shame, but cursive? Does that matter?
Not for writing, but really good point about reading it!
I am not sure how common cursive writing is these days. I am in my fifties and I have not seen a cursive letter in over 40 years.
If a student needs to do historical research, it is pretty easy to pick up reading cursive writing. I see no reason to teach all students to write cursive, when the vast majority of them will never use it; or perhaps even see it.
I write all letters and notes in cursive.
Sherri, I was one of those students that could not complete a simple sentence. I had to take a lot of non credit classes to transfer from a community college to a university. Did it bother me? Yes very much. If you never had to take a non credit class, great. Those that that numerous classes to try and better themselves are trying. Did your education teach you humility? Maybe you need to take a non credit class. Understand this, I was diagnosed with having dyslexia when I was a senior at the university. As you may learn in your non credit class that people have limitations that aren't always something they can diagnose on their own.
Clearly your middle school and high school education failed if you could not complete a sentence. You should not have to go to remedial classes to get ready for college. That is great if those classes ended up helping you, but shouldn't that be an indication that schools are not focused on educating the youth?
Ron I am not talking about students with learning issues like what you had. I'm talking about general students, coming in who can't do basic skills and the colleges have to start with the remedial classes before they can take the required classes. Clearly these students are not ready for college. Your issue was something entirely different. There was a reason you had trouble. I am glad you got the help you needed, but it is a shame when major universities admit students with GPA's of 2.0. One problem that that leads to is that often, these students take out large loans, then have to leave school at end of first year, due to not being able to handle the classes etc. Now they have the loans, no job, no skill, no degree. How will they repay the loan. It is all about 'butts in seats' now. Have to have those numbers, so anyone is admitted, regardless of whether they are qualified or not. Not everyone should go to college. I am glad you were able to succeed though.
I think you are not realizing that more and more students are going to college now. It is NOT just the top 20%.
This is the partly the result of killing vocational education over the past couple of decades. Now everyone is expected to get a BA/BS. Ridiculous. I work at a large selective university. Even at selective ones like this one, I can tell you that easily 1/4 of the kids should not be here.
How bout the young girl in the Zimmerman trial? couldnt read a letter that was writtenin cursive. While not used much, it is still used. A lil dumber everyday. They say humans today are 17pts lower in the IQ scale than we were 100 yrs ago.
Having everything answered for us at our fingertips through the internet has not proven benificial to us. People have stopped thinking and trying to figure out things on our own.
I taught at major state universities for 32 years, and usually had work/study assistance – the students were capable and attentive to my needs. The really handicapped ones were those who were born before computers – everything is so easy now: spelling, research, writing, math, correction, taking notes, etc. So they are dropping cursive writing – teaching keyboarding.
The article just can't say it because it interferes with the myth of failing schools- our schools are NOT worse than they were decades ago. In fact they are better, even for kids who traditionally do not do well.
There has been stagnation in the past 4-8 years, though. Wonder why? Hmmm what has been the big change in the past decade? The insanity of mass standardized testing!
As far as the test getting easier, nope! The NAEP is a very rigorous longitudinal test and the cutoff scores have gotten higher.
It's amazing how many people refuse to accept anything that sounds like good news or improvement. You pessimists are missing out on a lot of happiness. You have my condolences.
This article avoids the obvious elephant in the room:
As a highschool teacher, I will tell you the significant ways students have changed:
Not paying attention.
Not doing homework.
Not coming to class.
More GIRL fist fights.
Moe marijuana use.
More DROPPING OUT.
I don't think I need to say what race this characterizes. As they multiply, so does the animalistic behavior.
Erik – perhaps you need to find another line of work.
It's the human race, Erik. I certainly hope you're not teaching our children.
Thank you! As a fellow educator, I understand your frustrations! To Beadlesaz and J, these are simply huge problems that are prevalent in our schools and teachers are often blamed for why we can't get students to perform better.
