It’s a good thing the tea party started in 2009 . . .

… because it sounds like a much smaller percentage of Americans will even know what the Boston Tea Party was by, say, 2029. Reports the Associated Press:

Just 13 percent of high school seniors who took the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress, called the Nation’s Report Card, showed a solid grasp of the subject. Results released Tuesday showed the two other grades didn’t perform much better, with just 22 percent of fourth-grade students and 18 percent of eighth-graders demonstrating proficiency.

The test quizzed students on topics including colonization, the American Revolution and the Civil War, and the contemporary United States. For example, one question asked fourth-graders to name an important result of the U.S. building canals in the 1800s. Only 44 percent knew that it was increased trade among states.

Historic literacy and illiteracy were already in the news after Sarah Palin stirred up controversy by saying Paul Revere “warned the British” during his famous ride. The debate largely focused on whether Palin had accurately described an incident in which British soldiers captured Revere along the way. But even to have a debate presupposes a recognition of who Paul Revere was in the first place — knowledge today’s students may or may not have.

More alarming than the lack of a basic understanding of history is an apparent lack of basic reading comprehension. Check out this excerpt from the New York Times article on the NAEP test:

Students were given an excerpt including the passage, “We conclude that in the field of public education, separate but equal has no place, separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” and were asked what social problem the 1954 ruling was supposed to correct.

So, the students weren’t even asked the name of the case from which that passage comes (Brown v. Board of Education), just what “social problem the 1954 ruling was supposed to correct.” And, even given the context about “the field of public education” and “separate but equal” and “separate educational facilities,” just 2 percent of 12th graders answered correctly.

Given all that, more than 2 percent should have been able to guess correctly even if they didn’t already know the answer!

Does anyone still want to argue that all our public schools really need, in order to give students even a passable education, is more money? Folks, the system is cracked and broken all the way to its foundation. Or would some of you prefer to wait until too few Americans recall that education in this country used to be good?

– By Kyle Wingfield

94 comments Add your comment

Carlosgvv

June 15th, 2011
8:22 am

Those in education are constantly complaning that today’s students are staying away from math and science. It looks like they are also staying away from History. So, what are they studying in school? Self-esteem and basketweaving?

Finn McCool

June 15th, 2011
8:28 am

Quit stripping education of funding, ya think?

Finn McCool

June 15th, 2011
8:30 am

Oh, I see. Kyle is trying to make Sarah Palin look above average.

Defense of the Palin. How dare those media types take her words out of context!!!!

GW

June 15th, 2011
8:31 am

No child shall be left behind and I’ll vouch for that. Besides, how much math, science, history, grammar, spelling, etc., does a sports star or reality tv entertainer, etc., need. Just teach the basics and we’ll be okay. Stuff like creationism and how burning coal is good for us. That sort of stuff.

GA Jim

June 15th, 2011
8:35 am

22% of 4th graders, 18% of 8th graders, 13% of 12th graders

So schools are actually making kids dumber? I’m sure it’s nothing higher taxes couldn’t fix.

Jimmy62

June 15th, 2011
8:36 am

Giving more money to education hasn’t helped. In fact, the more money we spend per student, the worse the results seem to be. So yeah, logically we should strip education of funding. Typically only Obama’s economists believe that if spending more money on something doesn’t work, the only solution is to spend even more money. That hasn’t worked for the economy, it didn’t work when Bush was in office, either, and it won’t work now. And it won’t work for education.

The system is broken, the only way to fix it is to admit it’s broken, and reexamine things about education that many consider sacrosanct, despite the fact that they aren’t working.

GW

June 15th, 2011
8:41 am

I’m sure it’s nothing higher taxes couldn’t fix.

That is where you are wrong. Lower taxes fixes everything.

Steve

June 15th, 2011
8:47 am

What upsets me the most is that there are great public schools in Georgia and across the nation. Those schools unfortunately get overshadowed by low performing schools. My questions would be who took this test? Where was this sample population pulled from? I am not saying the system doesn’t need reforming to a certain extent (and I don’t think money solves all problems) however why don’t we ever read stories about the success of good public schools. Maybe if we spot lighted good schools and what they are doing every now and then it would raise the moral of people and cause people to begin to look at what the good public schools can do for students that might work in other areas. I want all students to be successful but there has to be a support mechanism in place for that to happen. Good school, good teachers, and good families that put an emphasis on education.

