NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Some Bright Spots In U.S. Education

June 2, 2000

High school students are increasingly signing up for more rigorous courses, specifically those in math and science. That was one of the more encouraging developments reported in an annual survey issued by the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education.

Here are some other trends noted by the center:

  • Despite some recent high-profile school shootings, school violence has not increased in the past quarter-century and an overwhelming majority of teachers remain very confident they can maintain order in their classrooms.
  • More parents are turning away from local public schools, to private schools or school choice programs such as charter schools -- while the level of parent confidence in public schools has slipped slightly in the past few years.
  • In 1998, 41.4 percent of high school graduates had completed advanced math courses and 59.6 percent had completed advanced science courses -- compared to 26.2 percent and 30.6 percent, respectively, in 1982 -- but on average, U.S. students still lag behind their peers in many other industrialized countries.

The average number of courses taken in high school had increased to 25 by 1998 -- from 22 in 1982. The proportion of students taking the highest level math courses increased to 27 percent from 11 percent during that period, and the number taking both chemistry and physics jumped to 19 percent from 7 percent

According to the report, 39 percent of math courses in Japan and 28 percent in Germany received the highest-quality rating by a panel of researchers -- while none in the U.S. did.

Source: Kate Zernike, "American Education Gets an A for Effort," New York Times, June 2, 2000.


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