U.S. education continues decline

America’s education system, once among the world’s best, has fallen on hard times. The latest evidence of this can be found in the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), an exam given every few years by the federal Department of Education to fourth, eighth, and 12th graders. 

The latest results of this test show that only one third of American students exhibited proficiency in science and technology. Only three percent of students are classified as “advanced.” According to the Wall Street Journal, “[t]hirty-four percent of fourth-graders scored at or above proficient. Describing the life cycle of an organism is an example of a skill demonstrated by fourth graders at the proficient level. Thirty percent of eighth graders met the mark, by demonstrating, for example, that they could recognize plants produce their own food.” As students progress in age, it seems their knowledge declines, as only 21 percent of 12th grade students met the criteria sufficient to be considered proficient. 

In this month’s issue of Reason magazine, economist Veronique de Rugy explains that a lack of accountability in our education system has led to stagnant scores and complacency, despite the fact we are second in the world in per pupil spending. She explains, “[w]e have tried spending more money and putting more teachers in classrooms for more than a generation, with no observable improvements to anything except the schools’ bottom lines.” 

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama promised even more spending on education and for his Race to the Top initiative – a stimulus program that will be carried forward as the Obama Administration’s version of his predecessor’s “No Child Left Behind” Act – as a way to “win the future.” 

Rhetoric aside, however, this administration is not moving in the right direction. In its first year in office, for example, the Obama administration killed the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a school voucher program for low-income students in the District of Columbia. These scholarships were one of the few federally-funded initiatives that were actually working; providing hundreds of students with opportunities that would ordinarily be beyond their reach. 

We cannot “win the future” by preserving the status quo. Continuing to pour money into a system that has no real accountability is no way to ensure our children regain the competitive edge they enjoyed in generations past. Absent fundamental changes in our approach to education, scores such as the most recent NAEP results will – sadly –continue to be the norm.

-by Bob Barr, The Barr Code

112 comments Add your comment

sean smith

February 11th, 2011
6:16 am

Well I am sure cutting Education spending so we can give tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy is going to really help education.

Red Sovinne

February 11th, 2011
6:44 am

Special Ed. Spend thousands of extra dollars on students who will end up, at best, getting a certificate of attendance. Force the schools to place these kids in regular classrooms so that they can have good self esteem, but everyone else pays the price in terms of disruptions and pace. I’m not saying we should go back to the days where they get stuffed in the room next to the boiler, but there is no reason they have to be in regular ed classrooms with other students. Look up the spending for yourselves and then work to get these assinine Federal laws repealed. Sound heartless? The Spartans would have chucked these kids off a cliff.

Gregster

February 11th, 2011
7:02 am

The education is far worse than most think. Keep in mind that our solution for decades now has been “make the test easier” and “make it easier to graduate”.

If we to put in a system that actually had decent standards and requirements the graduation rate would probably hit 25%.

We hire a lot of fresh out of high school kids at my job for our entry level positions. I’m always amazed at just how clueless and uneducated some of the kids are who have high school diplomas.

Spelling and grammar skills are literally what you’d expect from a 3rd grader, some had absolutely zero idea how you divide or multiply, one thought there was 6 planets in our solar system, one thought JFK was an actor and had no idea he was a President. My personal favorite was a 20 year old woman who tried to tell me that we have 4 kidneys. Sometimes I talk to them and shift the conversation into topics just to sit back in amazement at their lack of knowledge.

Oh, and these employees aren’t all from schools in bad parts of town. I’m talking some of the respected high schools in Gwinnett and Hall county.

It should be legal to have “no public school, only private” in your job ads as a requirement.

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Al Gore/Kilgore

February 11th, 2011
7:44 am

It’s alot worse than that, sir. Rolling Stone Magazine reported that 99 percent of 8 to 10 year olds can not beat the average baby boomer at donkey kong.

We are missing something when we learn our kids how to do stuff, man. Hell, Hustler Magazine reported that over 75 percent of 12-15 year olds can’t even recite their 4 F’s. (and it’s 5 F’s, morons.)

I don’t know, sometimes I just wanna say F it, you know? Where’s the remote?

A. J. C . Smith

February 11th, 2011
8:06 am

Red, your’re heartless, but you make a point. As an educator with forty years in the classroom, I can tell you that the “mainstreaming” of kids with mild to severe learning and behavioral disorders into the regular classroom has wreaked havoc on our schooling system. This single issue has caused more teachers over the years to walk out than any other. Because of federal and state laws hamstringing the ability of classroom teachers and administrators to deal effectivelky with these issues, our schools are what they are today: holding pens.

carlosgvv

February 11th, 2011
8:28 am

America has been dumbing down since the early 60’s and this latest test only confirms the obvious. Over the years, one social experiment after another has been tried to correct this with little or no positive results. The root cause of our education decline probably lies in an area outside of any fix based on social experimentation and political correctness.

