Millions of kids simply don’t find school very challenging, a new analysis of federal survey data suggests. The report could spark a debate about whether new academic standards being piloted nationwide might make a difference.
The findings, out today from the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank that champions “progressive ideas,” analyze three years of questionnaires from the Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, a national test given each year.
Among the findings:
•37% of fourth-graders say their math work is “often” or “always” too easy;
•57% of eighth-graders say their history work is “often” or “always” too easy;
•39% of 12th-graders say they rarely write about what they read in class.
Ulrich Boser, a senior fellow at the center who co-wrote the report, said the data challenge the “school-as-pressure-cooker” image found in recent movies such as Race to Nowhere. Although those kids certainly exist at one end of the academic spectrum, Boser said, “the broad swath of American students are not as engaged as much in their schoolwork.”
Robert Pondiscio of the Core Knowledge Foundation, a Virginia non-profit that pushes for more rigorous academics, says the pressure-cooker environment applies only to a “small, rarefied set” of high school students. The notion that “every American kid is going home with a backpack loaded with 70 pounds of books — that’s not happening.”