NORTHAMPTON, MA – Three decades ago, President Reagan commissioned a study, “A Nation at Risk,” that exposed problems in the education system. Those numbers were recently compared with today. And researchers found there’s still a lot room for improvement, as American students continue to struggle in the classroom.
“They asked a question, how much have we improved from the alarming results 30 years ago? And they basically found that we haven’t improved in a lot of areas,” said the Deputy Director at the Collaborative for Educational Services, Bill Diehl.
The report found that teacher pay is still too low and longer school days are still needed; especially because of continued poor student performance in key subjects like math and science. The Program for International Student Assessment Measurement found the U.S. ranks 31st in math literacy and 23rd in science among 15-year-olds.
“I think we have to do better in the science, that’s where the jobs are today,” said Lawrence Wishnow of Northampton.
Researchers say filling those jobs will be even more difficult if these education trends don’t improve. 1 in 4 Americans fail to get their high school degree on time. And despite reforms in the school curriculum and technology, achievement gaps have yet to narrow. Diehl has been an educator for over 30 years and says student populations are also changing.
“Now we have a larger percentage of young people coming to schools who are living in poverty, who are second language learners. So comparing that group of students to students 30 years ago isn’t quite a fair comparison,” said Diehl inside his Northampton office on Wednesday.
Diehl says despite the setbacks there has been progress. Students are spending more time inside science and math classes than they did three decades ago. Reading literacy rates have also improved.