Education Gains are Lost on High School Students

Alan Borsuk:

The message put forth by, among others, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings on Thursday, is that the data point to the urgency of the hot new issue in education: What can we do about high school?
The priority of the issue increased with the release of data on long-term, nationwide trends in performance by students in math and reading. The information is from the National Assessment of Education Progress, a Department of Education effort that calls itself “The Nation’s Report Card.” NAEP has been testing samples of students from across the United States since the 1970s.
The results show that among 9-year-olds, reading performance in 2004 was up a significant amount, compared with both 1999 and the oldest data available, from 1971. In fact, the overall score was the highest on record.
But among 17-year-olds, the average score in 2004 was exactly the same as in 1971, and the trend has been downward slightly since the early 1990s.