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New Report:Public Schools Have Improved


New Report: Public Schools Have Improved

Twenty-three years ago, in 1983, a national commission released the report, “A Nation At Risk,” which warned that “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity” in America’s public schools.  Has anything changed since then?  You bet it has.  A new report from the Center on Education Policy proves that public schools have improved.

CEP’s report points to 24 indicators that demonstrate how our systems of pre-K-12 and higher education have moved to successfully confront the challenges identified in the 1983 report.  For example, the year before the “A Nation At Risk” report was released, only 14 percent of high school graduates had completed a core academic curriculum—defined as four years of English and three years each of mathematics, science and social studies.  By the year 2000, that figure had jumped from 14 percent to 57 percent.

“American public schools are doing better in many key respects than they were 20 years ago, even though they often face difficult social and economic circumstances,” the CEP report concluded.  “Americans should be proud of these accomplishments.”

Other findings from CEP’s report:

  • In 1983, less than one-third of all kindergarten students were benefiting from full-day kindergarten programs.  Today, more than 60 percent of these students are enrolled in full-day kindergarten programs.
  • College enrollment rates for African-Americans and Hispanics are higher than they were in 1984.
  • In spite of the fact that public schools have experienced a significant level of negative media coverage over the past decade, the vast majority of parents continue to send their children to public schools.  Since 1985, public school enrollment has actually grown at a faster rate than private school enrollment.
  • Math scores for 9- and 13-year-olds on national exams are “better than ever.”  After researchers at the University of Illinois calculated test scores to reflect differences in socioeconomic status, public school students outperformed private school students in math.
  • Rates of crime and violence on America’s public school campuses have dropped dramatically in the past decade.  The typical student, reports CEP, is “safer at school than in the community or at home.”
  • The number of students enrolling in Advanced Placement (AP) exams and courses “has skyrocketing” since the early 1980s, and the number of minority students taking these exams has also grown considerably.
  • “Scores on the SAT college entrance exam are higher than they were 10 or 20 years ago.”  High school students from the class of ’04 achieved higher math and verbal scores than those who graduated in 1994.

For a copy of CEP’s report, go to:  Look for the reported entitled, “Do You Know the Latest Good News about Public Education?”


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Photographs and illustrations, as well as text, cannot be used without permission from the AFT.

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