Investigating Critical & Contemporary Issues in Education/Student Academic Performance

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Danielle Gouch

Brunswick Campus

Chapter 1: Student Academic Performance

The United States must address the challenges in its educational system, if it wants to maintain a competitive edge.

Academic performance refers to how students deal with their studies and how they cope with or accomplish different tasks given to them by their teachers. This article will shed light on the current issues facing the students today. Of course we have heard it time and time before that receiving an education is the most important thing. But students today are facing the dropout epidemic, which occurs often during the ninth grade year, low scores in math, science and reading. And if that is not enough, the workplace continues to change and the demands continue to rise on those making the transition from the classroom to the workplace. Americans no longer compete with each other for jobs; it’s now the international students getting jobs (

Internationally there are two surveys that compare the U.S. with other countries. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) are the two main assessments of comparing the U.S. with other countries. Both assessments reflect the performance of students several years before they complete high school. PISA targets fifteen-year old students’ ability to apply what they have learned in school to real-world problems. By contrast, TIMSS tests fourth and eighth grades. TIMSS follows the school curriculum closely (Koretz, 2009). How does the United States rank among other countries academically? The U.S. ranks 21st of 30 O.E.C.D. countries in scientific literacy, and the U.S. score of 489 fell below the O.E.C.D. average of 500. One quarter (24.4%) of U.S. fifteen-year olds do not reach the baseline level of science achievement. This is the level at which students begin to demonstrate the science competencies that will enable them to use science and technology in life situations (U.S. Department of Education).

The math literacy in the United States ranks 25th of 30 in O.E.C.D. countries, the average score of 474 fell well below the O.E.C.D. average of 498. Scores have not measurably changed since 2003, when the United States ranked 24th of 29 countries. Over one quarter (28.1 percent) of American fifteen-year olds performed below the baseline level of mathematics proficiency at which students begin to demonstrate skills that enable them to use mathematics actively in daily life (U.S. Department of Education). Moreover, there are other problems facing the U.S. along with the low science and math scores. In 2003, the U.S. ranked 15th of 29 O.E.C.D. (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries in reading literacy, with a score of 495, the score came near the O.E.C.D. average of 500 (U.S. Department of Education). It is a well known fact that a large majority of our nation’s students are not reading on grade level and this will have devastating effects on a student’s ability to learn. Boling and Evans (2008) report that more than eight million American students cannot read or comprehend what they read even at a basic level. The reading epidemic is leading so many dropouts, and the numbers are disturbing (

The dropout epidemic is continually on the rise and many more students will not make it if this trend continues.Over a million of the students who enter ninth grade fall fail to graduate ( Among them blacks and Latinos fare worse in the epidemic. For every student who dons a cap and gown and marches across the stage in auditoriums and halls across the country, there is a student who will not finish high school. The drop-out rate among Black and Latino high school students is nearly 50%. In some major urban areas, such as Cleveland and Indianapolis, more than 60% of students fail to graduate from high school each year. According to America’s Promise Alliance (, an organization pledging support to young Americans founded by retired Gen. Colin Powell and his wife Alma Powell, about 1.2 million students-7,000 kids everyday-dropout of high school each year (The Dropout Epidemic: A Crisis of Human Capital). Dropouts significantly diminish a student’s chance to secure a good job and a promising future. Moreover, not only do the individuals themselves suffer, but each class of dropouts is responsible for substantial financial and social costs to the communities, states, and country in which they live (

When a student decides to dropout of school it not only costs them a education it also puts strain on the U.S. Dropouts suffer from reduced earnings and lost opportunities; there is also a significant social and economic cost to the rest of the nation. Over the course of his or her lifetime, a high school dropout earns, on average about $260,000 less than a high school graduate ( Dropouts from the class of 2008 alone will cost the nation more than $319 billion in lost wages over the course of their lifetimes (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2008).

Who is dropping out? Overall majority of the students not graduating on time with a regular diploma are low income and minority students fare the worst in the dropout epidemic ( Each year, approximately 1.2 million students fail to graduate from high school, more than half of whom are from minority groups. Nationally, about 71 percent of all students graduate from high school on time with a regular diploma, but barely half of African-American and Hispanics students earn diplomas with their peers. In many states the difference between white and minority graduation rates is stunning; in several cases there is a gap of as many as 40 or 50 percentage points.

