Only 22% of 12th-grade students are proficient in science, 25% in math, and 37% in reading (NAEP, 2017). Also, the most recent ACT Math scores are at a 20-year low. And, according to an ETS report, U.S. students lack the "necessary skills across the domains of literacy, numeracy and problem-solving."
I have an answer, but you won't like it: It's the teaching.
Many teachers are handed a substandard curriculum and use inferior instructional methods that are advocated by liberal professors in ed schools. The curriculum in math is not benchmarked to international standards. Unfortunately, teachers often implement minimal guidance methods of instruction (e.g., group work) that are inefficient.
Fundamentals Are Not Taught for Mastery!
The fundamentals, starting with 1st-grade arithmetic, are not taught for mastery, which involves memorization and drill-to-develop-skill. Students are taught reform math, not standard arithmetic. Also, the minimal-guidance teaching methods (group work) are inefficient compared to explicit teaching. Moreover, the math curriculum is not world class. For example, U.S. 1st-grade students learn substantially less than their counterparts in Singapore. Furthermore, teaching to the test items is a lousy method to teach fundamentals.
Standard arithmetic is straightforward and simple, but the liberal reformers have complicated it and made it complex, difficult, and confusing for students. To make matters worse, there are all the fads, regulations, trends, policies, and extras that are pushed into the classroom by progressive reformers.
Kids are novices, not little mathematicians. Novices need to memorize stuff.
ETS Report states that Many Millennials Lack Literacy, Numeracy, and Problem-Solving Skills!
1. Literacy: U.S. millennials scored lower than 15 of the 22 OECD participating countries (OECD is the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development).
2. Numeracy: U.S millennials ranked last with Italy and Spain.
3. PS-TRE (Problem Solving in technology-rich environments):
U.S. millennials ranked last with Slovak Republic, Ireland, and Poland.
The ACT Math Scores have sunk to a 20-year low! Kids don't have strong math skills that are essential for STEM jobs to power the economy. In the classroom, the mastery of fundamental content through memorization and practice-practice-practice has not been the goal. Instead of traditional (i.e., standard) arithmetic, students are taught reform math.
US education has been following the wrong path for decades.
Test-based reforms, NCLB (now ESSA), Common Core, state standards based on Common Core, state tests, fallacious "fairness" policies, and other progressive fads and trends--such as credit recovery, inclusion, group work, more money, more tech, and so on--have been false starts.
Kids stumble over simple arithmetic.
Teaching reform math rather than traditional or standard arithmetic in the early grades has flunked. The national and international math tests show that our students are behind the best-performing nations in math by a wide margin. Furthermore, the high rates of remedial math (up to 88% of incoming students at community colleges) are another red flag.
In my opinion, the progressive-left or liberal narrative has damaged public education with radical ideas such as credit-recovery schemes and "fallacious fairness policies" as Sowell has pointed out. In mathematics, for example, the mastery of content knowledge and skills is not stressed in progressive (liberal-left) classrooms, starting with 1st-grade arithmetic.
Grade Inflation Kills
Children do not live in Lake Wobegon where all are above average. They are unequal. Regrettably, merit and achievement do not count for much in many schools today. Still, parents think their schools are doing great when they are not. In math, for example, teachers often give As and Bs for substandard performance. Grade inflation is entrenched in school policies. It has been a pretense for equality, inclusivity, diversity, and social justice.
In the real world, getting a passing grade on the state test should not imply that the student has mastered grade-level content and skills in math. Many parents do not realize how poorly their child is doing in math because the math curriculum is not world-class beginning in the 1st grade. Also, teachers inflate grades and pass students to the next grade level. A student can get As in class and fail the state test in math. It's crazy! Students are passed to 4th grade without mastering the times table in 3rd grade, and so on. Indeed, by the 4th or 5th-grade, math students are at least two years behind their peers from other nations. One cannot make the unequal, equal. Note. Parents want their child with grade-level kids, not in a class fitting their instructional needs, so teachers pass them on.
Mathematics Professor H. Wu, UC-Berkeley, discussed the problems of implementing Common Core state standards. He wrote parts of it (e.g., fractions). Wu acknowledged that Common Core would likely fail because K-8 teachers do not know enough math content to teach it well. No amount of professional development will change this, he said.
Mark Pulliam writes, "Diversity means singling out certain races for special treatment." It's called equity, but it is hardly fair. According to the progressive-left narrative, opinion about anything is as valid as the next. It's nonsense.
Education, today, is not about learning and applying content; it is about diversity, inclusivity, equality, and social justice. You are on the wrong side if you don't buy into the progressive-left narrative that equality in everything is everything. Really?
Individuals vary widely.
We are unequal.
You can't legislate equity via social justice. You can't make the unequal, equal. Merit and achievement are not considered in the progressive narrative. Everyone is the same. But, we are clearly not.
Against the status quo of the progressive-left, kids who excel in math achievement should not be placed with low achieving students for math class. They should be pulled out and taught by an algebra teacher for math class. On the other end of the spectrum, Singapore pulls out students with weak numeracy skills at the start of 1st grade to catch them up.
Many Millennials Lack Literacy, Numeracy, and Problem-Solving Skills!
"The rationale for the focus on millennials is simple: This generation of American workers and citizens will largely determine the shape of the American economic and social landscape of the future." The deficient skills of U.S. Millenials should alarm us, but it has not. (Quote: Education Testing Service (ETS) report America's Skills Challenge: Millennials and the Future 2015)
"The youngest segment of the U.S millennial cohort (16- to 24-year-olds), who could be in the labor force for the next 50 years, ranked last in numeracy and among the bottom countries in PS-TRE. In literacy, U.S. millennials scored low, too. Note. Data is from the Education Testing Service (ETS) report America's Skills Challenge: Millennials and the Future, 2015)
The ETS report states that even our best millennials don't measure up to their peers from other nations. It does not surprise me. Starting in the first grade, U.S. students are not learning basic mathematics well enough to compete in a world driven by technology engineering, and science. The millennials have been in progressive schools that stressed understanding and problem-solving. What's wrong? The "teaching" was wrong! The mastery of domain knowledge and skills in long-term memory was not stressed.
Today, students lack the knowledge to do critical thinking (aka problem-solving), not only in math but also in science. Knowledge in long-term memory enables problem-solving, which is domain-specific.
Only 22% of 12th-grade students are proficient in science, 25% in math, and 37% in reading (NAEP, 2017). Not good!
In short, U.S. students lack the necessary "skills across the domains of literacy, numeracy and problem-solving."
Also, "The scores of U.S. millennials whose highest level of educational attainment was either less than high school or high school are lower than those of their counterparts in almost every other participating country." It does not surprise me because government schools have used credit recovery schemes, grade inflation, and watered-down courses to increase their graduation rates.
First-Draft Form. Expect Changes.