The nation has not met any of the eight educational goals for the year 2000 set a decade ago by President Bush and the governors of all 50 states, although measurable progress has been made toward the goals pertaining to preschoolers and student achievement in math and reading, a national panel announced yesterday.
The National Education Goals Panel's final report before the 2000 deadline showed that more children were "ready to learn"--healthier and better prepared through preschool or parental reading--when they entered kindergarten. Students also demonstrated higher math proficiency, particularly in elementary and middle school, and a slight improvement in reading proficiency in middle school.
In the case of two goals, teacher quality and school safety, the panel reported the nation has actually gone backward. The percentage of teachers holding a college degree in the main subject they teach dropped from 66 percent to 63 percent, and there was a significant increase in student use of illicit drugs, from 24 percent to 37 percent in 10th grade.
Considerable political fanfare accompanied the setting of the education goals a decade ago. Growing out of a 1989 education summit at the University of Virginia, the six original goals were formally announced by Bush in his 1990 State of the Union address and ratified by the National Governors' Association a month later. In 1994, Congress added two more goals.
Yesterday's news conference announcing the disappointing results of the 10-year effort was more subdued. Overall, the nation showed improvement on 12 of 27 statistical indicators and declines on five others, though in many cases the information used in yesterday's report was several years old. There was insufficient information to tell how the nation fared on the other measures, reflecting shortcomings in data gathering that panel members urged be addressed.
"Our mission is not complete, but it is clear our goals have moved the U.S. in the right direction," said Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton (D), the panel's chairman.
In addition to grading the entire nation, the report assessed how well the states have done in striving to reach the goals. A dozen states were recognized for making the most progress, including five--Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina--that did better on nearly half of the 27 indicators. Maryland was cited for having 95 percent of its students finish high school, the highest percentage in the country and up from 87 percent when the decade began.
Maryland was one of 17 states that have achieved the goal of a high school graduation rate of at least 90 percent. Although it was one of the goals that seemed most likely to be achieved, the national graduation rate remained unchanged at 85 percent.
Maryland students also made advances in reading (from 24 percent proficiency in fourth grade to 29 percent) and math (from 17 percent in eighth grade to 24 percent).
Across the District, Maryland and Virginia, children were healthier when they entered kindergarten, high school students performed better on Advanced Placement tests, and college students earned more degrees in math and science.
The District also improved slightly on its graduation rate (from 82 percent to 85 percent), but the availability of drugs on D.C. school property increased from 16 percent to 25 percent.
In Virginia, schools provided professional guidance to a larger proportion of novice teachers, but fewer teachers had degrees in the main subjects they taught, the report said, though the finding was based on 1994 statistics.
Surprisingly, nearly a third of the states came close to reaching part of what has been considered the toughest goal, making the nation's students "first in the world" in math and science. Eighth-graders in 15 states scored better in science than their peers in every other nation tested except the city-state of Singapore.
The overall failure of the national effort to achieve the education goals came as no surprise, partly because the goals were widely regarded as overly ambitious.
A new deadline for meeting the goals has not been set, although Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson (R)--the only sitting governor who was involved in setting the goals--suggested yesterday that it should be for every school district to attain them by 2010.
Education Secretary Richard W. Riley added, "We're not where we want to be--by a long shot--and we have to pick up the pace. . . . The goals we have set are like a North Star. They give us a sense of direction."
Top and Bottom of the Class
Here are some highlights from the 1999 National Education Goals Report.
49 states increased the proportion of disabled children participating in preschool.
12 states reduced their high school dropout rates.
27 states increased the percentage of eighth graders who are proficient in math.
50 states and D.C. increased the percentage of degrees earned that were awarded in math and science.
50 states and D.C. increased the percentage of degrees earned by female students that were awarded in math and science.
11 states have an increased high school dropout rate.
11 states have lower percentages of students enrolling in college immediately after high school.
16 states have higher percentages of students who report using marijuana.
15 states have higher percentages of students who report that drugs are available on school property.
37 states have higher percentages of public school teachers reporting that student disruptions in class interfere with their teaching.