As parents with kids in school, we're always keeping track of how our kids and schools are performing. As many issues as we have with standardized testing and the push to teach to the test, they can be helpful in tracking how students across the country are performing as a whole in certain subjects. The public education system in the US is in dire need of help, and the ones who suffer the most when teachers are underpaid and budgets are slashed are, sadly, our kids. We're beginning to see some of the results of the treatment of public school education with the latest round of national test scores.
The results show that fourth and eighth grade students are struggling and falling behind in two core subjects - math and reading. And while we acknowledge that there is no quick (or cheap) fix for all the problems that plague public school education, we're hoping that these results at least inspire some change for the better.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has released its latest Nation's Report Card, and it shows a decline in reading and math achievement in students in the fourth and eighth grades. The NCES assessed nearly 300,000 students across the country in those two core subjects. In the two years since the last assessment, reading scores among fourth graders went down by one point, hitting 220 on a 500 point scale.
Shockingly, only 35% of the fourth grade students assessed were shown to perform at or above the proficient level. Only one state, Mississippi, showed an improvement in scores. Scores for eighth graders went down by three points, landing at 263 on the same 500 point scale. And just 34% of eighth graders assessed were reading at proficient levels.
Scores in math didn't fare much better. Fourth grade math scores went up by a single point, 241 out of 500, while eighth grade scores dropped a point to hit 282. Results showed that 41% of fourth graders and 34% of eighth graders were at proficient levels.
While a one or two point decline might not seem like much, it shows that there's been no progress in reading or math over the last decade, according to NCES associate commissioner Peggy G. Carr. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos says that the scores show that more money for schools doesn't solve the problem of underperforming students, and used the release of the scores to once again push for school choice.
But we have to ask―how is investing in our schools and teachers and students a bad thing? Schools across the country are in dire need of improvements, teachers need to be paid more, and we need to put more money and resources back in our schools, not take that money and those resources away. Students at schools with solid financial backing, with resources for students and adequate teacher salaries, almost universally perform better.