Reading and Math Scores in U.S. are Falling. Why Are We Getting Dumber?

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Reading and Math Scores in U.S. are Falling. Why Are We Getting Dumber?

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Math and reading scores for fourth- and eighth-grade students in the United States have gone down compared to 2017, according to numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

“Over the past decade, there has been no progress in either mathematics or reading performance, and the lowest performing students are doing worse,” said NCES associate commissioner Peggy Carr.

The finding is based on data collected as part of the organization’s 2019 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card. NAEP is a congressionally-mandated project that looks at representatives samples of students from every state in the nation, from Washington, D.C., and from select large urban school districts.

This year’s study was administered to 600,000 students enrolled in public and Catholic schools. It found that a decline in reading scores compared to 2017 occurred in 17 states for fourth graders and in 31 states for eighth graders. The average drop was one point for fourth grade and three points for eighth grade.

“A 3-point decline for the country is substantial in as much as 31 states are driving it, large states, small states — and it’s a very meaningful decline,” Carr said.

This decline was seen at all levels of achievement, meaning it was seen among students classified as high-achieving and low-achieving. The only exception was in the top-achieving group of fourth graders.

“Over the long term in reading, the lowest performing students — those readers who struggle the most — have made no progress from the first NAEP administration almost 30 years ago,” Carr noted.

In math, fourth graders had a one-point increase while eighth graders had a one-point decrease compared to their peers in 2017.

Carr explained that, broken down, the data revealed differences between students of different performance and family income levels.

For example, the overall score decline for fourth graders was largely due to a decrease in the scores of lower-performing students in three of the four grade-subject combinations.

“The distributions are pulling apart, with the bottom dropping faster,” Carr said. “It’s not clear what’s happening here, but it is clear and it’s consistent.”

Tonya Matthews, vice chairwoman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees NAEP, added:

The fact that students who need to make the most academic progress are instead making no progress or are falling further behind is extremely troubling. We need to see all students make progress.

Carr said all ethnic groups have been affected. Black, Hispanic, Native American, and white students in fourth- and eighth grade all had lower readings scores in 2019 compared to 2017.

“They are generally all declining,” she said. “So we can’t say it’s due to changes and shifts in the populations.”

Carr said the report could not answer the question of what is causing the decline in reading and math scores.

“The assessment is designed to tell you what, not why,” she explained. “Why is something the data cannot tell you.”

Americans have been aware of and grappling for decades with the falling academic skill set of our children. As far back as 1983, President Ronald Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education stated,

“The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”

One of the reasons “why” is that many American schools institutionalize illiteracy by using the faulty “sight word” method of reading.

English is a phonetic language. Thus, teaching children to read traditionally meant teaching them phonics — how to put words together by associating words to their corresponding sounds.

It was Horace Mann, a statist collectivist widely known as the “Father of Public Education,” who first introduced the “whole word” method of reading (teaching children to memorize entire words) to students during his tenure as secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education.

The whole word method was originally used to teach reading to deaf children. For children who can hear, the whole word method forces the right brain to perform functions of the left brain, thus impairing brain function.

Dr. Samuel Orton, a neurophysiologist, was the first to discover that the sight method caused reading problems all the way back in the 1920s.

In an article entitled “The Sight Reading Method of Teaching Reading as a Source of Reading Disability,” Orton wrote that sight reading “is not only not adapted but often proves an actual obstacle to reading progress” and “may also give rise to far reaching damage to their emotional life.”

Dr. Rudolph Flesch echoed Orton’s findings in his groundbreaking 1955 book, Why Johnny Can’t Read.

But sight reading became the norm in much of the country after being resurrected by John Dewey, an anti-Christian socialist and humanist widely considered the founding father of America’s public education system.

It also doesn’t help the prospects’ of our students that the left continually seeks to lower educational standards as a way of leveling performance disparities between ethnic groups, as in the case of a lawsuit filed this week by groups who claim the University of California system’s SAT and ACT exam requirements are racist because the tests allegedly favor whites over blacks and Hispanics.

When the Left’s aim is statism and centralized government, it’s unsurprising that their agenda is dumbing down America’ students. An illiterate, uneducated populace is so much easier for the power-hungry to control.

Luis Miguel is a writer whose journalistic endeavors shed light on the Deep State, the immigration crisis, and the enemies of freedom. Follow his exploits on FacebookTwitterBitchute, and at

Courtesy of The New American