5 Concerning Facts on America's Education System


School buses drive down the road to pick up children before classes begin on October 10, 2008 in Pasadena, California.
(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)


“Three years on from the start of the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, it’s clear the kids aren’t all right, at least when it comes to school performance. American students’ performance in primary and secondary (K-12) education has taken a beating, with test scores suffering from some of the biggest drops in decades. Here are Five Facts on the current state of American education.”

  1. Current Performance of American Students: The National Assessment of Educational Progress reported the largest year-over-year drop in math scores among America’s 13-year-olds since 1973. Furthermore, reading scores also decreased by 4 points between 2020 and 2023. Despite the negative impact of remote learning on student performance, this data aligns with a downward trend evident since 2012.
  2. Education Spending in America: As of 2018, the United States ranked fifth among OECD countries in spending on primary and secondary education per student. The National Center for Education Statistics stated that the U.S. spent “$14,400 per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student on elementary and secondary education,” 34 percent higher than the OECD average. Additionally, the U.S. Census Bureau reported a continual increase in public school spending per pupil for ten years as of 2021.
  3. International Rankings: Despite being well-surveyed, the U.S. ranks 31st in math scores, 13th in reading scores, and 18th in science scores among 78 countries. As of 2018, China outperforms the U.S. in all these categories.
  4. High School Graduation Rate: The national public high school graduation rate in the U.S. is approximately 87%. The state of Connecticut holds the highest average student graduation rate at 92%, whereas the District of Columbia reports the lowest, with a 72% average graduation rate. Despite this variance, the U.S. boasts a relatively high rate of high school graduation among OECD countries.
  5. Public Opinion on American Education: According to a 2022 Gallup poll, 55% of Americans expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of K-12 education in the United States. This marked the highest level of dissatisfaction recorded since 2000. In line with these sentiments, a 2021 survey by the National School Boards Action Center revealed that 59% of voters support increasing funding and resources for public education.


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