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Press Release

    Twenty Troubling Facts About American Education

    06/21/1999

    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.

    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.

    3) In the same period, over six million Americans dropped out of high school altogether. In 1996, 44% of Hispanic immigrants aged 16-24 were not in school and did not hold a diploma.

    4) In the fourth grade, 77% of children in urban high-poverty schools are reading “below basic” on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

    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.

    School Spending and Use of Resources

    6) Average per-pupil spending in U.S. public schools rose 212% from 1960 to 1995 in real (i.e. inflation-adjusted) dollars.

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

    8) In 1994, fewer than 50% of the personnel employed by U.S. public schools were teachers.

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

    Readiness for College and Work

    10) In 1995, nearly 30% of first-time college freshmen enrolled in at least one remedial course and 80% of all public four-year universities offered remedial courses.

    11) According to U.S. manufacturers, 40% of all 17-year-olds do not have the math skills and 60% lack the reading skills to hold down a production job at a manufacturing company.

    12) 76% of college professors and 63% of employers believe that “a high school diploma is no guarantee that the typical student has learned the basics.”

    Teacher Quality

    13) Only 38% of U.S. public school teachers majored in an academic subject in college.

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

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

    Student Behavior

    16) In 1996, 64% of high school seniors reported doing less than one hour of homework per night.

    17) 57% of public schools reported moderate to serious discipline problems in the 1996-97 school year.

    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.

    19) In Arizona, 45% of the staff of the state education department are responsible for managing federal programs that account for six percent of the state’s education spending.

    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.”

    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: 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., ed., 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., ed., 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.