Sheila

June 15th, 2011
8:48 am

Education in this country is broken because the one size fits all model of public education no longer works in our world. There is no way to fix the model. We need to abandon the notion of monolithic government schools and give freedom to parents.

GW

June 15th, 2011
8:49 am

Does anyone still want to argue that all our public schools really need, in order to give students even a passable education, is more money?

Is that what they have received, Kyle. More money. An absolute waste of money. If so, then let us argue the point. By all means, show us the money trail. Show us what you got. Education comparison for the rich versus the poor. Hilton v. Smith. Koch v. Jones. That is what you are referring to, isn’t it.

Paul

June 15th, 2011
8:55 am

Show me a school where the parents are involved and care about whether their child is educated or not and there you will find a good school.

Michael Van Zandt

June 15th, 2011
8:58 am

It is easy to mock the educational system but if you’ve been in a school (especially a middle or high school) lately and actually observed what is going on, you will notice that the level of instruction is higher than it has ever been. Unfortunately, we live in a child-driven world. Children run the households, and children run the schools. They know that they probably won’t fail (because schools can’t fail many students due to AYP) and they know that most parents won’t force them to study or do homework (I am a teacher, and this is the reality – students as a general rule no longer study). It is easy to blame teachers and the government, but the disconnect is at home. The American Family is what is broken; in turn it is breaking our schools.

Teache

June 15th, 2011
9:01 am

Kyle, I would appreciate you digging a little deeper into the data you use to support your argument. Keep in mind that low income schools with little to no parental support are most likely what you are seeing as a result of said data. I really wish you could bring yourself to spend at least one day in a higher-income school and one day in a lower-income school, see the teachers, administrators, and counselors who are trying their hardest before you make such a sweeping indictment of the whole “system”. Keep in mind, too, that larger class sizes do make an impact, and thanks to our Georgia Legislature, class sizes keep rising. It just bothers me to see people like you dismiss the whole system without walking a mile in another’s shoes. Your argument would have so much more credibility. At least Maureen Downey spends time in the field about which she writes before doing so.

Progressive Humanist

June 15th, 2011
9:05 am

Well, Dave R thinks that unemployment and declining home values are caused by the debt (snicker..) and that we extracted ourselves from the Great Depression by cutting government spending. You see, ignorance and delusion are not relegated to adolescents.

Good Grief

June 15th, 2011
9:06 am

There was recently a case in Philadelphia where the school district wanted to lay off teachers, but it did not want to lay off teachers in the worst performing schools (which they called “promise academies,” see, if you just change the name to something warm and fluffy everyone is happy). The teachers union said that layoffs needed to be done according to seniority, and should affect all teachers.

I want to know why you would leave the teachers in control of the worst performing schools? If a division of a company is losing money, usually workers are fired nd new ones brought in. If a sports team is losing, players are traded and the manager is fired. But in government (school, Congress, etc.) if you are failing we just give you another chance and throw more money at you.

Tony

June 15th, 2011
9:11 am

Every time NAEP scores are reported, politicians and the media focus on using the Proficient Score as the benchmark when in reality the Basic score is the one intended to denote “passing”. These results DO NOT indicate things like “broken to the foundation” or any other drastic claim about the lack of adequacy of public schools.

What it does indicate is that there is not a national, unifying curriculum that all states agree should be the focus of student performance for history. It’s very easy to single a few of the questions and poke fun at schools for not learning history properly. As to the closing remark about money for schools, throughout the nation school budgets have been hacked to the bone and we are losing excellent teachers and leaders as a result. The reality is very clear that with such budgetary constraints schools WILL NOT be able to provide even the most basic of education to its students.

