The Constitution is silent on education. Not because education wasn’t important to the Founders and Framers; it was – but they recognized it as the responsibility of the family and the local community. In the early days of our Republic, most education took place in the home, where the family taught its children morality, independence, civics, and the fundamentals, and skills/trades from relatives and local artisans and businesses. In 1979, under President Jimmy Carter, despite no clamor from the public, Congress established the federal Department of Education “to establish policy for, administer and coordinate most federal assistance to education, collect data on US schools, and to enforce federal educational laws regarding privacy and civil rights.” Not a word about improving our education system and/or its work product, i.e., well-educated citizens. And, although the Department’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) measurement arm produces reams of data annually, one would be hard-pressed to find anything about improving students’ academic performance, skill levels, “readiness for college,” etc. Moreover, at one time, the NAEP also measured the performance of American students versus their international counterparts, but now it’s hard to find (maybe because American students’ performance has fallen so far below the international levels that it became too embarrassing to show).
Still, what “The Nation’s Report Card” (as the NAEP calls itself) does show is quite revealing – if not also very disappointing. Example: The NAEP captures State-by-State data; for Pennsylvania 4th, 8th, and 12th graders, its current “Report Card” shows that, in 2015, our 4th Graders scored only 40%, 33% and 25%, respectively, as “proficient” in Math. (Not “advanced,” merely “proficient.”) As for Reading, the numbers were 34%, 36%, and 37%, respectively. For Science, 38%, 34%, and 22%, respectively. For Civics, 27%, 24%, and 24%, respectively, and for U.S. History, 20%, 25%, and 12%, respectively. By any measure, these figures are abysmal. No wonder Johnny and Sally leave high school totally unprepared for anything!