The new results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are out for U.S. high school seniors. And the results are, as usual, dismal. As the Washington Post reports:
Results from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, made public Thursday morning, document a modest rise in achievement for 12th-graders since 2005. Reading scores rose two points on a 500-point scale, and math scores rose three points on a 300-point scale.
But analysts said the federal test results offer plenty of reason for concern. The scores mean that 38 percent of seniors demonstrated proficiency in reading and 26 percent reached that level in math. Also, reading scores remain lower than they were in 1992. And the study found essentially no progress in closing achievement gaps that separate white students from black and Hispanic peers.
Plenty of reason for concern? Actually, it's even worse than the U.S. Department of Education admits here. A NAEP summary last year [PDF] reports that the average score on the reading test in 1971 was 285 points out of a possible 500 and that it rose all the way to 286 points by 2008.
The average on the mathematics test in 1973 was 304 out of a possible 500 and it rose to 306 by 2008. Admittedly scores for the lower grades improved a bit more, but attending high school evidently washes out whatever good is done in elementary school.
Well, surely this must be evidence that the teachers unions are right that we have been miserly in providing funds needed to educate "the children." Well, no. As the Department of Education reports, average per pupil expenditures in real dollars more than doubled from $4,489 in 1971 to $10,041 in 2007.
OK, then maybe it's not the money. Aren't we cramming ever more kids into classrooms making it hard for teachers to give attention to students who are struggling? Again, the DOE reports that the public school teacher/pupil ratio fell from 22.3 students in 1970 to 15.5 in 2007.
Could it be that these dismal results are a function of what is largely a hidebound government monopoly on elementary and secondary education? Hmmm.