Every once in a while I stumble across an item that, while not directly related to national security, raises questions about our nation’s ability to maintain its standing as the world’s leading economy and culture in the years ahead. I put such items in my “End of Empire” postings. Today’s depressing tidbit is bad news for President Obama’s plan that America will have “the highest proportion of students graduating from college in the world by 2020.” The 2009 results of the ACT admissions test are in, and they show that only 23% of this year’s high school graduates are prepared for entry-level college courses in reading, science, mathematics and English. “Ready” is defined as a 75% chance of getting at least a “C” grade in all four subjects. The results were reported in the August 19 Wall Street Journal.
It could have been worse: in 2008, only 22% met the readiness threshold. But the sad reality, according to an April report from the Department of Education, is that U.S. high school students have made no progress on standardized tests of reading and mathematics in 40 years. Not surprisingly, they are weakest in science, followed by math — you know, the tough subjects. But even in reading, barely half of students are ready for freshman-level reading. Maybe part of the reason for this is all those new Americans in our schools, or the wider array of students taking admissions tests. Still, the results raise real doubts whether the number of adults with college degrees (currently about a quarter of the population) is going to be any higher a generation from now.
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