by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
American schoolchildren’s educational attainment has stagnated in the 21st century, according to data from two recently updated assessments of reading, math, and science skills.
Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), released in November, and from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), released Tuesday, indicate that American kids have seen minimal improvement in their academic abilities since the early to mid-2000s.
“For all of these ambitious efforts we’ve seen unfold, they don’t seem to be making much difference, at least when it comes to measured student performance in reading and math,” Rick Hess, an education policy expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told the Washington Free Beacon.
Experts who spoke with the Free Beacon agreed that the causes of this stagnation are unclear—as one put it, “it’s always kind of a guessing game as to what’s behind these numbers.” At the same time, this flatlining suggests that the education experiments of the past decade, and in particular of the Obama administration, have had minimal benefits on student achievement and may even have hindered the most disadvantaged students. …
… Through the 1990s and early 2000s, achievement, particularly in mathematics, rose steadily, but then began to flatten out. As a report from the Brookings Institution notes, “for both fourth grade and eighth grade, the average [math] scores from 2017 were identical to the average scores from 2009.” Fourth-grade reading scores have been more or less flat since the 2007 assessment; eighth-grade scores have seen improvement, but not on par with the early growth in math scores.