The National Assessment of Educational Progress sent home a disappointing report card for our nation’s students. According to the NAEP announcement on October 30th, “Average reading scores for the nation in 2019 were lower for students in both fourth and eighth grade than in 2017, while average mathematics scores were higher by 1 point for fourth graders and lower by 1 point for eighth graders.” It gets worse: “In mathematics and reading for both grades, a little more than one-third of students nationally scored at or above the NAEP Proficient level in 2019.”
Not all was lost however. Fortunately two states, Idaho and Mississippi (who we at the ACTE work closely with) bucked the trend and showed upward trajectory. As reported by Idaho Education News, the state’s scores were above the national averages across the board. While in Mississippi, 4th graders are leading the nation in reading improvements.
Our nation is struggling when it comes to turning out an educated populace. Too often, we have focused on the group rather than the individual, obsessing over multiple choice tests and seeing children as a grade point average. Don Nielsen, program chair to the American Center for Transforming Education, highlights the problem with this approach: “Our public schools were set up, and to a large degree still are set up today, like a swimming meet rather than a swimming lesson. In a swimming meet, the purpose is to determine who is the fastest swimmer. In public schools we spend a lot of time grading students on what they have learned and then ranking them, rather than ensuring that every child has learned. What we need, however, is a public school system that is organized like a swimming lesson. In a swimming lesson, the instructor’s goal is different. The goal is to make sure all students, even the slowest, learn how to swim. Swimming meets can be a result of swimming lessons, and grading can be a result of learning, but ranking students by ability should not be the primary goal of teachers or of the system as a whole.”
Because of the failure of our education system, we have adults who are poorly educated or under educated for the demands of the world in which they live. Children are different, and all have different learning needs, different learning interests, and different learning readiness.
As a nation we are failing our children. We need to educate all of our children so they can grow up to be productive citizens built for this century. Putting advanced swimmers and beginning swimmers in classes designed for their experience level benefits both.