I'm an educator also, and my first thought is that you're burnt out. Maybe it's time to find another profession.
don't look at minority but look at mayority now days there are a lot of students aware about education than students didn't aware about education . according to data there is improvement of it since 1971 .
Race? You blame this on race? You have no business in education ... or America.
Erik, you are a disgrace among other things.
It is amusing to see people say Eric is incorrect. Sorry, I have several family members in education, the majority of people who he described are in exactly as expected. One can never say 'all' from any one group but sorry, yes the majority. They behave like animals, expect everything to be handed to them and yes are as Eric Described.
I live in a state that's over 97 percent white, and we see all the problems you've named, especially the marijuana use. It's not a racial issue at all, it's a culture of not giving a damn.
Actually, it has teenagers have not change. Maybe it's the history major in me, but I find the delusional nostalgia for the good old days ridiculous. More students dropped out of high school in the 1970's. Generally speaking, most Americans did not even go to high school a hundred years ago. These comments says more about the generational gap then anything else. Yes, the culture of America has changed. More students are enrolling in college that would not have in the past so many are not prepared. More students are taking college entrance exams so the average score has gone down. Our youth is more tech reliant so handwriting has suffered and many write in text-speak. And for those complaining about it, indoctrination into our culture is actually part of education, which is why we have such conflict over it. I don't want to write an essay so I will end there.
I'm sorry you are a teacher – I've had to teach adult illiterates both in the navy and in a prison setting, because of people like you. I admit that many parents are not doing their jobs, but they are non-professionals – you have the resources to do better.
The writer proves just how bad the school systems are with their own writing skills :(
Your own sentence criticizing the writer is ungrammatical.
Every article that involves race in America excludes Asians. This article mentions Asians going from 1% to 6% in population but what about school performance? Why aren't they ever acknowledged?
Because Asians, on average, work harder and get better grades than all other races. Why? Easy, their parents push them to excel and expect them to get good grades. Plus, they may actually be more intelligent than the other races. Asians also earn more money than all the other races w/ the exception of the Indians – Indians are #1 in the US income-wise.
It is true that Indians have high median incomes, but keep in mind it is a biased sample set. Indian immigrants often have very high levels of education or some specific skill set that employers seek. That is why they are granted work permits and citizenship. And, why Indians are often highly paid. It is also true that Asian parents push their kids toward maths and sciences that lead to higher paying jobs. Most Asian parents would be horrified at the thought of their first born son coming home and saying that he is going to become a carpenter or plumber.
Indians are Asians, technically from South Asia. Maybe you just equate Asians with pale skin and chinky eyes?
Oh sweet minty jeezus. The supposed 'exceptional intelligence' of Asians is a fallacy. Asian students do really well in this country because many of them are 1st generation immigrants, and 1st generation IMMIGRANTS of ALL races do better than Americans of ALL races on a host of factors such as education attainment, income, entrepreneurship, etc. By third and fourth generation Asian's and other minorities/immigrants score right along with their American peers in these factors. Immigrants do better because of the very things that make them immigrants in the first place. Oftentimes people who flee their own country are often the wealthiest (who can afford to flee), the most educated and/or the most determined, this is what gives them and their children an advantage. And logically – if Asians were so much more intelligent and culturally prone to value education, than other races why would they be fleeing a country full of their own race in the first place? Often times it is to escape poverty, war and oppression? Wouldn't their countries be better off full of all these 'genetically and culturally superior people?
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Does this mean President George W. Bush's "NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND" program is actually working?
Nope. The latest scores have mostly stagnated. Gains were made without NCLB.
I do not think there is a way to compare children across generations because the world is so different. Families are different, economics are different, education itself is different. standardized tests are not able to account for any of this. If anything, from an educator's view, kids are getting lazier and lazier with their education except for the extreme few at the top of the class students and the wealthy. Our students don't see a point in working hard when they see their educated mom and dad unemployed, struggling working 3 jobs a piece or they don't see them at all. Times have changed and students are responsible for their own educations. no one is behind them pushing them to do their best. trust me, involved parents account for 5% or less. there is only so much we can do to motivate the hundreds of students we see each day. Stop pointing the finger at one or another, or using these statistics to push your own political views. support children, encourage children and let them know they are seen and heard. Our graduation rates and test scores may be going up but so are the depression and suicide rates. Who cares about test scores when we are raising a generation of apathetic and depressed children.