Last but not least, your reference to the good old days when everybody learned more than they are learning today is completely and utterly false. There are no data to back that opinion. Only emotional, feel-good statements from people who love to bask in their own youth. Please dig up some real facts about high school completion in the 50s and 60s. Also check to see how many and what kind of students were taking SAT and ACT. You’ll find that today’s crowd is much more diverse and the scores are actually rising with many of the subgroups.

saywhat?

June 15th, 2011
9:12 am

Progressive Humanist, Dave R. also thinks anecdotal evidence trumps actual hard data. I think he might be “special”.

Progressive Humanist

June 15th, 2011
9:15 am

Jimmy62,

You are misguided if you think that we’ve been giving more money to schools. In the last 30 years spending per student in general education has stayed flat when adjusted for inflation. What has increased is spending on special education students, which has increased by a factor of 14. There are now two teachers ($60k-$100 in salary) for every class of 10-12 special ed students. I’m not going to make a judgment on whether that’s the way it should be, but it is a myth that we’ve been throwing money at general education students over the last generation. It just hasn’t happened.

Get on with it

June 15th, 2011
9:20 am

This has nothing at all to do about money and everything to do about the classes taught and the books used. They are taking all our history and turning it around and teaching nothing. You are right though,,,,,in a few more years, the people putting out the books that teach our kids will know nothing about this country and what made it great in the first place.

This department of education needs to be terminated and that money put into the books our kids are given, more general funding for schools. Oh by the way, when a administrator of a school system makes over a million per year, something is very very wrong. Superintendents making 500K. No no no. These jobs are important but not that important. Stop buying your friends in high places, close the department of education and teach our kids the basic, the past and the future. And stop with the tenure of teachers. Non of this is working.

ATF

June 15th, 2011
9:23 am

One of the problems is that we don’t honor the historian in our own culture. How many universities are cutting back on educating those who study and write about history? The “humanities” are under assault by those who think schooling should be about jobs, not about an educated, enlightened, thoughtful, thinking populace.

Many of our public schools are excellent – as are many private schools. Many public schools are also terrible – as are many private schools.

Progressive Humanist

June 15th, 2011
9:24 am

Saywhat,

Steadfastly adhering to anecdotal “evidence” over hard data is a symptom of fundamentalist indoctrination or in other words brainwashing. I think we’re beginning to arrive at a diagnosis for Dave R.- a special ed cult member. I’ve long felt that the Tea Party was little more than a cult with their unwarranted certitude and and mythical views of history. Our little buddy here is helping to confirm that hypothesis.

GrannyCares

June 15th, 2011
9:25 am

History scores are abysmal, but so are our math, science and reading scores. When compared to other nations — including developing nations — the US is not even in the top ten any longer. Even sadder, we appear to drop further each year, with NO IMPROVEMENT.

Not to throw stones, but when are we going to increase rigor in Schools of Education? When are we going to prepared academic leaders to create and implement visions that will stretch the minds of students — starting in elementary school, and increasing through their 7 – 12 years?

The US spends more money per student than any other country — except for one. But, WHAT DO WE HAVE TO SHOW FOR IT? We send our kids off to college, and if they do not drop out in the first two years, many spend up to two years taking remedial courses (a waste of up to two years of their life, and a waste of thousands of dollars). And come graduation, way too many end up with a degree in a soft discipline that is not in demand, and is not marketable above the $30,000 per year level.

Indeed, the US education system is broken. Sadly, too many of our members of academia have spent their time lobbying for more pay and benefits (with the muscle of unions), and have not been held to a higher standard. The result has been jobs moving to countries where technical tasks can be performed. Pretty pathetic!

SBinF

June 15th, 2011
9:27 am

Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann have no grasp of history, and they’re contenders for the highest office in the land. What hope do we have for children??

