High School Test Scores in 8 Subjects
Test score trends are discouraging for high school students in 8 subjects, some tracked for 4 decades. Since consistent national tests are only sporadically conducted for adults, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests of 17-year-olds and seniors are one of the best sources on the skills and knowledge that adults likely possess.
The U.S. Employment and Training Administration has assembled NAEP 1969-2012 tests results for high schoolers in reading and writing; math and science; and history, economics, civics, and geography.
Due to changing test content, it’s only possible to compare results from any point in the past until the near-present in 6 of the 8 subjects: math, reading, history, civics, geography, and economics (for science and writing, recent comparisons can only be made for 1996-2005 and 1998-2007, respectively). Among the 8 subjects, only 2 (U.S. history and writing) show statistically-significant rising test scores over a recent period of comparable data — and these increases have been tiny. Moreover, writing trends for the preceding period (1984-94) show a decline, suggesting that the long-term trend is not positive. Math, reading, and economics show no trend toward improvement, and science, geography and civics show declines (only statistically significant for science and geography, although longer-term results suggest a large, significant drop in civics performance over the 1969-2010 period). Unfortunately NAEP discontinued its three-decade science trend tests after 1999, during which a relatively large decline occurred.
ETA’s analysis includes the precise test scores and years of comparable data for each subject; which changes have been statistically significant; and Internet links to the underlying studies.
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High School Coursework Over 3 Decades
High school graduates have taken more courses, and more demanding courses, over a nearly 3-decade span since the early 1980s, according to an analysis by the U.S. Employment and Training Administration. The increases have been very large, but paradoxically haven’t boosted test scores.
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The average high school graduate in 2009 (the latest available data) garnered 27.2 credits, up 5.4 from 21.8 in 1982. By the courseload of 1982, this represents a full extra year of schooling. Every academic subject has experienced gains, with the largest credit increases occurring in science (2.2 to 3.5); math (2.6 to 3.9); foreign languages (1.1 to 2.3); and social studies (3.2 to 4.2). Only work-related courses experienced no increases, with vocationally-specific courses unchanged, while general career guidance courses plummeted from 1.0 to only .3 credits.
Trends in the proportion of graduates who took selected courses show remarkable growth in algebra, geometry, chemistry and physics, but significant increases also occurred in the social sciences. In math, only trigonometry exhibited no clear trend. The highest math increases occurred in algebra 1 (55 to 69 percent of graduates) and algebra 2 (40 to 76 percent); geometry (47 to 88 percent); and pre-calculus (6 to 35 percent) and calculus (5 to 16 percent). All science and engineering courses significantly grew, most notably in chemistry (32 to 70 percent); physics (15 to 36 percent); and biology (77 to 96 percent) — and the proportion that took all three rose from 11 to 30 percent.
Among the social sciences, only world geography exhibited no clear trend. World history (60 to 86 percent), economics (49 to 59 percent), and civics (79 to 86 percent) grew the most, although in the last two cases all of the increase occurred after 2005.
Youth and the Labor Force
The U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS) has recently issued a detailed, nearly 40-page analysis, “Youth and the Labor Force: Background and Trends,” examining employment, unemployment, earnings, and educational attainment trends among youth aged 16 to 24.
CRS, a Congressional research agency, concluded, “Both…indicators [decreasing youth employment-to-population ratios and increasing youth unemployment] demonstrate that the labor market for youth is at historic lows in terms of opportunity.” CRS noted that youth employment-to-population ratios continued to erode even when the economy began to grow after the 2001 recession. [pp. 2, 17]
Among those aged 16 to 24 who were not in the labor force (i.e., not looking for work at the time of the survey), 12.1 percent nonetheless wanted to work (virtually identical to the 12.2 percent figure for those aged 25 to 54) — such individuals who want to work but often don't believe jobs are available are popularly referred to as “discouraged workers.” [p. 5]
Regarding the extended impact, the research evidence suggests that youth who experience unemployment appear to have relatively lower long-term wages. [p. 25] As to whether the trend toward continued employment by older individuals has exacerbated employment problems among youth, CRS concluded that “the research literature is somewhat mixed” on such displacement. [p.18]
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ETA has issued virtually all products produced under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s (ARRA) nearly $50 million State Labor Market Information (LMI) Improvement Grants. Everything can be accessed from one location, including catalogues, evaluations, issue briefs, Webinars, and podcasts.
The U.S. Census Bureau routinely offers a wide variety of free online training sessions, on subjects including Using Census Data for Grant Applications; How to Navigate American FactFinder; Population Estimates and Projections; and Customized Searching Through DataFerrett.
BLS has issued its annual publication of the most geographically-detailed data it publishes on the demographic and economic characteristics of the employed and unemployed, showing data by gender, age, race, Hispanic origin, educational attainment, occupation, industry, class of worker, weekly working hours, full- and part-time status, reasons for unemployment and for not working, unemployment duration, and marital status.
BLS has issued an easy-to-understand explanation for why its monthly employment estimates are sometimes later significantly revised. BLS monthly employment and unemployment estimates emanate from two completely separate sources: the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey (explained in the above article), and the Current Population Survey (CPS) — not discussed in the article.
Oregon’s Employment Dept. issued an analysis of its first job vacancy survey question on whether each job opening was “difficult to fill.” Employers described nearly half (44 percent) of the job openings available in Fall 2012 as difficult to fill.
