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  • The Nation's Report Card: Congress Fails Test on Helping Students Learn

    Earlier this month, the National Center for Education Statistics released another round of results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card. While both fourth- and eighth-grade math scores saw modest increases, this glimmer of good news is dimmed, unfortunately, by persistently flat reading scores.

    Since 1996, fourth-graders’ math skills have improved significantly—by some 17 points on a 500-point scale, and eighth-grade math has improved 14 points over the same time period. However, since 1998, fourth-graders have improved their reading scores by just six points and eighth graders by just two points.

    Overall, the 2011 NAEP results continue an unsettling trend of lagging achievement among the nation’s students. Today, only 40 percent of fourth-grade children in the U.S. are proficient in math, along with 34 percent of eighth-graders. And in 2011, just 32 percent of fourth- and eighth-graders can read proficiently.

    When the nation’s mediocre NAEP performance is coupled with the fact that, as Professor Jay Greene of the University of Arkansas details in his “Global Report Card,” children in suburban school districts in the U.S. are “barely keeping pace with the average student in other developed countries,” the outcomes are even more concerning.

    It’s not just overall NAEP results that should concern researchers, parents, and policymakers alike. It’s the discreet data about the performance of certain subgroups, such as low-income children. Education researcher Matthew Ladner notes:

    Ten points roughly equals a grade level worth of progress. Low-income [4th grade] kids in Alaska and DC are reading almost as poorly as 1st graders in Massachusetts, which is to say, not much at all.

    Unfortunately, stagnant test scores and nagging achievement gaps have been the trend for American students over the last four decades. Yet while achievement flounders, federal education spending and regulations have soared. Since the first authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—today known as No Child Left Behind—in 1965, federal spending on education has tripled. Yet Congress continues to pursue the same failed approach to education. Most recently, Senators Tom Harkin (D–IA) and Mike Enzi (R–WY) introduced a massive, 860-page education bill to reauthorize ESEA, somehow convinced that this time Washington-centric education policy will work.

    Rather than more federal spending and ever more regulations from federal politicians, states should have the flexibility to implement practices that will lead to better results among their specific students.

    Decades of attempts to improve education from Washington have failed to improve student learning or narrow achievement gaps. Rather than help schools, Washington has bound them with regulations and made schools more accountable to federal politicians than to children and families. Policies that give states autonomy in deciding how to spend their education dollars are the types of reforms that could finally move the needle on the NAEP and on America’s academic standing in K-12 education.

    Matt Larsen is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm

    Posted in Education, Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to The Nation's Report Card: Congress Fails Test on Helping Students Learn

    1. Bobbie says:

      it was funny to hear one of the demands of the OWS gang suggested eliminating home schooling? why would that be a concern of theirs unless the socialist, communist government party isn't behind it? how pathetic they're threatened by other peoples' abilities that's none of no ones' business. really, if public education is worth the convenience and neglecting by limiting your child's own minds ability, then you pay for it. put the thieving cost on those benefiting!

      Children and money are worth more then this unacceptable incompetency within the control of government! cutting pay and benefits would clean out the disingenuous. privatize and homeschooling is a good idea! a parent/siblings can be much greater teachers than most anyone else especially greater in the cultural immigrant communities. stop the expenses of no equal worth!

    2. Stirling says:

      How about making the Teachers Unions work for Free to support the Free education that OWS is arguing for? This could give the Taxpayer more money in their pockets (which actually would be used to grow the economy), and make the Unions eat their words, since we know that if it wasn't for the money then their is NO Incentive to back such a rediculous demand. The reason for the lack of improvement in scores can be tied to the liberal media and progressive educational (indoctrination) agenda which has emphisised lack of personal responisbility and moral values for decades.

    3. Lloyd Scallan says:

      Decades ago, communist leftist realized they could not destroy our American way of life with force. So they adopted a slow, mathoughtal process to "educate" the youth by drumming a socialist ideology into their young minds from their very first day in school. That would result in a citizenry of little "comrades" marching in lockstep to the beat of a socialist, Marxist society. But for that plan to work, they first must win over teachers wiling to accept that premise. Thus teachers union!

    4. Aaron says:

      The title of this article says it all. Congress can't possibly help kids learn. They're not teachers. They never have been, and hopefully they never will be. Just like Congress shouldn't interfere with the regulation of business, they shouldn't interfere with the regulation of education.

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