Disheartened

June 15th, 2011
9:31 am

I teach U.S. History in high school in Cobb County. I’ve been teaching the subject for 16 years. In those years I have seen a marked change in student responsibility for learning. We used to assign homework and expect that it be done. No more. Students took tests and accepted the grades. No more. Now they can “retest”. Deadlines for projects and reports meant something. No more. Now we are required to accept late work, no matter how late. Our school board is so afraid of being sued that we can no longer enforce basic discipline in either the classroom or the hallways. Our students are not stupid. They have seen how the system works and have adapted beautifully. We have failed as a system because we have the backbone of a chocolate eclair.

joe

June 15th, 2011
9:35 am

Funny, education in private schools are not broken…it is broken in the government run schools mainly due to the kids not giving a damn about learning anything except how to become a rap star or professional athlete, teachers not giving a darn and just pass the kids on to the next grade without knowing how to read, write or speak properly, and the parents who are not married nor live under one roof together who have kids as a community status benchmark or to add another welfare recipient to the family honor roll.

Whacks Eloquent

June 15th, 2011
9:39 am

So…if the problem comes from parents not being involved in lower-income schools, what is the solution? Throwing more money at the schools won’t help.

But it’s not like the high-income schools don’t have their share of problems too. The kids have benefitted from more parental involvement, and often do well in school. But they are bored and complacent, and there are lots of lifestyle-related problems, like sex and drugs. Arguably they are no more fit for society than the lower-income students, the only difference is that most of them will get to go to college and may be able to grow up a bit there.

What’s the fix? I don’t know. Until we get parents to own up and take responsibility again, there probably is not hope for a major turnaround. Otherwise I really like charter schools, but the SCOGA just neutered that movement. Good private schools and competent home schooling programs are the best options, but many can’t afford the money or the time for those. Either way, extra funding isn’t going to help.

Another concern is political interests. These should have no place in schools, but we often see teachers, administrators and textbooks companies applying their own bias toward political issues. More of a problem with history and sciences than with math and english, and the brainwashing does come from both sides of the aisle. Smarter kids can see through it, but not all kids are smart. What happened to the idea of trying to raise free-thinking Americans? Filling them with religious-slanted science or liberal-slanted history does not help this – present the prevalent sides and have rational discussions. Kids are interested in topics when you actually engage their opinions.

Progressive Humanist

June 15th, 2011
9:41 am

Good grief,

The worst teachers are not necessarily at the lowest performing schools. Often dedicated, very good teachers go to the lowest performing schools because that’s where they’re needed most. Even the very best teacher cannot take a student who’s reading 4 grades below level and bring them to above level in a year. It just doesn’t happen. If they can bring them to grade level or close to it they’re doing a great job and it’s way more than the teachers before them have done. But you know what? Even if that happened with every student at the school, the school would still be considered a low performing school because the students would still be below grade level. Everyone wants to take a simple, black and white view of education and reduce the problem to sound bites. Some things in life are not that simple.

Dave R.

June 15th, 2011
9:45 am

Students in our high schools get one year – one year – of U.S. History. And virtually none in prior years.

How do you expect them to learn it when you do not teach it?

Dave R.

June 15th, 2011
9:50 am

“Well, Dave R thinks that unemployment and declining home values are caused by the debt (snicker..)”

Only in your sad excuse for a mind, Progressive. Learn one thing and one thing only in your time on this blog – do not EVER try to speak for me or my positions. You are not qualified to do so.

“and that we extracted ourselves from the Great Depression by cutting government spending.”

And we extracted ourselves from the Great Depression by massive increased spending. You know it as World War II. Is THAT your solution to this current problem, Progressive? Of course, given the current incompetent in the Oval Office and his three new military incursions and escalation of an existing one, I wouldn’t put it past you to be supportive of invading other countries in order to get us to spend more.

SBinF

June 15th, 2011
9:52 am

Disheartened, I can relate.

I teach history in a private school. It is really more work for me than it is the student to fail, so I usually fix it so that everyone has at least a C by the end of the semester. Some of the students are responsible and do their own work, but in many cases it’s the parents who email me asking about assignments, wanting retests, and the like. I just finished my 5th year of teaching, and at this rate, I’m not sure how long I will stay in the industry. I enjoy teaching, but there is far too little responsibility placed on the students and far too much placed on me.

And Joe, I’m not sure why you are under the assumption that private schools are somehow better. The only advantage private schools have over public is that they can choose whom to admit and whom to deny. And if anything, kids in private schools are MORE likely to be passed than in public, because after all, their parents are paying tens of thousands of dollars a year in tuition, so they get what they pay for. As for passing students who don’t deserve it (in public or private schools), it is hardly the teachers who are doing this. Parental and administrative pressure are the likely reasons that underperforming students are passed.

