This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week. As many school districts in our area are closing out another school year, we need to do more than thank our teachers for their work with our children. We need to congratulate them for more than a decade of academic improvement in our valley schools and across the nation. Public education is on the rise thanks to the dedication and commitment of our teachers and they are deserving of our respect and gratitude.
According to the Center on Education Policy, student achievement in reading and math has improved since 2002. In addition, achievement gaps among groups of students have narrowed. The study attributed the rise to efforts by American educators to raise academic achievement.
Student achievement is up on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the most widely recognized national assessment tool.
Despite the prevailing myth that public schools are on the decline, the nation's public schools continue to outperform private and charter schools. In 2006, the National Center for Education Statistics found that public school students do as well as or better than their private school and charter school counterparts. These findings extended to students from low-income families. Among students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, public school 4th graders outperformed their charter school counterparts in reading and math. Additionally, the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes at Stanford University found that charter school performance in Pennsylvania lagged in growth compared to traditional public schools.
More students are prepared for college than any time in the past. The percentage of public school graduates achieving a grade of "3" or better on the Advanced Placement exam nearly doubled in the last decade, growing from 10 percent in 2000 to 18 percent in 2011. A score of "3" on the college-level exam is considered predictive of college success. In addition, 19.5 percent of 2012 high school graduates completed at least one AP Exam compared to only 11.6 percent in 2002. Students are completing a more rigorous and challenging curriculum. The percentage of high school graduates completing advanced coursework (Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or honors) is up in all content areas. High school graduates are enrolling in college at record rates. Between 1975 and 2010, the percentage of students enrolling in college immediately after high school grew from 49 percent to 68 percent, a trend that held for white students, black students and Hispanic students.