|Actual public school middle school math / US Dept. of Education, CC BY 2.0|
75% of our nation's high school seniors probably aren’t mathematically incompetent, despite a recent recurrence of the nearly annual hysteria to the contrary.
Associated Press, May 7, 2014: US 12th graders make an "ABYSMAL showing" in math and reading according to the 2013 NAEP results. "Only about one-quarter are performing proficiently or better in math and just 4 in 10 in reading." "America's high school seniors lack critical math and reading skills for an increasingly competitive global economy." (emphases added)
PANIC! CRISIS! Blood in the streets! Dogs and cats getting married ...
BUT ... WAIT a minute. Is this really a crisis? Are 75% of our 12th graders honestly mathematical nitwits, as reporting on the NAEP results seems to imply? I wanted to know, so I mucked around the NAEP website.
Based on what I gleaned from the NAEP Test Framework, the skills that the "Basic up to almost Proficient" students generally lack (compared to the "Proficient and Above" students) are unlikely to negatively impact their general readiness for college or work. These skills are necessary in specific STEM-related positions where advanced mathematical concepts are utilized on a daily - or even monthly - basis. "STEM-related" jobs are anticipated to number just 5.6% of all jobs in 2022.
All hand-wringing aside, this is not a crisis.
Q1: How is "Proficient" defined? How does it fit into the rubric of the performance levels that the National Center for Ed Statistics uses?