High School Students are Learning Much More Today

       High school students are learning much more today than they did in past generations.  So often we hear about students who are not succeeding--and we certainly have too many students who struggle to succeed in our high schools.  But compared to past generations, our schools have done a good job at increasing student achievement.  Here's my short list of some of these accomplishments:


  • Course taking in high school for math and science has been rising from 1990 to 2009 according to the Condition of Education from the National Center for Educational Statistics.
    • 76% of HS students took Algebra 2 in 2009 compared to only 54% in 1990.
    • 70% of HS students took Chemistry in 2009 compared to only 49% in 1990.
    • taking Physics and Calculus have also increased dramatically in this timeframe.
  • People in the Millennial generation (born from 1981 to 1996) have a higher percentage of earning college degrees than people in the Baby Boomer generation (born from 1946 to 1964).
    • For men this number went up from 17% to 21%.
    • For women this number went up from 14% to 27%.
  • Math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have increased for 9 year-olds from 1973 to 2012.  The same is true for 13-year-olds.  
  • Reading scores on the NAEP have increased for 9-year-olds from 1971 to 2012.
       I was at a conference recently in which the speaker said that the average poor student today is two-and-a-half years ahead (in terms of learning) than poor students from a generation ago.  I can't find the source for this statistic, but if it is true then it tells me that making this sort of comparison can help us to gauge increases in student achievement.

       We always hear stories about failing schools and failing students and failing this and that.  Of course we can do better; and we are always going to have students that struggle academically.  But by raising the bar again and again over time, we have pushed students to learn more and more.  The world has changed and our schools need to change if we are really meant to prepare our students for this new world.  I think it helps to take a step back from the constant negative stories about education and take some time to think about the improvements that have been made.

       We are always improving and this improvement must come while simultaneously moving forward.  




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