Education Spending Continues to Increase, While 1 in 3 Eighth-Graders are Proficient in Math and Reading

Given the facts, what would you do to improve US systems of education?

Enrollment in early-childhood education programs has increased from roughly 1 in 3 children under five enrolled in 1970 to 2 in 3 children today (Fig. 71). Of children enrolled, 65% are participating in a full-day program. In 1970, only 17% were participating in full-day programs.

Combined government spending on K-12 education per public K-12 student has increased 34% from $8,796 to $11,788 between 1990 and 2015, the most recent year of data (Fig. 72). Meanwhile, the student/teacher ratio fell from 19.1 in 1980 to 16.1 in 2015. Between 2000 and 2012, average class size remained mostly steady for elementary school classes, increasing from 21.1 to 21.2. Larger changes were seen in secondary schools, where the class size increased from 23.6 to 26.8 students per class.

The dropout rate decreased from 12% in 1990 to 6% today. While eighth-grade test scores increased from 1990 to 2017, proficiency is currently 34% and 36% for both math and reading, respectively (Fig. 73). There are, however, differences in proficiency by race; 44% of White eighth-graders are proficient in math compared to 13% of Black eighth-graders.