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Majority of U.S. high school seniors score basic or below in reading and math

Majority of US high school students score at basic or below in reading and math
Majority of US high school students score at basic or below in reading and math
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores released May 7, 2014 have stagnated since 2009. Just 38% of United States high school seniors scored proficient or higher in reading and only 26% in math.

“Too few students are achieving at a level to make our country competitive at an international level….students have a low bar to graduate from high school (81% graduated in 2012) but it’s not a high enough bar to really pursue a career actively when they leave.” Cornelia Orr, executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board (Wall Street Journal (WSJ) 5/8/14)

In 2013, the percentage of Nebraska 8th grade students scoring at the proficient level or above in reading was just 37% and 36% in math. (2013 NAEP) which leaves a considerable proportion of students unprepared for a career. Proficiency scores have remained the same, but the 2013 high school graduation rate for Lincoln Public Schools nevertheless increased to 87.1% (

In a previous column (link here) I described how (inflation-adjusted) school spending since 1970 has tripled, the number of school employees almost doubled, yet math and verbal skills declined.

Is public education a system of involuntary subjection to others? Analysis of student outcomes has revealed learning failure for decades, congruent with expansion of the system.

Student-filled classroom seats ensured by punitive truancy laws, cause dollars to hit pockets. Ineffective curriculum and instruction, no acceleration despite curriculum mastery, emotional and behavioral issues often result from intense frustration brought on by a lack of mental engagement, which serves to pull in more dollars through (artificially generated) special education services.

Parents provide children and funding. However, when parents voice objection to curriculum or practices, they may be threatened with a lawsuit or arrested. Taxpayers provide funding but have no voice in operations. In Nebraska, school choice is not an option. The majority of students will spend twelve to fourteen years confined to a seat, yet ill-prepared to actively pursue a career upon exit.

Abraham Lincoln thought government had a responsibility to all its citizens. An excerpt from his First message to Congress at the Special Session, July 4, 1861: “On the side of the Union it is a struggle for maintaining in the world that form and substance of government whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men—to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life.”

Education shouldn't be about confinement and control. Student learning outcomes and achievement ought to govern every decision and every position while offering students school choice and curriculum options which are in their best interest.

In addition to learning, freedom and liberty are absent from the status quo.

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