Where are the students dropping out? A relatively small number of chronically underperforming high schools are responsible for more than half of the nation’s dropouts. Approximately two thousand high schools (about 12 percent of American high schools) produce more than half of the nation’s dropouts. The number of seniors enrolled is routinely sixty percent or less than the number of freshmen three years earlier. Why are the students dropping out? While there is no single reason for students dropping out, research indicates that difficult transitions to high schools, deficient basic skills, and lack of engagement serve as prominent barriers to graduation (

Most dropouts are already on the path to failure in the middle grades and engage in behaviors that strongly correlate to dropping out in high school. Researchers have identified specific risk factors, such as low attendance or a failing grade, which can identify future dropouts-in some cases. Ninth grade tends to serve as a bottleneck for many students who begin their freshman year only to find that their academic skills are sufficient for high school-level work. Up to 40% of ninth grade students in cities with the highest dropout rates repeat ninth grade; only 10 to 15 present of those repeaters go on to graduate ( Balfanz and Legters, 2006). Those who drop-out are more likely to be incarcerated, rely on public programs and social services

Many students are not given the extra support they need to successfully make the transition to high school. As a result, over one third of all dropouts are lost in ninth grade. The six million secondary students who comprise the lowest 25% of achievement are twenty times more likely to drop out of high school than students in top-performing groups. Both academic and social engagements are integral components of successfully navigating the education pipeline. Research shows that a lack of student engagement is predictive of dropping out, even after controlling for academic achievement and student background (

Many factors play a role in a student’s academic performance. The student also needs the right teacher in the class room on top of everything else. Quality teaching is one of the most significant factors in improving student performance, and closing the gap between the lowest and highest performing students.

The information that was found gave me more insight into how the U.S. was performing academically. I went from my topic to the key points that needed to be addressed with my paper and I realized that the U.S. was not in the top percent with other countries. The drop out epidemic issue informed me of the problems that we as a country are facing. I can relate to the drop out issue more so than any other issue because I was a former drop out of high school at one time in my life. I feel that every problem has a solution but the real issue is finding the solution to the problems. In my opinion one of the solutions to the problems that the United States is facing will take the country, community, school, family and student to make the changes happen.


Alliance for Excellent Education- The high costs of high school Dropouts: What the nation pays of Inadequate High Schools (Washington, DC U.S. Department of Education

The Dropout Epidemic A Crisis of Human Capital, July 2009 (

Balfanz, R. and Legters, N. (2006). Closing Dropout Factories: The Graduation Rate Crisis: We Know and What Can Be Done About It, Education week 25, No. 42: 42-43

Koretz, D. (2009). How do American Students Measure Up? Making Sense of International Comparisons

Amanda Mummey

Camden Campus

Chapter 1: Student Academic Performance

Now more than ever, students have to compete internationally for jobs but the gap between the United States school performance and schools of other developed countries is growing and the United States is sadly falling behind. The US graduation rate is slowly increasing, but still lags when compared to other developed countries. The rate of people graduating from college in the United States is lowering. Test scores when compared to other developed countries are lower in the United States. People from other nations are coming here for school, when many people here could careless about higher education. The country that was once thought of as the “leader” of the world is slowly losing that title.

In 1980 the drop out rate was 14.6 million it has decreased to 8.7 in 2007(NCES 2009-081). Although the dropout rate is lowering, it is lowering very slowly. Even with teenage pregnancy on the rise, the dropout rate continues to lower, I think that shows that teens are realizing they can do more than one thing, whereas before If they got pregnant they just quit school all together.

In 2006 the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study was conducted among fourth graders in 45 jurisdictions including 38 countries, 5 Canadian provinces, and the separate Flemish- and French-speaking education systems in Belgium. The US scored higher than peers worldwide (NCES, 2006). Now we are trying to focus in on the STEM( Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math subjects) In 2007 the TIMSS was given to 4th and 8th grade internationally, The US 4th and 8th graders scored higher than average on the math section The fourth graders ranked 9th out of 36 countries who were given the exam and the eight graders ranked 6th out of 48. The countries ranking higher were from Asia and Europe in both cases. In the science section the US 4th and 8th graders again placed higher than the TIMSS average. The 4th graders ranked around 6th and the 8th graders ranked 10th(NCES 2007). The United States showed a large improvement in the math section of the Trend in International Mathematics and Science Study from 1995 when it was given for the first time. The science section did not have a noticeable change. Student academic progress is on the rise but there are many things we can do to continue its success.

First we can start by lowering the drop out rates even more and getting more people into college. Eduardo Padron wrote in his book that community colleges should partner with local school to help prepare students for college. I think that would be the first step to getting more people enrolled, coming from a small town where many high school graduates are first generation college students attending a community college they have no clue what to expect, I think it should be a mandatory class for all seniors to have a college prep class that solely gets them ready for college. Padron also suggests reaching out to those sets at risk or dropping out for whatever reason, if those students are reached by a teacher they can be set up on a plan to make sure they get the required classes and help needed to graduated.


U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2009). The Condition of Education 2009 (NCES 2009-081), Table A-20-2

U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. (2006) Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS).

U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. (2007). Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

Padron, E. Presidency. Winter2009, Vol. 12 Issue 1, p18-23, 6p, 1 illustration, 1 color