The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education. On May 25th, 2017 they released “The Condition of Education 2017”, “a congressionally mandated annual report summarizing important developments and trends in education using the latest available data. The 2017 Condition of Education report presents 50 indicators on topics ranging from prekindergarten through postsecondary education, as well as labor force outcomes and international comparisons.”
Among many other statistics, the report reveals that the U.S. is spending $11,800 per public school student per year. What are public school students receiving at this high cost?
In 2015 (the year on which this most recent report is based), only one-third of twelfth graders scored as proficient in reading. This is a drop of one percentage point from 2013.
Only one-fourth of twelfth graders scored as proficient in mathematics. This was also a drop of one percentage point from 2013.
Of particular concern is the loss of proficiency as students move into higher grades and higher levels of mathematics. 40% of 4th Graders were proficient in math, but only 33% of 8th Graders. By 12th Grade, the proficiency level is 25%. All of these numbers are down from 2013.
The one area of improvement for twelfth graders was science. The percentage of 12th graders proficient in science rose from 21% to 22%. Only one in five public-schooled twelfth graders is proficient in science, according to the government’s own standards.
How should Christian homeschoolers respond to a report like this? A few suggestions:
1) Let us pray. Numbers like these should grieve our hearts, especially when we recognize what they represent for our nation’s children. A dismal education system hurts everyone, and should be a cause of great concern. Even though our own children are not in public schools, we should pray for all public school administrators, teachers, and students. We should seek the blessing of God in this matter.
2) Don’t blame the teachers. The vast majority of teachers care about the children they are teaching and strive to do a good job. The real problem behind these numbers is that our public schools are built on the wrong foundation, they are aiming for the wrong goals, and they are using the wrong methods. The problem is the system, not the teachers.
Also, we must recognize that the responsibility for a child’s education belongs first and foremost with parents. Many children are being raised in homes where a love for learning is not modeled, and intellectual curiosity is often squashed. Unstable families, lack of discipline, entertainment overload, and the loss of Judeo-Christian values are all significant enough by themselves to do great harm, but we see all of these permeating our nation. In light of this, public school teachers need our prayers, gratitude, and admiration – not our blame.
3) We should work to call our nation to a new system of education – one that partners with parents rather than bypassing them. Studies show time and again that the more parents are involved in their children’s education, the better the outcomes. Our current public school system is build on the premise that children belong to the state, not their parents. We must rid ourselves of that wicked notion and create a public school system that serves families. By engaging parents in this way, and returning a measure of responsibility back to them, our nation might bring about the recovery of education for two generations.