Thursday, September 17, 2009

Failing our future

I thought I blogged about this story some time ago, but when I tried to pull it back up today I couldn't find it. It's about a Goldwater Institute study where they selected 10 random questions from the US citizenship test and gave them to Arizona high school students. Here are the questions that were asked: (Answers can be found at the link above.)

1.What is the supreme law of the land?

2. What do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution?

3. What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?

4. How many Justices are on the Supreme Court?

5. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?

6. What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?

7. What are the two major political parties in the United States?

8. We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?

9 . Who was the first President of the United States?

10. Who is in charge of the Executive Branch?

92.4% of prospective citizens pass this test, meaning they get at least 6 of the 10 questions correct. Sadly, only 3.5% of the high school students were able to pass. The conclusion is obvious: we're not doing our jobs.

Today, I read that the same test was administered to high school kids in Oklahoma. Not to be outdone, Oklahoma's next generation scored a miserable 2.8% passing rate. Again, we're failing our kids.

Now, we can argue about whether it's important to know who wrote the Declaration of Independence or what we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, but lets put that aside. The fact remains that these are very basic facts about who we are and where we came from, and no one can deny that all of this information falls well within the material we have charged our schools to impart to our kids.

The motto for Direct Instruction keeps echoing in my head: if the kids haven't learned it, you haven't taught it.

Simple as that.

Update: Diane Senechal:
Ladner concludes, “These kids wouldn’t do much worse if the pollster asked them questions in Sanskrit instead of English.”

According to a binomial distribution calculator, the chances of getting at least 6 out of 10 questions correct (where each question has 4 options) is about 2 percent. So, no, they wouldn’t do much worse in Sanskrit.

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