Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thirty Years After A Nation at Risk is Published

Ed. Week here reports on the findings of a commission investigating the current state of education, thirty years after A Nation at Risk was published.  It seems to show a gradual increase in graduation rates, and a small increase in Age 9 reading, and a smaller increase in Age 17 math scores.  In 2010 dollars, teacher salaries have declined since about 1984.

 Here is some more data:  In 1941 the verbal and math SAT scores were curved to an average score of 500.  This reference curve was used until 1995, when it was re-centered.  After 1941, the verbal scores dropped significantly.  By 1952 the average verbal scores was 476.  By 1982 it was 426, and by 1992 it was 423.  In this context, the very slight gain showed on this report is fairly meaningless.

I understand that more students take the SAT now, and that somewhat dilutes scores. But by 1995 there was a drop of almost a whole standard deviation.

To me, what happened seems very clear.  Television came in early in 1950, and by 1960 most children had easy access to daily television.  Reading was no longer the primary entertainment.  With the advent of video games and computers, the trend has just accelerated.
Over the 37 years that I taught high school English, all of my top students—the ones who were the advanced readers and writers—were also the avid readers.  This love and habit of reading was rarely developed in school.  Au contraire.  They told me they held on to their love of reading despite the kind of reading instruction they were exposed to in their classrooms.

I’m afraid that what I see happening now with the Common Core Standards and Assessments will just further accelerate the decline.  Maybe not.  But I don’t see the development of a love and habit of reading a goal anywhere in these new education mandates.

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