As a teacher you should know that this info helps create context and allow for trends and outside factors to be calculated into it. It's a shame that a teacher has become so cynical that after seeing a report does all they can to disprove it. It's clear you've let your bias and cynicism cloud your judgement. I'm glad I probably never had you as a teacher.
My father left school before finishing eight grade. I graduated High School in 1948, but had to take entrance exams to get into a state college. Every student needs the opportunity to "boot-strap" to a better life than that they were born into. That means that most kids need good and understanding teachers.
The bar is lower now for everyone regardless of race. Classes are easier. The scores mean nothing. The affirmative action arguement starts after 12th grade. Yes I did benefit off affirmative action, however even that will be obsolete in time since people of color will become the majority according to census. Religion is just a hobby and needs to be abolished or truly separate from politics. When anyone references any book of faith, they already lost respect based on blind ignorance. Yes, I believe in a higher power (God) just not organized religion.
Point number four : affirmative action and we all know it
SCORES got nothing to do with affirmative action you racist dolt
Such a small gap considering we have access to the internet.
what is the connection with the internet?????
This is how students have changed. In Syracuse, N.Y....a group of 10-16 year olds, beat a man to death, for no reason. It was a "game"...someone throws the first punch and others chip in and they KILLED man, no motive, no reason, he was standing outside a store, doing nothing. These "kids" would be your 4th grader, 6th grader range.
They were nihggers, weren't they?
You sir are completely stupid. Claiming someone is a certain "what ever word you was to ad to make yourself feel superior" shows that you need to expand your world. I had a friend that loved music. When he was behind closed doors he would vent his frustration by using such words like you do. I asked my friend what would he do if he met Jimi Hendrix (yes I know he is dead)? He said that is different. My point - he hated someone before he met them. Not a productive life if you ask me. Always felt sorry for him.
It is good to know that the younger kids are getting better scores than in past decades, but are the tests comparable? I have seen tests for 8th grade graduation from the early 1900's that were comparable to high school (or higher) knowledge in the last 1900's. It would be interesting to see a comparison of the actual test questions from the 1970's with the current tests for the same grade levels.
Exactly. The continued dumbing-down of America. And how many did well because they were taught what would be on the test and not much else? I think the age of critical thinking has passed.
Are you serious? Have you ever taken a curriculum and instruction corse? The new national standards are light years beyond the simple "knowledge-based" curriculum of previous generations, and things have been getting harder every year.
you need to factcheck those tests. Most are fake. Also remember who was going to school in the early 1900s – rich white boys and that is all!
these young kids shun physical work and the bible.
Because the bible is responsible for the internet and the computer...
Science and technology are making both obsolete...
The bible teaches that science is wrong, just to believe because you are told. Why are there multiple religions finding different answers to the same questions? Because they are all wrong. Why don't you, bibledoctor, believe in Zues or Mohammad,instead of the Christian God? Who's right or wrong? And yes, it does matter.
Notice how physical laborers and ministers usually make much less than doctors, engineers, and other people in less physical and more scientific professions. The latter also tend to do more good in the world.
Really? Who built that house you live in? Who built that car you drive? Who built those roads you drive that car on? Who grew the food you eat? Who made the clothes you wear? Who keeps your water flowing, your toilets flushing, your furnace burning, and your lights on?
We need more people who do physical work with their hands, more people who actually create things of substance, and we could do with a lot fewer people who sit on their fat behinds pushing electrons around.
CNN’s Schools of Thought blog is a place for parents, educators and students to learn about and discuss what's happening in education. We're curious about what's happening before kindergarten, through college and beyond. Have a story to tell? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org