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Good News, Bad News For Nation’s Schools Math And Science Up, But Drug And Reading Problems Persist

Thu., Nov. 6, 1997

A national education panel reported Wednesday that American students have made “significant progress” in math and science, but stubborn problems persist with reading, drug use and disrupted classrooms.

“As encouraging as these improvements are, we also know there is much more work to be done,” said Gov. James Hunt of North Carolina, chairman of the National Education Goals Panel.

Indeed, the panel’s seventh annual report found as many areas of decline as areas of improvement, and just as many areas that had gotten neither better nor worse since the last report.

Among the major findings:

Math achievement was up in the tested grades 4, 8 and 12, but high school seniors declined in reading ability.

There were fewer threats and injuries to children at schools, but more teacher victimization, classroom disruptions and sales and use of drugs.

More students are getting degrees in math and science, but fewer teachers have academic training in the subjects they teach.

More parents are reading to their 3- and 5-year-old children, but fewer grown-up dropouts are participating in adult education programs.

“There is still a long way to go,” conceded Education Secretary Richard Riley. “But I am confident we are beginning to turn the corner and are heading in the right direction.”

Created in 1990 by President Bush, the National Education Goals Panel is a bipartisan group of federal and state officials that includes eight governors, four members of Congress, four state legislators and two presidential appointees, including the secretary of education. The group measures progress toward eight broad national education goals.

“This is our report to the people of America on how we are doing,” said Hunt.

“There is both good news and bad news,” summed up Sen. James Jeffords, R-Vt., a member of the panel.

As Republican congressional leaders and President Clinton sought compromise on the politically volatile issue of national testing, members of the panel said some common measure is needed so a state can assess how its students and schools are doing in comparison to those of other states.

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