NAEP has issued its latest analysis of reading and math test results from the early 1970s to 2012. Unfortunately, for age 17 — the highest age examined — there has been no clear trend toward improvement over the past four decades in these two subjects. There has been progress in narrowing the test score gap between Whites and minorities, and between boys and girls.
AEI has issued a 70-page compendium of public opinion survey findings dating back more than a half century. The topics covered include satisfaction with one’s job; concerns about job security; satisfaction with promotional opportunities; satisfaction with pay and benefits; attitudes toward work time and job stress; relationship with supervisor, and influence and recognition at work; commuting; loyalty to the employer; and attitudes about work and leisure.
EPI has issued an analysis of inflation-adjusted compensation, finding that most workers have experienced only weak wage growth since 1979, that that productivity growth has significantly outpaced compensation. Only those at the very top of the earnings spectrum experienced inflation-adjusted increases between 2007 and 2012.
The growing proportion of the unemployed who have been out of work for an extended period is stimulating new research into this problem, with several new studies issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Urban Institute.
OECD’s latest newsletter summarizes data from its recent entrepreneurship series, designed to comparably measure across countries the birth, death, survival and growth of enterprises, as well as their contribution to employment creation. One of the project’s interesting findings is that the survival rates of enterprises after one year from the enterprise creation are very similar both across countries, and between the manufacturing and services sector —from 85 to 90 percent despite the differences in regulatory frameworks and market conditions. Compared to other industrialized nations, U.S. creation of new businesses has been much less volatile since the beginning of 2007.
A new Gallup poll found that two-fifths of workers with a Bachelor’s degree only don't believe that their job requires a Bachelor’s or more advanced degree, and 37 percent of those earning $75,000 or more annually concurred. Even 33 percent of the executive/managerial/professional respondents agreed.
The U.S. Census Bureau has issued its 2012 income, poverty, and health insurance data. We've just added a handy summary of poverty trends compiled by HHS to our listing.
The U.S. Census Bureau has issued 2012 state-specific poverty rates from two sources, the longstanding Current Population Survey (CPS) and the newer American Community Survey (ACS). ETA has also created a comparative chart showing national poverty rates from both sources, as the differences between the two are likely to confuse users.
ETA has consolidated a wealth of information on the tested skills, coursework, and study efforts of high school students (and college students as well for study time) in several recently-issued products.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) describes — and presents selected data from — its forthcoming new series on quarterly state gross domestic product (GDP) estimates. BEA plans to include data for 21 broadly-defined industries, and to release the data within 5 months following the end of each quarter.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) recently issued its advance 2012 gross domestic product (GDP) data for all 381 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA’s) — of which 305 experienced inflation-adjusted growth since 2011.
Researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco have attempted to identify which indicators best predict improvement in the unemployment rate. They highlight 6 of 30 potential measures that better forecast unemployment six months into the future than does the past unemployment rate itself.
NCES has issued the first results from its follow-up of how 9th graders fared 2.5 years later, when most of the students were in the Spring term of 11th grade. The results include important findings on dropping out, progress by socioeconomic background, math scores, and students’ preparation and expectations for adulthood.
ETA) has issued the list of 2014 labor surplus areas (LSA’s). Some Federal, state and local programs use LSA designations to determine eligibility, so your state or locality may be able to greatly benefit from understanding whether you qualify as an LSA.
The U.S. Census Bureau has issued its annual set of 28 tables on how many Americans moved between 2012 and 2013 — the propensity to move declined slightly to 11.7 percent, vs. 12.0 percent between 2011 and 2012, returning to the levels of 2010 to 2011. Because Americans are more prone to move than the residents of many other countries, understanding mobility patterns is extremely important in economic development, labor market, education, and transportation planning.
Economist Mark Thoma has posted a useful primer on the strength and weakness of the unemployment as an indicator of the job market, and the importance of supplementing it with indicators such as the employment-to-population ratio.
AIR has produced a set of 2-page profiles of the adult education and limited spoken-English proficiency population, for both the U.S. and the states. The profiles include adult education spending and enrollment data plus the population without a high school credential, but the most uniquely valuable data analyze spoken English proficiency by labor force status, gender, age, race, and Hispanic origin.
BLS has recently issued three lengthy compendiums of labor force data by race and Hispanic origin (to 2012) and gender (to 2011), plus a special report on earnings by gender (to 2012) that includes selected earnings data by race and Hispanic origin.
A recent survey found that 32 percent of college-educated workers reported that had not held a job related to their college major. Nearly half of college-educated workers said their first job after college was not related to their college major. Some 36 percent of all college-educated workers said they wished they chose a different major.
NCES has released a 2-page brief showing a roughly half-year drop in the amount of career/technical education (CTE) taken by public high school graduates between 1990 and 2009. All of the decline from 4.2 to 3.6 credits occurred since 2000. This drop is in marked contrast to the significant increase in academic coursetaking over the same period.
HHS's National Center for Health Workforce Analysis is scheduled to release various types of projections in late 2013 and 2014, but has many useful materials available now. We've just added a link to a November 2013 conference on Redesigning The Health Care Workforce.
The U.S. Education Dept. has issued its latest analysis of reading and math test results for 12th graders for 2013. Comparing 2013 with the previous 2009 tests, overall average scores were identical in each subject. We've summarized trends for various groups and for the 13 available states.