How Our Nation’s Academic Report Card Impacts the U.S. Workforce

A few days ago, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released its “The Nation’s Report Card: Grade 12 Reading and Mathematics 2009 National and Pilot State Results.” The Nation’s Report Card highlights the academic achievement of students in the United States.

Finding: One in 4 High School Seniors Can’t Read at Basic Level

The good news is that scores did not go down. However, and this is alarming, there is not much to get too excited about. As Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education aptly stated, “Today’s report suggests that high school seniors’ achievement in reading and math isn’t rising fast enough to prepare them to succeed in college and careers.”

Indeed, while the overall reading scores were slightly up, it is still four points lower than what it was in 1992. Likewise, math scores were also up but not by much. As the ABC article (Claiborne, 2010) highlighted, only 38% of 12th graders were proficient in reading and 26 percent were proficient in math.

According to the report, 62% of students plan on attending a four-year college or university after they graduate from high school. What’s troubling is the discrepancy between what students want to do compared to where they’re currently at. “The data indicates many of those students aren’t even performing at the high school level, much less prepared to go to college” (Claiborne, 2010).

What’s more, previous research has found that students typically read less often while in school versus workers on the job, that students are less competent readers, face materials that are easier, and use strategies that may be less effective than employees in the workplace (Mikulecky, 1982).

In “The ILL-Prepared U.S. Workforce,” employers were asked to rate how prepared they believed new workers coming into their organizations were, more than one-third of the 217 employer respondents (33.9%) reported that their newly hired high school graduates are deficiently prepared.

Because employers don’t generally see themselves as being responsible for the newly entrants’ work readiness, they instead depend on the educational system to take on this task. While I don’t have any quick solutions, one thing is clear – students who graduate from high school ill-equipped to enter the workforce will have a negative impact not only on their own futures but also the future of the U.S. economy.


Casner-Lotto, J., Rosenblum, E., & Wright, M. (2009). The ILL-Prepared U.S. Workforce: Exploring the challenges of employer-provided workforce readiness training. Retrieved from also from

Claiborne, R. (Nov 2010). ‘Nation’s Report Card’ Shows American Student Struggling With Reading, Math. Retrieved from

Mikulecky, L. (1982). Job Literacy: The Relationship between School Preparation and Workplace Actuality. Reading Research Quarterly, 17(3), 400-419.

National Center for Education Statistics (2010). The Nation’s Report Card: Grade 12 Reading and Mathematics 2009 National and Pilot State Results (NCES 2011–455). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.