Excerpts From the National Education Goals Report

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The following excerpts are from "The National Education Goals Report: Building a Nation of Learners," scheduled to be released this week by the National Education Goals Panel.

The report card is intended to provide baseline data on how the nation is progressing toward meeting the six national education goals adopted last year by the governors and the President. Future report cards will be released each September between now and the year 2000.

The section that follows includes current outcome measures for each of the six goals, as well as a description of where indicators are lacking and need to be developed.

Goal 1: Readiness for School

What we now know:

At present, there are no direct ways to measure the nation's progress toward achieving this goal. What we still need to know:

We need to know whether children are ready to learn when they start school in terms of their physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development. The National Education Goals Panel will be considering whether a national early-childhood assessment system would permit direct and accurate reporting on this goal in future reports.

Goal 2: High-School Completion

What we now know: High-school completion rates: . In 1990, 83 percent of 19- and 20- year-olds reported completing high school, most by earning a traditional high-school diploma. The high-school completion rate was 86 percent for persons 23 and 24 years old. High-school completion rates for white and black students were substantially higher than the rate for Hispanics.

Between 1975 and 1990, high school completion rates for 19- and 20-year-olds improved 12 percentage points for blacks, 2 percentage points for whites, and 2 percentage points overall. However, completion rates for Hispanics have remained consistently lower than the rates for other groups. Dropouts who returned to school: Nearly half of the 1980 sophomores who dropped out between 1980 and 1982 returned and completed high school by 1986. The rate of returning was highest for Asians/ Pacific Islanders. What we still need to know:

We need to know the numbers of students completing and dropping out of school in individual states. We also need more reliable data on completion and dropout rates for minority students, especially Hispanics. The National Education Goals Panel will be considering ways to collect this information so that additional state-level indicators can be included in future reports.

Goal 3: Achievement, Citizenship

What we now know: Competency in mathematics: . This report reveals for the first time how many American students can be considered competent in mathematics. Fewer than one out of every five students in grades 4, 8, and 12 has reached the national education goal of demonstrating competency in mathematics. . Mathematics competency among race/ethnic groups varied considerably in 1990. At 8th grade, for example, the proportions of students demonstrating competency ranged from 4 percent for blacks to 39 percent for Asians/Pacific Islanders. Advanced Placement results: . For every 1,000 11th and 12th graders enrolled in 1991, 70 Advanced Placement examinations were taken in the core subjects of English, mathematics, science, and history. Over 60 percent of the exams were graded at 3 or higher, which is generally high enough to make students eligible for college credit. The numbers of examinations taken in English and history were substantially higher than the numbers taken in mathematics and science.

  • Over the past 10 years, the number of Advanced Placement examinations taken by 11th and 12th graders has sharply increased in the core subjects of English, mathematics, science, and history. Increases have been greatest in mathematics and science.
  • Between 1986 and 1991, the number of Advanced Placement examinations taken in the core subjects increased 51 percent. Rates of increase were greatest among minority students. Citizenship: . In 1988, nearly all 12th graders had a basic knowledge of civics, such as elections, laws, and constitutional rights. However, only about half understood specific government structures and functions, such as separation of powers, and only 6 percent had a detailed knowledge of institutions of government, such as the Cabinet and the judiciary.

In 1988, slightly less than half of the nation's 18- to 20-year-olds were registered to vote, compared to 70 percent of all U.S. citizens 18 years or older.

What we still need to know: We still need to know the competency of students in grades 4, 8, and 12 in the five core subjects, as measured against world-class standards of performance. Only then can the nation and individual states determine where educational efforts are falling short and where student performance must improve.

To address this issue, the panel worked with the Congress to establish the National Council on Education Standards and Testing. Over the next year, the panel will be reviewing the council's recommendations for developing world-class standards and a system of national examinations for determining whether these standards are being met.

Goal 4: Science and Mathematics What we now know: Science achievement: . In 1988, American students scored substantially lower than students in three out of four other countries on an international science assessment given to 13-year-olds.