Finn McCool

June 15th, 2011
9:55 am

And we extracted ourselves from the Great Depression by massive increased spending. You know it as World War II.

Ummm, wrong again. US GDP had returned to pre-1929 stock market crash levels by 1936, well before we started ramping up for the war.

Jefferson

June 15th, 2011
9:57 am

Great solution, world problem solver.

the guy on the couch

June 15th, 2011
9:59 am

The US is being sold out to the special interest groups. Kids are getting dumber in the public educational sector because they’re being inundated with information that is counter-culture to the curriculum that was taught 50 years ago. Instead of teaching the historical significance of the Boston Tea Party, they’re learning about the first black lesbian poet and her contributions to black and gay literature.

This is the ancillary curriculum and while it has its place, that place is not to supplant the primary curriculum which needs to be subjects like American History, Chemistry, Literature, or Calculus. Stop side-trekking the core subjects to promote the agendas of the special interest groups.

Finn McCool

June 15th, 2011
9:59 am

the United States was, in other ways, reasonably well prepared for war. The wide array of New Deal programs and agencies which existed in 1939 meant that the federal government was markedly larger and more actively engaged in social and economic activities than it had been in 1929. Moreover, the New Deal had accustomed Americans to a national government which played a prominent role in national affairs and which, at least under Roosevelt’s leadership, often chose to lead, not follow, private enterprise and to use new capacities to plan and administer large-scale endeavors.

The American Economy during World War II

http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/tassava.WWII

that's goofy

June 15th, 2011
10:00 am

If it isn’t on the test it doesn’t matter. The focus of testing is math and reading. Guess where schools concentrate their time? Math and reading. Private schools are exempt from CRCT and other tests so they can focus on education.

If they want to fix schools – stop with political games and ask teachers.

Whacks Eloquent

June 15th, 2011
10:01 am

“Parental and administrative pressure are the likely reasons that underperforming students are passed.”

We are raising a nation of pansies, seriously. There is no allowance for failure anymore. Hey, failure builds character. Sure there are a few stellar ones who fail at nothing, these are our future leaders. Instead we tell them they are overachievers and that they have to just suffer with boredom as they wait for everyone else to catch up. This is one of the most frustrating aspects of my brief teaching stints, and one of the primary reasons I got out (along with not being paid enough!)

Way too much emphasis is put on kids feelings, and making sure they never get hurt emotionally by not living up to educational standards. What a load of dung. We no longer challenge our students. Feelings are supposed to be tendered to and fostered by the parents, again another failure on their part, and a pathetic attempt by the government to act as a surrogate parent. I could go on but have other more fruitful activities to attend to…

Michael Mitchell

June 15th, 2011
10:06 am

We have not stripped education of funding. In dollars adjusted for inflation we are paying much more now for education than ever before. So quit bring that up as the problem.

Dave R.

June 15th, 2011
10:09 am

“Ummm, wrong again. US GDP had returned to pre-1929 stock market crash levels by 1936, well before we started ramping up for the war.”

Ummmm, nope. Another “fragile recovery”. Nice try.

Michael Mitchell

June 15th, 2011
10:13 am

One year in US History should be enough. That is 180 hours of instruction. These kids don’t even know who we fought in WW2. They only know there was a WW1 because they have hear of WW2 and know there must have been another one. Clueless within 20 year of when it was. But hey, they do know who won American Idol the last 6 times and who came in second!

Unemployment problems did not end until WW2. We we still in the doldrums until then.

Aquagirl

June 15th, 2011
10:16 am

Way too much emphasis is put on kids feelings, and making sure they never get hurt emotionally by not living up to educational standards.

I think it’s more No Child Left Behind—-If a school holds students academically accountable everyone will lose their job. Gosh, what president was behind that program? And which president gave science the middle finger by politicizing global warming and evolution? The Soviet Union lost millions to starvation when they did the same thing, we’re darn lucky if we get away with merely flunking some tests.