Common Man

February 11th, 2011
8:37 am

Much of this problem can be attributed to teachers unions. Mediocre teachers are protected by the unions and the teacher’s unions are major political benefactors with significant influence in Washington. As more of the mal-educated students graduate, they propogate the same offspring and so the cycle continues. Obama and every President before him has to make a sound byte in a state of the union address about getting serious about education…empty words uttered to garner votes. Status quo will continue.

nels

February 11th, 2011
8:43 am

The reason why education performance continues to decline is because youth sees no need for education. They figure they can make big money playing basketball or football. If that does not work they can “go homeless”, they see all the bums getting three squares a day and a place to sleep. Got to read the paper and they can read by fourth grade and that is all they have to know.

Axelfraud

February 11th, 2011
8:58 am

“Rolling Stone Magazine reported”

When you get your news from a music magazine, no one takes your comments seriously.

LA

February 11th, 2011
8:59 am

“Over the years, one social experiment after another has been tried to correct this with little or no positive results.”

Yet you vote for Democrats. Democrats wrote the book on failed social experiments.

LA

February 11th, 2011
9:02 am

It’s time to end the department of education. We pour millions of dollars into that cluster f$&k every year and in return, society gets a bunch of kids who can’t read or write. Also, we need to end the teachers unions and fire a lot of really bad teachers.

We also need school vouchers which Obozo got rid of in DC. What’s really hypocritical of the man child is the fact that his daughters have always gone to private schools. Heck, every single democrat senator in Washington has sent their kids to private schools.

What’s wrong, democrats? I thought you guys/gals were big on public school systems.

LA

February 11th, 2011
9:03 am

“I don’t know, sometimes I just wanna say F it, you know? Where’s the remote?’

Wow OwlGore, that is just profound and highly intelligent. I mean to say F IT, is just rock star epic! You must be HUGE in your trailer park.

LA

February 11th, 2011
9:04 am

“The root cause of our education decline probably lies in an area outside of any fix based on social experimentation and political correctness.”

The root cause of decline in education comes from lack of good parenting and discipline.

Richard

February 11th, 2011
9:09 am

So no one wants to talk about the real reason the schools are failing? Ok, let me help.

Years ago, if you were a highly educated and qualified woman, teaching and nursing were literally the only two options available to you as a career path. As a result, teaching got half of the most highly educated women in the country.

Today, thankfully women have their choice of profession. The problem is that teaching has never offered a career path that rivals the new opportunities available to women. As a result, aside from the truly passionate and dedicated people, you pretty much get the most uneducated and incompetent teachers.

Don’t believe me? Ask teachers that have been at it for 20-30 years. They’ll all tell you the same thing.

Eric

February 11th, 2011
9:13 am

” . . . to ensure our children regain the competitive edge they enjoyed in generations past.”

Sorry, but I don’t see how the failure among many students to understand the life cycle of organisms is particularly threatening to our country. With all the insane amount of “new knowledge” in science, I doubt anyone from the past would be able to answer any better. Suppose the U.S. ranks 10th in education, what does that really mean? Don’t forget too, how the bar has been raised on standardized tests over the years, so that what was a good score 25 years ago is now mediocre. Can’t you see the wool pulled over on the public?

Richard

February 11th, 2011
9:25 am

Hey Bob, I think Eric has proved your point.

carlosgvv

February 11th, 2011
9:28 am

LA

George W. was in power for eight years and our educational system did not improve in the slightest. I don’t think this problem is caused by politics and I don’t think either Democrats or Rebublicans can fix it.

Supreme Being

February 11th, 2011
9:37 am

George W. was in power for eight years and our educational system did not improve in the slightest. I don’t think this problem is caused by politics and I don’t think either Democrats or Rebublicans can fix it.

It will take the power of Mensa to fix the problem. Get your Mensa team together Carlos and help your inexperienced President reach his proclomation of raising the educational standards of all American children.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

February 11th, 2011
9:41 am

Get the government out of the curriculum and all will heal. Everything the government touches either dies, loses money, or goes to jail.

LA

February 11th, 2011
9:48 am

“George W. was in power for eight years and our educational system did not improve in the slightest. I don’t think this problem is caused by politics and I don’t think either Democrats or Rebublicans can fix it.’

