U. S. high school students are taking harder classes, receiving better grades, and from every indication in recent data, leaning much less than their counterparts fifteen years ago. Go figure. All the talk about spending more money and about improving testing and teacher standards and the end result is that two decades of educational reform may not have improved things overall.

The U. S. Department of Education released two studies Thursday that raised very tough questions. David Driscoll, the commissioner of education for Massachusetts, notes, "I think we are sleeping through a crisis." He called these two new studies "stunning." Two means were used for this study: (1) A standardized 12th grade test, and (2) An analysis of the transcripts of 2005 high school graduates.

The fascinating thing is that students in 1990 had a GPA of 2.68 and in 2005 it rose to 2.98, and this included students taking more college preparatory courses than ever before. 12th grade reading scores have been dropping steadily since 1992. So, what are students learning in college prep classes? As for math fewer than 25% scored in the "proficient" range.

This study involved 900 U. S. schools, including 200 private schools! 26,000 transcripts were used. The chief of curriculum for Chicago high schools said, "We know the root to solving the problem is having more rigor in classes." But how? We already have teachers who fear their students, killings in our schools, and armed guards in most U. S. high schools. What next? The fact is few leaders, and especially politicians and educators, have real answers. The system is broken. Do parents and citizens have the will to fix it? I have my doubts. Such problems call for Christians to make a difference. Talk about a cultural opportunity, here is a huge one. But most of us have run away from public education, condemning it with John Dewey and  his ilk to the pit. Even if we do not want our children in the public system can we afford to form ghettos for Christians and ride this storm out to its long term conclusions?

The movie Amazing Grace comes out this weekend. We desparately need a Wilberforce-like leader (or hundreds of lesser known but similarily courageous leaders) to begin to work for the real education of our children or our values will be entirely lost in a few more decades.

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  1. Adam February 24, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    Part of the answer is the church paying attention to the school system. There was a post on the National Pastors Prayer Network that talk about Portand churches coming around a local school.

  2. Brian Davis February 24, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    I am both a Christian and a public school teacher within the inner-city, urban Baltimore. I’m not even sure how to begin to answer these larger systemic curriculum and testing related issues. I have my own views but they’re just that.
    As much as I would like to see a Wilberforce-like leader arise, one the day-to-day teaching level you have to be reminded of Mother Teresa’s words of doing “no great things, just small things with great love”.

  3. John H. Armstrong February 25, 2007 at 8:01 am

    Yes, “No great things, just small things done with great love” is exactly the place to begin. There are some encouraging stories of change but way too few. We haven’t even touched the systemic problems. Everyone should note that of the 900 schools in the test 200 were private so I am not sure the answer is “one kind fits all.”

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