by Andrew J. Coulson
Cato Institute
March 31, 2014
Policy Analysis
The public and policymakers should know how academic performance and preparation for college success have varied over time at the state level. The present paper estimates these trends by adjusting state average SAT scores for variation in student participation rates and demographic factors. The findings show an adjusted state SAT score decline by an average of 3 percent. This echoes the picture of stagnating achievement among American 17-year-olds painted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a series of tests administered to a nationally representative sample of students since 1970. That disappointing record comes despite a more-than-doubling in inflation-adjusted per pupil public-school spending over the same period. There has been essentially no correlation between education spending and academic outcomes. Perhaps it’s time to ask if there are inherent features in our education approach that prevent it from enjoying the progress typical in other fields.

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