US Spends $600 Billion/Year on Education, But Large Majority of H.S. Seniors Not College-Ready

Barbara Hollingsworth | April 28, 2016 | 4:03pm EDT
Font Size
(AP photo)

( – Despite the fact that the U.S. spends more than $600 billion per year on public education, a large majority of high school seniors are not ready for college-level work in math and reading, according to the latest results of the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as “the nation’s report card”.

(National Assessment of Educational Progress)

Demonstrating proficiency in a core subject like math or reading is considered proof of being academically prepared for college-level courses.

However, just 25 percent of 12th graders tested “Proficient” or above in math on the 2015 NAEP, down slightly from the 26 percent reported in 2013.

That means that three-quarters of the nation’s soon-to-be-graduating high school seniors are not prepared to succeed in college math courses.

Although more 12th graders (37 percent) tested “Proficient” or above in reading, that figure was also down one percent from the 2013 results.

According to NAEP, nearly two-thirds of high seniors do not have the written language skills they will need in college.

The average score of the 31,900 12th graders who took the 2015 NAEP math test was 152, which was down in all four content areas and one point lower than the average score (153) in 2013, Peggy Carr, acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), told reporters during a webinar on Wednesday announcing the latest NAEP results.

Only three percent of those taking the math assessment tested “Advanced.” Another 22 percent tested “Proficient”, with 37 percent of test-takers demonstrating a “Basic” mastery of mathematics.

However, the largest contingent – 38 percent – tested at the lowest “Below Basic” level. “There is a larger proportion of students at the bottom of the distribution” than in 2013, Carr acknowledged.

English Language Learners, who posted a six-point gain, were the only student sub-group to significantly increase their math scores over 2013 levels, she pointed out.

The average score in reading (287) was not significantly different from the average score reported in 2013 (288), Carr said.

Six percent of high school seniors scored in the “Advanced” reading category, with 31 percent testing “Proficient”, and 35 percent scoring in the “Basic” range.

However, 28 percent failed to demonstrate even basic mastery of the written word – three percent more than in 2013.

Carr noted that the 2015 NAEP results remained virtually unchanged for various racial and ethnic sub-groups compared to 2013. In general, white and Hispanic males tended to do better on the math tests, while females overall did better on the reading assessments, she pointed out.

Education experts also noted that average math scores were higher for students who took more challenging pre-calculus and calculus classes, and average reading scores were the highest for students who reported reading more than 20 pages of text a day in school or while doing their homework assignments.

When asked how the latest reading and math NAEP scores compared to student test scores worldwide, Carr replied that “we will wait to see” when the next international results are released in November and December.

According to the latest available figures from NCES, “the 50 states and D.C. reported $603.7 billion in funding collected for public elementary and secondary education in 2013.”

State and local governments provided 91 percent of all education funding, while the federal government paid the remaining 9 percent.

Related: 8th Grade Girls, 4th Grade Boys in Mass. Top Scorers on NAEP Math Tests

Related: Nation’s Report Card: Only a Third of 8th Graders Can Read, Compute At Grade Level

mrc merch