The United States likes to put a lot of effort into education. National programs like No Child Left Behind and the Common Core Standards have emerged. Policymakers and educators are continually looking to improve education in the United States.
Schools have ramped up their testing. They apply vigorous efforts to prepare students for a modern workforce. But is it enough?
If you look at U.S. education statistics, you might conclude: no, it is not enough. Even with investing more money in education, not enough improvements have been seen. The United States continues to fall short in many aspects.
Let’s take a look at some of the problems with the U.S. Education System
1. Test Scores Remain Flat
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reviewed more than a decade of student test scores. The findings were that test scores remained mostly flat. This is after billions of dollars have been invested to improve performance across the country.
People who promote education reform aren’t sure what to make of this information. Common Core Standards were introduced, setting expectations for English language arts and math.
The purpose of Common Core was to provide a consistent and clear understanding of what students should learn. The focus was placed on achievements at each grade level. Yet, test scores have not reflected any improvement.
More troubling is an achievement gap that has been noted between advantaged and disadvantaged kids. This gap has been widening over the past decade. Possibly as a result of the 2007-2009 recession and economic stress.
2. Falling Behind International Standards
Over the past three decades, the United States’ education rankings have been falling compared to the rest of the world. In 2018, the U.S. ranked 38th in math and 24th in science.
Other countries have continued to invest more money in education. Overall funding in the United States has decreased by 3%.
Part of this is because there are huge variations state by state. Educational data for the United States comes from a huge and diverse population. States vary widely in their budgets, time spent in the classroom, and other factors.
The United States also pays teachers less than other developed countries such as Canada, France, and Korea. Teachers also make less than other professions in the United States that require the same level of education. Many think that this shows a lack of social respect for teachers.
3. Educational Gaps By Demographics
When looking at educational statistics by race and income level, the gaps are wide. Educational attainment, test scores, retention are just a few of the areas that highlight the problems with the U.S. education system. By demographics, it is clear that the U.S. must do better.
As a country, the United States needs to focus on how to help fragile communities. What is a fragile community? It is a community where high crime, lack of quality educational options, and limited economic and social mobility are significant barriers to opportunity.
Being born into a fragile community means less education overall among the adult population. Residents are less satisfied with the quality of K-12 schools. They have less access to an affordable college education.
Lack of opportunity often comes from a lack of access. For example, only 33% of 4-year-olds attend a state-funded pre-K program.
While some children are in private programs, this also means that many children lack access to early education programs. This puts young children at a disadvantage early in education.
4. The Teacher Crisis Is Real and Worsening
Across the country, there is a growing shortage of teachers. Schools are struggling to find and retain highly qualified teachers. Because teacher pay is low compared to other professions, it is getting harder to attract talent.
Teachers also cite increasing stress. Teachers face issues such as lack of parental involvement, student health, and poverty. They have to meet increasing curriculum demands with less career support.
School shootings have led to teacher concerns over safety. In 2019, there were 25 incidents on school grounds. Without measures in place to curb gun violence, some teachers express fears for their lives.
The shortest is highest in high-poverty schools. Teachers in these schools are more likely to transfer to another school. Burnout leads to teachers leaving the profession altogether.
5. A Growing Funding Gap
The richest schools in the United States receive more funds from state and local governments. These schools spend an average of $1,500 more per student than the poorest schools. This is a gap that has grown by more than 44% since 2001-02.
Funding for education is often controlled at the state and local levels. For example, property tax revenue can push more money into wealthier districts. At the same time, poor districts may face budget cuts.
Money in schools impacts many resources. From teacher salaries to student-teacher ratios in the classroom, it all comes down to money. Textbooks, extracurriculars, and sports equipment are all part of the school’s budget.
School financing is different in every state. This means that where a student lives impacts the quality and access to education. It also accounts for the huge disparities between school performance state by state.
Families that can afford to will move into the “good school districts.” However, this isn’t an option for everyone. Children are left behind in districts that lack funding.
What The U.S. Education Statistics Mean: The Challenges
How can these shortcomings within the U.S. education system be addressed? Even with knowing these statistics, there are no clear answers. Educators and policymakers must continue to challenge themselves to find solutions.
It seems that many of the traditional models of more testing and more money are not working. New ways of thinking and initiatives are needed for improvements.
Some of these U.S. education statistics point to systemic issues. It means that communities must come together to address educational change.