US Test Scores Show No Improvement, Despite More Funding

By Melina Wisecup

NEW YORK—A recent report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that, in a majority of states, test scores have been declining since 2017. The test is given every two years to measure students’ proficiency in core subjects. According to the Maclver Institute, math test scores have flatlined for the past decade.

The decline in reading scores is most notable. This year, 17 states saw declines in 4th-grade reading scores and 31 states saw declines in 8th graders, according to PR Newswire. The achievement gap is widening more and more between higher and lower-achieving students.

In an American Thought Leaders interview, Secretary of Education Betsy de Vos explained that the federal government has spent $1 trillion dollars over a 50 year period in an effort to close the gap between high-performing students and low-performing students. She said, “And over $1 trillion later, that gap has not narrowed one bit. So the solution is not more resources from the federal level.”

Despite the scores not showing any improvement after continued investment, many of the 2020 democratic presidential candidates are proposing to increase funding for lower-income schools—those which usually receive Title I funds. Some examples include Elizabeth Warren proposing to quadruple Title I funding. Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Corey Booker, and Joe Biden are all proposing tripling Title I funding.

A Case In Point

New York State is one of the states that ranks below the national average, despite its funding being higher than most. According to a report by Education Week, New York spends the second-highest amount on education out of any state: almost $20,000 per student each year—well over the $12,700 national average.

A New York High School student, Gregory Wickham, shared his experience interacting with peers.

“I came from a private school which gave me a very comprehensive knowledge, so when I came to Stuyvesant, which has many kids from public school, I got to see a lot of the gaps in their education come to light. I got see how some people were not taught English grammar properly,” said Wickham.

Proficiency in schools and school funding is a topic that is multi-faceted. NYC School Secrets founder Alina Adams gives suggestions—independent of funding—that could potentially improve student proficiency. She says that American education standards are relatively low compared to other countries.

One way to improve would be to raise the standard for children at an early age. However, she acknowledges that every child enters school with different levels of reading skills, so one solution is to try to meet every child where they are to help them develop academically in a constructive manner.

She said, “Kids come in to Kindergarten right now in New York City at widely different levels of preparation. Some kids come into school already reading chapter books and some kids come into school and they don’t know what sound the letter makes… We have to meet each child at the level that they are.”

A commonality between Adams and many other education experts is that there is no “magic bullet.” No one-size-fits-all approach can solve the lack of proficiency our students face, but one place we can start is to enable and encourage teachers to focus more on each child’s individual qualities and capabilities.