I’m really not sure why you are bringing up W to me. Like I said, get rid of the department of education and you will see things change. Like I also said, it comes down to parenting and discipline.

LA

February 11th, 2011
9:50 am

“Get the government out of the curriculum and all will heal. Everything the government touches either dies, loses money, or goes to jail.”

Eventually government will be out of the curriculum because it is going bankrupt. Teachers unions are next to go and people are sick of them.

Obama is a shining example of failed government.

mom of 3

February 11th, 2011
9:50 am

Many factors are in play, but one of the biggest is what takes place in the home. I have 3 children ages 15,12, and 9. The 15 yr old is a sophomore and highly motivated to do her best. Why? Because I have trained her to work hard and not except good enough. The younger two still require training in study habits and a review of their homework assignments on a nightly basis. Why? Because they are still learning what it looks like to do their best. I don’t demand straight A’s from my children but they must do their best. When you started working, did you just walk in and know what to do? No! You received job training in order to do your job to the best of your ability. Well, our kids need to be trained at home to study and work hard which in turn will allow teachers to be more effective during the school day.

At my house there is no gaming Monday-Thursday and very little television. Sure, there are many nights when I would just like to check out in front of the TV but I don’t because my children are MY responsibility.

To achieve in life takes hard work. Children need to be trained to work hard and do their best in all things! This takes place in the home.

joe

February 11th, 2011
9:51 am

The sooner people of all parties realize the BO is systematically trying to change our economy from a free-market, capitalistic society to one that is dictated, yes I said dictated, by the central (FED) government. Instead of letting the people decide what type of car to drive, what type of healthcare policy to buy, what type of house to buy, what type of school your kids attend, Barry wants the government to decide for you. If that doesn’t scare the bejesus out of you, nothing will…He’s a Marxist in capitalist clothing.

joe

February 11th, 2011
9:52 am

oops, didn’t finish the first sentence…continuing…”the better of our country will be.” Thank you.

LA

February 11th, 2011
9:52 am

“It will take the power of Mensa to fix the problem.

What’s really interesting is how libs talk about how only highly educated Harvard types can fix problems yet we have a Harvard grad in the White House and he can’t even make a smart decision.

The best minds in American history never set foot in an Ivy League institution.

LA

February 11th, 2011
9:54 am

mom of 3

You are a shining example to all parents!

Here’s a hardy salute to you and your hard work!

LA

February 11th, 2011
9:55 am

“The sooner people of all parties realize the BO is systematically trying to change”

November 2, 2010. The day America rejected liberal policies and gave B H Obama the biggest beat down since 1948.

Hank Reardon

February 11th, 2011
9:56 am

Eric, ‘new knowledge’?
Really? Do you have a better method than the scientific one?
‘ranked 10th, what does it mean?’
It means we are being surpassed in collective intelligence by 9 other nations. The status quo continues to give us dumber and dumber students. Ask any teacher, including my wife.

Do you want China to destroy us in EVERYTHING?

dude…come on

mom of 3

February 11th, 2011
9:56 am

LA

February 11th, 2011
9:59 am

joe

People have already woken up from Barry’s “charm” from the 2008 campaign. People now realize what an inept man-child this guy really is and they know full well what he wants to accomplish. It’s only a matter of time before Obamacare is struck down by the SC. 28 states have already laid the paperwork for massive lawsuits against it. Also, thanks to the Tea Party, the GOP has already begun to defund it and render Obama powerless. Don’t be fooled by the Tucker’s and Bookman’s of the media who try to tell everyone how awesome and great Obama is.

LA

February 11th, 2011
10:02 am

“Suppose the U.S. ranks 10th in education, what does that really mean?’

Go to any mall, fast food joint, etc and you will see why it matters. The average high school graduate can’t read or do simple math.

Do you really want someone who can barely read to work on your car, prescribe your medication, fly you on a plane, or operate on your heart?

See where I’m going?

