New data released by the U.S. Education Department shows that the nationwide high school graduation rate has reached an all time high of 80 percent, which means that four out of every five students are successful in completing their studies and do in fact graduate within four years. Typically, these statistics would be reason for applause. However, sadly, they are overshadowed by an alarming education crisis that is sweeping the United States. While 80 percent of high school seniors are receiving a diploma, less than half of all those who graduate are able to read or complete math problems with proficiency.
Unfortunately, too many students are being passed on to higher grades when they should be held back. This becomes more and more apparent as students pass from grade to grade and cannot complete grade-level work or keep up with fellow classmates. By the time students reach the twelfth grade, they should be able to read and calculate math problems with proficiency, and if they cannot, they simply are not ready to move on and should not be graduating from high school.
In fact, it is unbelievable that students are even entering high school without the ability to read and do math proficiently, much less graduating without these essential life skills. However, less than 40 percent of graduating seniors have mastered these subjects according to a recent report released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is the largest standardized test administered across the nation. This makes these students ill-equipped for college and life in the real world. Those who do go on to pursue a college degree will be at an immediate disadvantage and are more apt to drop out because they simply cannot keep up. Those who persist often require remedial courses in order to advance to college-level course work.
The crisis that is sweeping the United States education system is not a new problem. In fact, student scores have not changed much since 2009 according to the 2013 NAEP. Eleven states voluntarily participated in both the 2009 and 2013 assessments, and those states that showed improvement were very low, with only four states improving in math and only two improving in reading from 2009 to 2013.
The NAEP tested the performance rate of high school seniors using a 300-point math assessment and a 500-point reading assessment. Only 39 percent of students were able to achieve a score of 163 or higher in math, and only 38 percent were able to achieve a score of 302 or higher in reading. Students demonstrating the ability to complete twelfth grade-level math at or above proficiency levels was even lower, at a mere 26 percent.
While the United States education system is experiencing crisis as more and more high school students are graduating with less than proficient reading and math skills, the problem is certainly not going unnoticed. David Driscoll, chair of the National Assessment Governing Board responsible for setting policies for the NAEP said that while the test scores are sobering, it is necessary to ascertain the performance level of high school seniors. This data can then be used to instill a sense of urgency throughout the U.S. education system that will better prepare students for college and life beyond.
Opinion By Donna W. Martin