Is School Too Easy for Kids Nationwide?

Greg Toppo, The Tennessean, July 10, 2012

Millions of kids simply don’t find school very challenging, a new analysis of federal survey data suggests. The report could spark a debate about whether new academic standards being piloted nationwide might make a difference.

The findings, out today from the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank that champions “progressive ideas,” analyze three years of questionnaires from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, a national test given each year.

Among the findings:

• 37 percent of fourth-graders say their math work is “often” or “always” too easy.

• 57 percent of eighth-graders say their history work is “often” or “always” too easy.

• 39 percent of 12th-graders say they rarely write about what they read in class.

Ulrich Boser, a senior fellow at the center who co-wrote the report, said the data challenge the “school-as-pressure-cooker” image found in recent movies such as “Race to Nowhere.”

While those kids certainly exist at one end of the academic spectrum, Boser said, “the broad swath of American students are not as engaged as much in their schoolwork.”


The data suggest that many kids simply aren’t pushed academically: Only one in five eighth-graders reads more than 20 pages a day, either in school or for homework. Most report that they read far less.

“It’s fairly safe to say that potentially high-achieving kids are probably not as challenged as they could be or ought to be,” Boser said.


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