From the National Center for Education Statistics (a fabulous resource, I should note) comes a profile of the American high school sophomore, circa 2002. The results? Not too wonderful.
Oh, sure, over half of the sample of 15,362 students are playing sports, and the majority had positive views of their schools. Eighty-eight percent feel safe at school. Most felt well-informed about school rules. And they're ambitious - 81.9% felt they would complete at least some college classes in their lifetime; over half thought they would earn at least a four-year degree.
As the Gadfly notes, though, those ambitions don't exactly square with reality:
There is...quite a lot [of information] about their reading and math prowess based on a specially tailored test. That test gauged reading proficiency at three different levels and math skills at five levels. The news is not good. While most tenth graders possess very basic skills, the percentage who can read at the level of "simple inference" is less than half and the fraction that can handle "intermediate level" math concepts (and formulate "multi-step solutions to word problems") is just one in five. Yet when asked about their educational aspirations, 72 percent expect to graduate from a four-year college and half expect to earn a graduate degree. Talk about a major mismatch between hope and reality.
He's not kidding. Quotes from the report:
[In reading] Under half (46 percent) of 10th-graders were at level 2 (ability to make relatively simple inferences beyond the authorís main thought and/or understand and evaluate abstract concepts). Eight percent of sophomores were able to demonstrate mastery at level 3 (ability to make complex inferences or evaluative judgments that require piecing together multiple sources of nformation from the passage). (p 92-93)
Sophomores reported spending approximately 10 hours per week on homework in all subjects, 5 hours in school and 6 hours outside of school (table 18). Of this total, students spent about 5 hours weekly on mathematics homework and about 4 hours on English homework...most differences in the time spent on homework overall were due to differences in the time spent on homework outside of school. (p. 106)
About two-thirds (67 percent) could perform simple operations with decimals, fractions, powers, and roots...At level 4, one-fifth (20 percent) were proficient, that is, could understand intermediate-level mathematical concepts and/or demonstrate ability to formulate multistep solutions to word problems. Level 5 involves solving complex multistep word problems and mastery of material found in advanced mathematics courses...just 1 percent of sophomores were proficient at level 5. (p.125)
...over one-third of sophomores expected that a 4-year college degree would be their highest degree (36 percent), another 20 percent planned to obtain a masterís degree, and about one in six anticipated receiving an advanced
degree, such as a Ph.D. (16 percent). (p. 155)
Results disaggregated by race are even less cheerful:
For example, among sophomores who expected to complete at least a 4-year degree, at reading level 2 (simple inference), 31 percent of Blacks, 35 percent of Hispanics, and 65 percent of Whites were proficient. Among sophomores who expected to complete at least a 4-year degree, at level 4 of mathematics (intermediate concepts), 6 percent of Blacks and 12 percent of Hispanics, contrasted to 33 percent of Whites, were proficient.
You read that right. Some kids who expect to get a four-year degree are no further along in reading - by 10th grade - than "show[ing] mastery of simple reading comprehension, including reproduction of detail and/or the authorís main thought," and no further along in math than "perform[ing] simple problem solving that involved the understanding of low-level mathematical concepts."
Update: I've listed this post on Wizbang's Carnival of the Trackbacks. This is a regular post on Wizbang on which readers can list any posts they want in the trackbacks; go check it out and see what Wizbang's readers think is essential reading for the week.Posted by kswygert at March 25, 2005 03:50 PM