Education
Magic Schoolbus / Youtube screenshot Magic Schoolbus / Youtube screenshot  

Despite outrageous school spending, students actually dumber than in 1972

Photo of Robby Soave
Robby Soave
Reporter

The amount of money that the American taxpayers have been forced to spend on public schools has more than doubled in the last few years — even though such spending has had no demonstrable impact on students’ intelligence levels, a bombshell new study found.

On average, student academic performance actually declined slightly over the last 40 years — an astonishing fact, given the huge amount of money spent on public education and the general boost that technological improvements have provided to virtually every other sector of U.S. life.

The sobering truth comes courtesy of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom. Andrew Coulson, director of the center, examined trends in education spending and standardized test scores between 1972 and 2012. In many states, inflation-adjusted education spending rose by 50 percent, 100 percent and even 200 percent. Test scores, however, were hardly affected — and even fell in many states.

Virginia, for example, spent 120 percent more on public education in 2009 than it did in 1972. But its students’ average test scores — when adjusted for demographic changes — fell by about three percent.

Coulson called the lack of progress for U.S. students, “remarkably unusual.”

“In virtually every other field, productivity has risen over this period thanks to the adoption of countless technological advances — advances that, in many cases, would seem ideally suited to facilitating learning,” wrote Coulson in the study. “And yet, surrounded by this torrent of progress, education has remained anchored to the riverbed, watching the rest of the world rush past it.”

Readers can see how expensive –and underwhelming — public education is in each of the 50 states here.

Follow Robby on Twitter