20 Troubling Facts about American Education

20 Troubling Facts about American Education
October 1, 1999



Student Performance

1. American 12th graders rank 19th out of 21 industrialized countries in mathematics achievement and 16th out of 21 nations in science. Our advanced physics students rank dead last.1>

2. Since 1983, over 10 million Americans have reached the 12th grade without having learned to read at a basic level. Over 20 million have reached their senior year unable to do basic math. Almost 25 million have reached 12th grade not knowing the essentials of U.S. history.2>

3. In the same period, over six million Americans dropped out of high school altogether. In 1996, 44 percent of Hispanic immigrants aged 16_24 were not in school and did not hold a diploma.<3>

4. In the fourth grade, 77 percent of children in urban high_poverty schools are reading "below basic" on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).<4>

5. Currently, average black and Hispanic 17_year_old children have NAEP scores in math, science, reading, and writing that are equivalent to average white 13_year_old children.<5>



School Spending and Use of Resources

6. Average per_pupil spending in U.S. public schools rose 212 percent from 1960 to 1995 in real (inflation_adjusted) dollars.<6>

7. In 1960, for every U.S. public school teacher there were approximately 26 students enrolled in the schools. In 1995, there were 17.<7>

8. In 1994, fewer than 50 percent of the personnel employed by U.S. public schools were teachers.<8>

9. The average salary of U.S. public school teachers rose 45 percent in real dollars from 1960 to 1995.<9>



Readiness for College and Work

10. In 1995, nearly 30 percent of first_time college freshmen enrolled in at least one remedial course, and 80 percent of all public four_year universities offered remedial courses.<10>

11. According to U.S. manufacturers, 40 percent of all 17_year_olds do not have the math skills and 60 percent lack the reading skills to hold down a production job at a manufacturing company.<11>

12. 76 percent of college professors and 63 percent of employers believe that "a high school diploma is no guarantee that the typical student has learned the basics."<12>



Teacher Quality

13. Only 38 percent of U.S. public school teachers majored in an academic subject in college.<13>

14. 40 percent of public high school science teachers have neither an undergraduate major nor minor in their main teaching field, and 34 percent of public high school math teachers did not major or minor in math or related fields.<14>

15. Only one in five teachers feels well prepared to teach to high academic standards.<15>



Student Behavior

16. In 1996, 64 percent of high school seniors reported doing less than one hour of homework per night.<16>

17. 57 percent of public schools reported moderate to serious discipline problems in the 1996_97 school year.<17>



The Federal Role

18. In Florida, it takes six times as many people to administer a federal education dollar as a state dollar: 297 state employees are responsible for $1 billion in federal funds, while 374 employees oversee $7 billion in state funds.<18>

19. In Arizona, 45 percent of the staff of the state education department are responsible for managing federal programs that account for 6 percent of the state's education spending.<19>

20. After spending $118 billion since 1965 on Title I, the federal government's largest K_12 program, evaluations conclude that the "program has been unable to lift [the] academic level of poor students."<20>


Dr. William J. Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education in the Reagan administration, is Co-Director of Empower America and a Distinguished Fellow with The Heritage Foundation. This paper was released on June 30, 1999, as an Issue Brief from Empower America, 1701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW #900, Washington, DC 20006, http://www.empower.org.


NOTES

1. Pursuing Excellence: A Study of U.S. Twelfth_Grade Mathematics and Science Achievement in International Context (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, February 1998).

2. A Nation Still at Risk: An Education Manifesto (Washington, DC: April 30, 1998) (see www.edexcellence.net).

3. Ibid.

4. Quality Counts '98: The Urban Challenge (Washington, DC: Editorial Projects in Education, January 8, 1998).

5. Larry Stedman, "An Assessment of the Contemporary Debate over U.S. Achievement," in Brookings Papers on Education Policy 1998 (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1998).

6. Digest of Education Statistics 1997, table 39.

7. Digest of Education Statistics 1997, figure 8.

8. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators (Paris, OECD, 1995), table p31.

9. Digest of Education Statistics 1997, table 39.

10. David W. Breneman, "Remediation in Higher Education: Its Extent and Cost," in Brookings Papers on Education Policy 1998 (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1998).

11. Education and Training for America's Future (Washington, DC: National Association of Manufacturers, January 1998).

12. Reality Check (New York, NY: Public Agenda, January 1998).

13. Teacher Quality: A Report on the Preparation and Qualifications of Public School Teachers (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, January 1999).

14. America's Teachers: Profile of a Profession, 1993_1994 (Washington, DC: US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, July 1997).

15. Teacher Quality: A Report on the Preparation and Qualifications of Public School Teachers (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, January 1999).

16. Digest of Education Statistics 1997.

17. Marci Kanstoroom and Chester E. Finn Jr., editors, New Directions: Federal Education Policy in the Twenty_First Century (Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, March 1999).

18. Prospects for Reform: The State of American Education and the Federal Role (Washington, DC: U.S. Senate Budget Committee Task Force on Education, 1998).

19. Lisa Graham Keegan, "Back Off, Washington," in Marci Kanstoroom and Chester E. Finn Jr., editors, New Directions: Federal Education Policy in the Twenty_First Century (Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, March 1999).

20. Ralph Frammolino, "Title I's $118 Billion Fails to Close Gap," Los Angeles Times, January 17, 1999.