America compared to 10 years ago…
Unfortunately, when compared to ourselves from years ago, there is no improvement. There has been no progress in math or reading performance in the last decade.
The biggest drop in performance comes from students who were already considered to be “low performing”.
When looking at the results of NAEP testing, 13 year olds have dropped 3 points in reading and 5 points in math since 2012. These results were collected before the pandemic began, which means these results were not affected by learning loss from the pandemic or by online learning. This is the first time scores have fallen since 1990.
With an increasing knowledge gap, students who need to make the most progress are at a standstill, or worse, falling further behind. The categories of readers that are thought to be the lowest performing have made no improvement, and reading scores of 8th graders have dropped in a whopping 30 states.
America Compared to Other Countries
The US is unfortunately in the bottom half of mathematics scores worldwide. We are 38 out of 71 countries when measuring 15 year olds' math proficiency. When looking at the 35 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the US is 30th. In 2017, 38% of 12th graders were considered to be at the lowest math performance level.
On the other end of the scale, Finland’s education system is considered to be one of the best in the world. In Finland, all teachers have masters degrees, teacher education programs are extremely competitive, and there is little to no standardized testing in schools. Resources and funds are distributed equally in all schools.
The principal of one school recommends, “Build the system [so] that you trust the people.” Finnish parents report complete trust in their children’s schools and teachers, and therefore have few worries about the quality of their children’s education.
Teachers have control of how they teach topics, what subjects need the most focus, and how much technology is used in their classroom. The access to resources, reasonable salary, and control over their environment means that in Finland, teachers are half as likely to leave the profession as they are in America .
Why is our performance suffering?
It’s undeniable that the biggest impact on education is the teachers. Unfortunately, many teachers ( up to ⅕ of teachers a year in some regions) are leaving the profession due to low salary, low resources, and problems exacerbated by COVID19 and distance learning.
Larger student populations and fewer teachers means that class sizes are increasing quickly. Despite the increased demands on teachers, salaries have actually decreased in the last 10 years. Even when a teacher’s wage increases, the increase rarely keeps up with inflation. Many teachers have a second job because they aren’t making a livable wage from their school.
Another factor is that the amount of children who read frequently is steadily declining. When looking at students who report never or hardly ever reading in their own time, the amount of 9 year olds' increased from 11% to 16%, and the amount of 13 year olds' increased from 22% to 29%.
When reading is only being done in the classroom, students' brains aren’t being exercised. This lack of brain work means that not only is their literacy suffering, but their overall cognitive ability.
Although we were facing problems with our education system long before the pandemic, COVID and online learning only made it worse. Check out our article on how online learning failed.
What can you do to help your child?
Although our education system is imperfect, very few of these issues are the fault of teachers. Recognize that your child’s teachers are doing the best they can with what they have been given.
Think about if tutoring outside of the classroom would help your child. If they seem to be behind their classmates, their grades are suffering, or they are constantly frustrated in school, then tutoring may be the right choice for you and your child.
We look forward to helping your student get back on track!1