  • The U.S. ranked among the lowest performing countries in average science achievement on an international assessment which tested 14-year-olds in 17 countries between 1983 and 1986. In particular. U.S. 14-year-olds performed significantly lower than students in 10 countries, significantly higher than students in 1, and did not perform significantly different from students in 5. Mathematics achievement: . In 1988, American 13-year-olds scored lowest among students in five nations on an international mathematics test.
  • Between 1980 and 1982, students from 18 countries participated in an international mathematics assessment of 13-year-olds. Students from 12 countries scored significantly higher than American students in one or more areas of mathematics, while American students scored significantly higher than students from five countries in one or more areas. What we still need to know: We need more recent international comparisons of science and mathematics achievement. Several new surveys will be conducted before the year 2000 that will compare a large number of countries and include students at a range of grade levels. The National Education Goals Panel will report results from these new assessments in future reports.

It was also recommended to the panel that questions on how science and mathematics are taught be added to upcoming national and international surveys and assessments. The National Education Goals Panel will examine these surveys and explore ways to ensure that the highest quality information is collected for inclusion in future reports.

Goal 5: Adult Literacy

What we now know: Adult literacy: . In 1985, most young adults ages 21 to 25 had mastered basic literacy skills such as locating facts from newspaper articles or filling out bank-deposit slips. However, substantial numbers had not mastered more complex tasks such as interpreting the main argument from a lengthy newspaper column or using a catalog to calculate the cost of several items and fill out an order form. Whites were more likely than blacks or Hispanics to have mastered increasingly difficult literacy tasks.

  • A 1990 study of employment-service clients (unemployment-insurance applicants and those looking for jobs) and participants in a federally sponsored-job-training program revealed that patterns of literacy ability were similar to those of young adults in the 1985 study. What we still need to know: We need better and more recent information on adult literacy. In 1993, state and national results from the most comprehensive adult- literacy survey to date will be published in the National Education Goals Panel's annual report.

In addition, we need to know how the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of American workers compare internationally in order to determine whether the American workforce will be competitive in a global economy. Finally, we need to know what our college students have learned from their college experience. The National Education Goals Panel will be considering the feasibility of developing a new international assessment of workforce skills and a new national assessment of college graduates' skills and knowledge in order to meet these needs.

Goal 6: Safe, Drug-Free Schools

What we now know: At-school drug use:

  • About 3 out of 10 high-school seniors reported in 1989 that alcohol and marijuana were easy to obtain in their schools. However, at-school drug use is not widespread. In 1990, 7 percent of 12th graders reported using alcohol at school, 6 percent reported using marijuana, and 1 percent reported using cocaine.
  • Use of alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine at school has dropped sharply since 1980.

Victimization and vandalism:

  • Substantial numbers of 12th graders are victims of violent acts at school. During 1990, 25 percent were threatened and 14 percent were injured without a weapon being used, while 13 percent were threatened and 6 percent were injured with weapons. In addition, 42 percent reported their property stolen, and 29 percent reported their property vandalized.
  • Black students are much more likely than white or Hispanic students to be victims of violent acts at school involving weapons.
  • During the past 10 years, threats and injuries to students and theft and vandalism of student property have been on the rise.
  • Most public-school teachers feel that their schools are safe during the day, but teachers in cities are more likely than teachers in other areas to feel unsafe in their buildings after school hours.
  • Nearly one out of five public-school teachers reported being verbally abused by students during the previous month. Eight percent reported being physically threatened, while 2 percent reported being physically attacked during the previous year. Teachers in cities are more likely than teachers in other areas to be victims of verbal abuse and threats. What we still need to know: We still need comparable state-level information on a number of these indicators, such as the amount of student drug use in school, the availability of drugs in schools, levels of student truancy and tardiness, and the incidence of school crime. The National Education Goals Panel will be considering ways to collect information of this type so that additional state-level indicators can be included in future reports.

Vol. 11, Issue 05, Page 18

Published in Print: October 2, 1991, as Excerpts From the National Education Goals Report
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