R. Schauer

February 11th, 2011
10:45 am

Everyone, please take a “time-out” and read a few things to help dispel your angst regarding education. Please read: The Manufactured Crisis by Biddle and Berliner and Diane Ravitch The Death and Life of the Great American School System. Also see this video of Diane at Rice University where she humbles ALL EDUCATORS and others interested in education….see what she said to them here about Waiting for Superman.
http://vimeo.com/16479134
In short, since “A Nation at Risk” was published, without one lick of supporting evidence, we have been on an education witch hunt in America. The reasons are many and complex but political, religious and ignorant interpretations of academic achievement testing is at the heart of the issue. Bob is talking here about science and technology achievement which should be accepted as lacking since NCLB focuses on reading and math – no science. As Ravitch says, we are teaching to tests and that is not an education. Moreover, in areas of science such as genomics in biology, in the past ten years since decoding human DNA, our understanding of complex DNA has skyrocketed and we have ALL BEEN LEFT BEHIND including biologists themselves. Time for everyone to crack a book or see an education lecture video…you just might learn something useful, especially you Bob..

Craig

February 11th, 2011
10:54 am

I wonder if the source of this problem is really inferior genetics and dysfunctional upbringing, not a broken education system? Anecdotally speaking, poor, dumb Americans tend to have a disproportionate number of children. Each generation of students, then, proves less capable, on average, than the last.

High-achieving U.S. kids are still competitive globally. If our teaching methods are indeed flawed, wouldn’t we expect student performance to suffer across the board?

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

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Tychus Findlay

February 11th, 2011
11:13 am

America is losing because we’ve given up our collective will to succeed and be #1. Nowadays, everyone gets a participation ribbon instead of the winner getting a trophy. We’ve become too concerned with self esteem and feelings and forgotten how to be the best. Parents are failing their children by sheltering them from failure.

Everyone isn’t great at everything and the sooner that kids learn this fundamental fact, the better off they’ll be later in life.

The first time I missed a performance quota, I wasn’t told ‘at least you did your best.’ I was told to get my act together or get out.

LukasAtl

February 11th, 2011
11:14 am

Has anyone read the work by John Taylor Gatto? The basic premise is the current “education” system is functioning exactly as designed. Its purpose is not to produce people who can think for themselves, but to “train” the next generation of workers for the overclass.

LA

February 11th, 2011
11:23 am

“Everyone, please take a “time-out” and read a few things to help dispel your angst regarding education.”

If public schools are so great, why does every single Democrat senator send their kids to private schools?

LA

February 11th, 2011
11:25 am

“Time for everyone to crack a book or see an education lecture video…you just might learn something useful, especially you Bob..’

Oh, so an education lecture video is gonna change our minds about public schools? Not sure if you know this or not, but our school systems are terrible. You may want to “re-educate” yourself by looking at the stats/data about kids coming out of schools.

LA

February 11th, 2011
11:27 am

Tychus Findlay

Couldn’t have written it better myself. Public schools/dumb parents coddle the kids and make them think that getting an F is just fine. A gold star for you and you and you!

Call it the Dr. Phil society.

LA

February 11th, 2011
11:29 am

“Its purpose is not to produce people who can think for themselves, but to “train” the next generation of workers for the overclass.”

Just look at the AJC writers. They don’t even write their own opinions and instead copy and paste from another newspaper.

Carlosgvv

February 11th, 2011
11:36 am

LA, Supreme Being

I should have known I would have to draw you a picture. Have you ever heard the old saying “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”?
This is why no amount of social and political correctness will ever work to solve our education problems and stop America’s continual dumbing down.

LA

February 11th, 2011
11:41 am

Carlosgvv

Not sure if you’re illiterate or what but I was actually agreeing with you on a couple of your points. Not sure why you went and wrote “I should have known I would have to draw you a picture.” It’s not like you said anything profound or new.

I guess that “mensa” test didn’t involve common sense. LOL

LA

February 11th, 2011
11:42 am

“This is why no amount of social and political correctness will ever work to solve our education problems and stop America’s continual dumbing down.’

Yep, and that is where I totally agree with you.

Real American

February 11th, 2011
11:58 am

LA

Another Obama hater idiot: Our President just 2 week ago was stressing the importance of education but these dumb Georgia back wards hicks are bent on keeping us last.
Bob Barr, another hypocrite who disagree with everthing the President says, now see the light, conserative poor whites rather have a uneducated mis inform, moose killer who care less about competing with the world in education.

dylandawg

February 11th, 2011
12:18 pm

Liberty is just equality in schools.–Bob Dylan

America ain’t got no liberty.

Carlosgvv

February 11th, 2011
12:24 pm

bo

February 11th, 2011
12:47 pm

From the article, “As students progress in age, it seems their knowledge declines, as only 21 percent of 12th grade students met the criteria sufficient to be considered proficient.”

Is that an accurate conclusion? What does this say about the writer and his ability to comprehend information?

lovelyliz

February 11th, 2011
12:52 pm

Can the parents be graded?