Time to take a break from Trump TV and learn about a chronic, pervasive, under-reported national crisis severely impacting America’s current and future economy. This crisis may also help explain why a government-guaranteed job program is potentially the next huge political wedge issue for the 2020 presidential election. According to a recent Rasmussen poll, such a program is supported by 46% of Americans.
But the core crisis is abysmal test scores from the “Nation’s Report Card.”
Test results released in April with from both public and non-public school eighth and fourth-graders, reveal that 66% of eighth-graders are “not proficient” in math and 64% are “not proficient” in reading. Yes, you read the right, two-thirds of the nation’s eighth-graders!
Fourth-graders fared slightly better with 60% “not proficient” in math and 63% “not proficient” in reading.
The tests are administered every two years to fourth- and eighth-graders (but less frequently to twelfth-graders) by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The “Nation’s Report Card” is a congressionally mandated project within the Department of Education.
Unfortunately, despite all the billions spent annually on education, the biennial results stay roughly the same or worse in some states.
Look no further than NAEP’s Grade 12 “report card” from 2015 (most current data), which sheds light on how this education crisis morphs into a socio-economic crisis when millions of low-achieving high-school graduates enter the job market.
Here is the percentage of Grade 12 public and non-public school students at or above proficiency by subject and race in math and reading:
Math: 25% student average. By race: Asian 47%, white 32%, Hispanic 12%, African American, 7%.
Reading: 37% student average. By race: Asian 49%, white 46%, Hispanic 25%, African American 17%.
Writing: 27% all students.
Science: 22% all students.
U.S. History:12% all students.
This Grade 12 report card helps explain why those comical late-night show “people on the street” interview questions often elicit such jaw-drop-inducing uninformed answers.
Moreover, with the national population rapidly growing more diverse, NAEP’s 2018 student achievement data by race is distressing especially with regard to Hispanic and black eighth-grade math achievement — a developmental benchmark.
Percentage of 8th-graders at or above math “proficiency” for last two test years:
White (2017) 44% (2015) 43%
African American (2017) 13% (2015) 13%
Hispanic (2017) 20% (2015) 19%
Asian: (2017) 64% (2015) 61%
Now let’s circle back to the aforementioned April 30 Rasmussen poll of likely voters finding that 46% of Americans support a “proposed federal government program that guarantees all Americans a job with health insurance.”
In fact, such a job program is gaining traction, most notably from three potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates —Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Therefore, expect to hear more about this socialist-like proposal leading up to the 2020 presidential primaries. Then, don’t be surprised when the concept eventually morphs into a hot-button or political wedge issue.
Which leads us to the question: Is there a correlation between consistently low student achievement in the nation’s three largest racial groups and almost half of Americans supporting (at least in theory) a guaranteed federal job program? I believe the answer is not just “yes,” but “hell, yes.”
Responding to the NAEP’s report card, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, issued a stern warning about the future economic implications of a low-skilled workforce. Haley Ast, the Chamber Foundation’s senior program coordinator, wrote:
NAEP results show that there are too few students equipped with the skills they will need to succeed in college and the workforce. With more than half of our 4th graders scoring below grade level in reading and math, the businesses of tomorrow will not be able to employ the students of today.
Compounding the problem are trends toward the elimination of menial jobs through workplace automation and robotics, in addition to a shrinking retail sector while the numbers of low-skilled American workers are growing.
Our nation is quickly moving toward an unforgiving economy where low- vs. high-skill workers contribute to the ever-widening rich vs. poor gap resulting in a growing underclass that translates into a heavier reliance on government funding and services.
That reality politically explains why three 2020 Democrat hopefuls are proponents of a “pie in the sky” government-guaranteed job program supported by close to half of Americans.
Furthermore, those same Democratic presidential wannabes instinctively know that class warfare is the next great domestic war. With a growing civilian “army” sustained by low student achievement in a hi-tech economy, America’s future will likely be politically dominated by the needs of the least skilled.
A “call to action” is what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation calls the National Report Card, “not just to those in the education system, but also to the larger community of policymakers and leaders who must do more to provide opportunities for all students.”
Does the overused phrase “provide opportunities for all students” need a total makeover? It sure appears that way since NAEP’s report card going back years proves that throwing billions of dollars at schools yields the same disturbing results.
Alternatively, should schools begin training for specific real-world jobs starting in eighth grade? It’s a radical concept contrary to our college-dominated K-12 education system. Still, it may be a viable option for millions of low-achieving students headed toward lifetimes of low-wage or even future, “government guaranteed” jobs.
The hard truth is future employment prospects for legions of low-achieving students are a massive growing problem clearly seen in the Nation’s Report Card. Thus, educators should encourage creative solutions from the private sector with the government offering financial support and incentives, but mostly cheering from the sidelines.
Cross posted at Townhall