Dearie

June 15th, 2011
10:20 am

Paul
June 15th, 2011
8:55 am
Show me a school where the parents are involved and care about whether their child is educated or not and there you will find a good school.

TRIED AND TRUE STATEMENT! Ask any teacher and they will tell you that it is impossible to teach without support from the parent.

Call it like it is

June 15th, 2011
10:26 am

“Gosh, what president was behind that program?”

So SPIN much?

Yes the bill that was put in place by GW and co-sponsor by Ted Kennedy
House vote 384 to 45
Senate 91-8

Yeah, it was just a right thing. Facts, there a terrible thing.

BULLSEYE

June 15th, 2011
10:27 am

Stupid people breed stupid kids.

Logical Dude

June 15th, 2011
10:28 am

Kyle Says: more than 2 percent should have been able to guess correctly

I would totally agree with this if it was a multiple choice test. If it was “fill in the blank” and the teacher had just one version of what should be in the blank, then I can see how 2% could get it right. Especially for those 5% who got it right, but maybe mispelled a word or two.

Whacks Eloquent

June 15th, 2011
10:30 am

Aquagirl,
NCLB is crap, too, I will agree with that. Even if they get rid of it, they will just replace it with something equally bad. Maybe it is time to do away with the Dept of Education. Has it really improved educational standards like it was supposed to? The southern states still languish, and the only difference is submitting to these ridiculous standardized tests. Let the states keep their money and remove the curriculum influence from political groups.

Kyle Wingfield

June 15th, 2011
10:34 am

Aquagirl: “we’re darn lucky if we get away with merely flunking some tests.”

Right, because passing or flunking a test doesn’t mean anything or provide any useful indication about whether that student has basic skills that might prove helpful one day.

To everyone complaining that parental involvement, or lack thereof, is key: I don’t disagree. And I don’t think that calling for fixing a broken system — a system built upon the idea that students’ parents give a flip about their education and provide the discipline, support and stability at home, etc. that a general public education system needs — excludes looking for ways to address that problem.

Nor, however, do I think that the parental problem — a generational problem if ever there was one — means we shouldn’t look for alternatives (charters, vouchers, tuition tax credits, and so on) that allow as many kids as possible to improve their lives while that generational problem is addressed. The kids in schools today won’t get a do-over even if, during the next 20 years, we make progress on the parental aspect.

Progressive Humanist

June 15th, 2011
10:39 am

Dave R.,

I’m sorry. You’re right- I am not qualified to speak for you because I’ve never had the pleasure of being an indoctrinated cult member blogging from a cubicle between pushing pencils. I’ll leave that perspective entirely to you from now on. My apologies.

Dave R.

June 15th, 2011
10:46 am

I suggest you consult a mirror before denying you’re not indoctrinated, Progressive.

Aquagirl

June 15th, 2011
10:54 am

Kyle, I’m not dismissing the sheer terror of what might happen because these students can’t string together a coherent thought. I was pointing out that we don’t know what will happen yet, as the TRUE consequences are in our future, not our past—–yet. When those test-flunkers start replacing our current CEO’s, engineers, etc. I certainly agree it’s going to be a disaster.

Whacks, I think the Dept. of Ed. might have a legit role, but shutting the whole thing down is preferable to the insanity we have now.

retiredds

June 15th, 2011
10:57 am

Kyle, if the Tea Part;y had started in 2001 we probably would only have a federal budget deficit of $5-$6 trillion rather than $14 trillion we are saddled with now. Funding two wars while cutting taxes, as the Bush administration did, went against simple economics 101 and the tried and true maxim, “you can’t have guns and butter” at the same time. And where do I get my numbers, let us not forget that the deficit increased between $5 trillion and $6 trillion under the Bush years. Yet, you say, the Dems had control of Congress! Yes, but the Dem majority was not all that much and all Republicans voted for the tax cuts and funding the war at the same time (as did the Dems).

While I am at it, it is probably too bad the Tea Party didn’t start around Reagan’s administration since the deficit ball began to roll in earnest with his two terms.

Oh, but I am so naive, only Democrats spend $$$$$$$$$$$$$.