Indicators of the Problem

Teachers across the nation increasingly indicate that students are tuning out in record numbers. Some experts believe that this is the result one would expect from a system which does not respect parental and student values and choices in regards to the kind of school they think is best.

In a report by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, entitled "The American Teacher 1988: Strengthening the Relationship Between Teachers and Students," teachers and students said a great deal of classroom time was wasted. Forty percent of the teachers said they taught less than 75 percent of the time they spent with students and 13 percent said they spent less than half their classroom time teaching. The majority of teachers said students did not pay attention most of the time and more than a quarter of the teachers said students paid attention less than half of the time they were teaching. In order to clarify just how critical the problem has become, the following data are presented:

  • In international comparisons of student achievement on 19 academic tests, American students were never first or second and, when compared with other industrialized nations, were last seven times. (National Commission on Excellence in Education)

  • Twenty-three million of American adults are now functionally illiterate by the simplest tests of everyday reading, writing, and comprehension. (National Commission on Excellence in Education)

  • Thirteen percent of all 17-year-olds in the United States can be considered functionally illiterate. Functional illiteracy among minority youth may run as high as 40 percent. (National Commission on Excellence in Education)

  • The average achievement of high school students on most standard­ized tests is now lower than 26 years ago when Sputnik was launched. (National Commission on Excellence in Education)

  • Over half of the population of gifted students do not match their tested ability with comparable achievement in school. (National Commission on Excellence in Education)

  • The College Board's Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT) demonstrate a virtually unbroken decline from 1963 to 1980. Average verbal scores fell over 50 points and average mathematics scores dropped nearly 40 points. (National Commission on Excellence in Education)

  • Although there was a slight rise in SAT scores from 1981-85, they have not risen since 1985 and in 1988 suffered a 2-point fall. (The College Board, "News from the College Board," (Sept. 20, 1988). Table entitled, "College Bound Seniors, SAT Score Averages, 1967­88)

  • Both the number and proportion of students demonstrating superior achievement on SATs (those with scores 650 or higher) have dramatically declined. (National Commission on Excellence in Education)

  • According to tests administered to students at ages 9, 13, and 17 as part of the periodic National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), less than ten percent of all 13-year-olds are "adept" at reading and less than one percent are advanced. (Trends in Education Achievement, April 1986: pp. 43, 46; U.S. Congressional Budget Office)

  • In the first survey of geographic knowledge conducted and made public by the National Geographic Society, the Society said Americans share "an astonishing lack of awareness of the world around them." Young Americans (ages 18-24) scored in last place for geographical knowledge among the ten nations where the test was given. Fourteen percent of Americans could not find the United States on a world map. Only 32 percent of Americans could find Vietnam on a map. (The New York Times, November 9, 1989)

  • Most high school graduates possess only a junior high level of reading or math comprehension. (American Education: Making it Work. U.S. Department of Education)