Are Virginia Schools Too Easy on Students?

Darker states have higher percentages of students who say their math work is often, always, or almost always too easy. Graphic credit: Center for American Progress. (Click for larger image.)

The popular media portrays the nation’s teenagers as buckled under by homework. Are middle and high school students being asked to work too hard? One way to find out is to ask the students themselves. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NEAP) does that every two years, and the Center for American Progress (note to Peter: CAP is not a right-wing think tank) has taken a look at the data. Here are two key findings:

Many schools are not challenging students and large percentages of students report that their school work is “too easy.” If students are going to succeed in the competitive global economy, they need to be exposed to a rigorous curriculum. But many students believe their class work is too easy. Twenty-nine percent of eighth-grade math students nationwide, for instance, report that their math work is often or always too easy. In some states like Virginia, nearly a third of middle-school students reported their work was often or always too easy.

Many students are not engaged in rigorous learning activities. Almost a third of eighth-grade students report reading fewer than five pages a day either in school or for homework. That’s below what many experts recommend for students in middle school. Eighth-grade students across the country also report that they rarely write lengthy answers to reading questions on tests: approximately one-third of students write long answers on reading tests twice per year or less.

Fourth grade Virginia students were far more likely than the national average to report that math work was often or always “too easy,” although 8th grade students were close to the national average.

Question of the day: Do Virginia schools demand enough of their students? If not, does the problem step from schools and teachers — or parents? Or has our whole culture gone soft?


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  1. larryg Avatar

    First, I want to (once again) compliment Jim who is surely one of the most prolific and thoughtful observer, thinker and writer – journalist in that realm in Virginia.

    In blog post after blog post his clear and articulate work ethic shows through.

    Now that we’re done “slathering” – but I meant every word – very much.


    my view: it’s too easy and demonstrably so given our standing in international achievement comparisons in math/science/reading.

    the cause:

    1. NCLB – yes… in an effort to address the kids who do not graduate or they do graduate as functional illiterates – we’ve tried to re-focus on those in the lower spectrum – at the expense of more robust curricular (but this is not the sole or overriding reason, it’s more of an excuse).

    2. Parents do not want their college-bound kids to get bad grades so they encourage their kids NOT to take the harder courses that risk lower grades that may damage their chances to get in to some colleges.

    3. – teaching to the test. Yes.. that nasty old concept but with a reality-twist.

    What is SAT if not a test that you must get “taught to”? How many college-bound kids get tutoring and “taught” to the SAT test?

    How about the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) ?
    Do you think kids that want to go into the armed services – find out whats in that test and learn specifically what they will be tested on?

    the biggest problem is that we expend tremendous resources and make some serious curriculum sacrifices in high school to accommodate kids who are behind and got behind in early elementary and were never caught back up.

    Early elementary is KEY to this. If kids do not learn how to read and write in early elementary school – they are basically stunted in their academic development and what NCLB did was to show this – that 25% of kids do not graduate and another 25% graduate as barely literate so the schools have stepped up their remedial efforts (at some expense) and at the same time, dumbed down the curricula in response to not only the kids who are behind but the kids who are college-bound and do not want the stigma of “C” and “D” in math and science subjects.

  2. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    I agree to he slathering — Bacon is by far the best. I razz him to keep him on his toes.

  3. Aw, gee, guys, I’m blushing.

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