Our Schools, Learning, and Our Kids: The Bad News

Here’s an overview of the concerns facing America’s public-school system, and the relatively poor state of health of the nation’s schoolchildren.

The Bad News About Our Schools

    1. Nationally, the high-school dropout rate is 22%; for Latinos and African Americans, the dropout rate is between 30%-35%.
    2. The high-school dropout rate in America’s 50 largest cities is 48%.
    3. Annually, 1.2 million students drop out every year nationwide; that’s 7,000 students every school day.
    4. For America’s high-school seniors, only 26% are proficient in math, and only 38% are proficient in reading.
    5. Students are earning better grades in ‘tougher’ courses, yet, actual learning is stagnant or declining.” The data: 40% of high-school 12th-grade students lack math skills commonly taught in 7th and 8th grade. Since 1983, reading skills have declined for 12th-grade students of all backgrounds; and 70% of 8th graders are not proficient in reading—and most will never catch up.
    6. Nationally, 75% of high school students admit to cheating, and if you include copying another student’s homework, it’s 90%. The interesting twist here is that the students with the highest GPAs cheat the most, even though they’re quite capable of getting the high grades without cheating.
    7. The United States is the only industrialized country in the world in which today’s young people are less likely than their parents to have completed high school.

Why Is the Bad News Happening?

    1. Nationally, 75% of all high-school students are “chronically disengaged” in their academic courses.
    2. When comparing levels of engagement in six location areas—at home, out in public, at work, in academic classes, in non-academic classes, and being on school grounds—students are least engaged in their academic classes.
    3. When comparing levels of engagement in six types of activity—school work, paid work, passive leisure, active leisure, maintenance, and other—except for maintenance and other which are incidental activities such as brushing your teeth or taking out the trash, students are least engaged in their school work.
    4. More than half of the high-school dropouts say that the major reason for dropping out is that they feel their classes are uninteresting and irrelevant.
    5. Most Americans are concrete, active learners. But it turns out that school is primarily abstract and passive. So there is a mismatch between how kids learn and how schools operate.
    6. Aspiring teachers who graduate from collegiate, teacher-training institutions are ill-prepared to teach.

The Bad News About Our Children’s Health and Fitness Levels

    1. Prior studies show that it used to take 30 years for the overweight prevalence in American children to double—to increase by 100%. Over approximately the last 25 years, the prevalence of overweight has tripled in children and adolescents in America—that’s an increase of 287%.
    2. In 1994, 7% of children 2-5 years old were overweight. By 2004, the percentage had doubled to 14%. Today, one in five or 20% of American four-year-olds is not just overweight but obese.
    3. Today, one-third of American children and adolescents are either overweight or obese.
    4. Overweight or obese children and adolescents are more likely to be overweight and obese as adults. Approximately 80% of children who are overweight at 10-15 years of age are not just overweight by age 25 but obese, predisposing them later in life to high blood pressure; high cholesterol; liver disease; asthma; Type 2 diabetes; heart disease; stroke; cancer of the uterus, breast, colon, kidney, liver, pancreas, esophagus, stomach, and gallbladder; and other chronic diseases.

Why Are Our Children in Such Poor Health?

    1. Fewer than 10% of U.S. high-school students are eating the combined, recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables.
    2. The older children get, the less physically active they become. While 90% of children 9-11 years old get the recommended minimum of 60 minutes daily of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity or MVPA, by the time kids reach 15 years of age, fewer than 30% get the recommended number of MVPA daily minutes.
    3. When it comes to actually providing PE on a daily basis for all students for the entire school year, only 3.8% of elementary schools, 7.9% of middle schools, and 2.1% of high schools do so.

What Is All This Costing the Nation?

  1. Each year, America’s dropouts cost the nation approximately $200 billion over their lifetimes.
  2. Overweight, obesity, and physical inactivity are estimated to cost America $340 billion annually in direct and indirect costs.