NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 5, 1995

Education Secretary Richard Riley says he is "heartened" by an eight point improvement in average Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores of the nation's school children this year. However, SAT scores are still 46 points below the 1969 average, and other performance measures indicate the state of education is still dismal.

  • The 1994 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that high school seniors scored "significantly lower" on reading proficiency tests than they did in 1992.
  • It found that 30 percent of high school seniors are functionally illiterate, another 26 percent can comprehend only simply written material, 40 percent are able to read and understand their grade-level material and just 4 percent scored "advanced" grades.

It has been 13 years since then-Education Secretary Terrel Bell issued his report on education, "A Nation at Risk," which supposedly launched a revolution in education. But no improvement has taken place.

The average combined verbal and math SAT score in 1982 was 893. It rose marginally by 1987 to 906, then dropped back to 896 in 1991. Last year, it was 902, and this year, 910. In 1969 the average was 956.

Inner city minorities are the worst served by the education system.

  • According to NAEP scores, 54 percent of black high school seniors read at a "below basic" level, only 12 percent are "proficient" and fewer than 1 percent are "advanced."
  • Among Hispanics, 48 percent are "below basic," 18 percent are "proficient" and 1 percent are "advanced."

Private education showed much better results. Only 16 percent of private high school seniors scored "below basic" on the reading test, half the proportion in public schools. Forty-one percent of the private school students were "proficient," compared to 29 percent in the public schools.

Source: "Morton Kondracke, "Turnaround in test scores is a mirage," Dallas Morning News (from Roll Call), September 5, 1995.


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