Where Is American Education Today? - Granite Grok

Where Is American Education Today?


Recently Mick Zais, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education, visited Concord to deliver an assessment. Here are some excerpts from the address he delivered.

Please read the excerpted comments and click to view associated short clips (about 3 min. each).

Where do we rank internationally?

The national assessment of educational progress is taken by eighth-graders. It shows that two-thirds of American eighth-graders are not proficient in any core subject. Since 2000 we have participated in the program for international student assessment. Those results show the performance of American 15-year-olds has been steadily declining. We are not in the top 20 nations in any meaningful area.

Do we need more money to fix the results?

From 1965 through 2015 per student funding after controlling for inflation has increased by 300%. That is 6% per year, every year, for 50 years… above the rate of inflation. Nationally we spend over $13,000 per student per year in local, state and federal funding. The money is going to administration, not to improved educational results.

Teacher pay; Part of the solution or part of the problem?

Teacher pay has been flat while administration and non-teaching costs have skyrocketed. The issue is the one size fits all, top-down, heavily bureaucratized system that protects some who are no longer productive.

What do we have to show for our increasing spending?

Test scores are flat which is bad news for the nation. We lack incentives for innovation and there are few rewards for excellence in teaching. We need to tell the truth. American education is in a mess.


The effectiveness of an educational system cannot exceed the effectiveness of the educators in the system. Human capital is more important than financial capital. Individual teachers have three times as much impact on educational outcomes as the schools they attend. Parents have no input into the teachers their children are assigned to. Effective teachers and principals create better educational results… teacher salary is unrelated to student success.


We want local control. We need to stop stifling initiation, creativity, and demand limitless reports. Agencies and legislators are the source of myriad statutes, proscriptions, and regulations. We tie the hands of creative educators, principals, and superintendents. These things have failed to contribute to student learning outcomes. We have a fragmented approach to leadership and decision making.

Funding Students

We want local control of education but the reality is district administrators and school boards constrain; through standardization, one size fits all solutions and bureaucratization, policies and regulations that limit the freedom of principals. Principals have little control over their budgets, staff or curriculum. They are prevented from doing what is right for students. Reform-minded school boards and superintendents are not strong enough to overcome the obstacles that state and federal bureaucrats impose on them.

Education Freedom

American confidence in the education system is at an all-time low. American education does not need reform it needs transformation. Students, parents, and teachers need education freedom. How do we teach our students to be innovative, free and self-motivated in a system that is none of those things? So, where is American education today? What are you doing about it?