20 Troubling Facts about American EducationWILLIAM J. BENNETT
Former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett points to 20 statistics which show that, despite thirty years of almost continuous reform, public education in the United States is still not doing an adequate job.
- American 12th graders rank 19th out of 21 industrialized
countries in mathematics achievement and 16th out of 21 nations in science. Our
advanced physics students rank dead last.
- Since 1983, over 10
million Americans have reached the 12th grade without having learned to read at
a basic level. Over 20 million have reached their senior year unable to do basic
math. Almost 25 million have reached 12th grade not knowing the essentials of
- In the same period, over six million Americans
dropped out of high school altogether. In 1996, 44% of Hispanic immigrants aged
16-24 were not in school and did not hold a diploma.
- In the fourth
grade, 77% of children in urban high-poverty schools are reading “below basic”
on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
average black and Hispanic 17-year-old children have NAEP scores in math, science,
reading and writing that are equivalent to average white 13-year-old children.
School spending and use of resources
- Average per-pupil spending in U.S. public schools rose 212% from
1960 to 1995 in real (i.e. inflation-adjusted) dollars.
- In 1960,
for every U.S. public school teacher there were approximately 26 students enrolled
in the schools. In 1995, there were 17.
- In 1994, fewer than 50%
of the personnel employed by U.S. public schools were teachers.
average salary of U.S. public school teachers rose 45% in real dollars from 1960
Readiness for college work
- In 1995, nearly 30% of first-time college freshmen enrolled in
at least one remedial course and 80% of all public four-year universities offered
- According to U.S. manufacturers, 40% of all
17-year-olds do not have the math skills and 60% lack the reading skills to hold
down a production job at a manufacturing company.
- 76% of college
professors and 63% of employers believe that “a high school diploma is no guarantee
that the typical student has learned the basics.”
- Only 38% of U.S. public school teachers majored
in an academic subject in college.
- 40% of public high school
science teachers have neither an undergraduate major nor minor in their main teaching
field and 34% of public high school math teachers did not major or minor in math
or related fields.
- Only one in five teachers feels well prepared
to teach to high academic standards.
- In 1996, 64% of high school seniors reported
doing less than one hour of homework per night.
- 57% of public
schools reported moderate to serious discipline problems in the 1996-97 school
The federal role
Florida, it takes six times as many people to administer a federal education dollar
as a state dollar: 297 state employees are responsible for $1 billion in federal
funds while 374 employees oversee $7 billion in state funds.
Arizona, 45% of the staff of the state education department are responsible for
managing federal programs that account for six percent of the state's education
- After spending $118 billion since 1965 on Title I,
the federal government's largest K-12 program, evaluations conclude that the “program
has been unable to lift [the] academic level of poor students.”
- Pursuing Excellence: A Study of U.S. Twelfth-Grade Mathematics and Science
Achievement in International Context (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education,
National Center for Education Statistics, February 1998).
- A Nation Still
at Risk: An Education Manifesto (Washington, DC: April 30, 1998) (see www.edexcellence.net).
- Quality Counts `98: The Urban Challenge (Washington, DC:
Editorial Projects in Education, January 8, 1998).
- Larry Stedman, “An
Assessment of the Contemporary Debate over U.S. Achievement,” in Brookings Papers
on Education Policy 1998 (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1998).
of Education Statistics 1997, table 39.
- Digest of Education Statistics
1997, figure 8.
- Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
(OECD), Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators (Paris, OECD, 1995), table p31.
- Digest of Education Statistics 1997, table
- David W. Breneman, “Remediation in Higher Education: Its Extent and
Cost,” in Brookings Papers on Education Policy 1998 (Washington, DC: The Brookings
- Education and Training for America's Future (Washington,
DC: National Association of Manufacturers, January 1998).
- Reality Check
(New York: Public Agenda, January 1998).
- Teacher Quality: A Report on
the Preparation and Qualifications of Public School Teachers (Washington, DC:
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, January
- America's Teachers: Profile of a Profession, 1993-1994 (Washington,
DC: US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, July
- Teacher Quality: A Report on the Preparation and Qualifications
of Public School Teachers (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National
Center for Education Statistics, January 1999).
- Digest of Education Statistics
- Marci Kanstoroom and Chester E. Finn, Jr., ed., New Directions:
Federal Education Policy in the Twenty-First Century (Washington, DC: Thomas B.
Fordham Foundation, March 1999).
- Prospects for Reform: The State of American
Education and the Federal Role (Washington, DC: U.S. Senate Budget Committee Task
Force on Education, 1998).
- Lisa Graham Keegan, “Back Off, Washington,”
in Marci Kanstoroom and Chester E. Finn, Jr., ed., New Directions: Federal Education
Policy in the Twenty-First Century (Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation,
- Ralph Frammolino, “Title I's $118 Billion Fails to Close
Gap,” Los Angeles Times, January 17, 1999.
William J. “20 Troubling Facts about American Education.” Empower America.
by permission of William J. Bennett and Empower America.
William J. Bennett is one of America's most influential and respected voices on cultural, political, and education issues. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Bill Bennett studied philosophy at Williams College (B.A.) and the University of Texas (Ph.D.) and earned a law degree from Harvard. He is the Washington Fellow of the Claremont Institute, & a CNN Contributor. Dr. Bennett is the host of a nationally broadcast radio show from 6:00-9:00 a.m. (EST): Bill Bennett's Morning in America.
During the 1980s, Dr. Bennett served as President Reagan's chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (1981-1985) and Secretary of Education (1985-1988), and President Bush's "drug czar" (1989-1990).
Dr. Bennett has recently completed a two-volume history of the United States, entitled: America: The Last Best Hope, Volumes 1 & 2 — both New York Times Best-sellers. He has written and edited a total of 16 books, including What Works: William J. Bennett's Research About Teaching and Learning, The Educated Child: A Parents Guide From Preschool Through Eighth Grade, The Book of Virtues, The Children's Book of Virtues, The Children's Book of Faith, The Children's Book of Home and Family, The Broken Hearth: Reversing the Moral Collapse of the American Family, and The Moral Compass: Stories for a Life's Journey. He, his wife Elayne, and their two sons live in Maryland.
Copyright © 2008 William J. Bennett