The Decline of Learning
Comparisons between nations are difficult but not impossible. The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement published’ volumes of comparative-achievement tlst findings between 1967 and 1977. The evidence clearly shows that American students did not work as hard or learn as much as students in other. developed countries [Lernc’V 1982]. Measures of changes in learning of American students over time are equally disquieting. By every measure we can quantify, average student learning in the United States has declined in recent years, as shown in Figure 12-2. Even Iter making allowance for imperfect testing, we cannot avoid the conclusion that students are learrung less than those of a generation ago.
Whnt explains this decline? Partly it is due to decreased selectivity of schools. In 1950, half uf the 25- to 129-yeqr-old age group had been !’raduated from high school: ‘n 1930, this figure had risen to 35 percent. Marginal stude Is, who used to drop out, now remain in school and dilute the ability levels. The
College Board holds the changing compostnon lit the student body to be responsible for three-fourths of the drop in Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores between 1963 and ]970 but for only one-fourth of the drop since i97 [College Board, 1977). What accounts for the rest of II e decline?