Students: School is too easy

School is “too easy,” according to many students concludes a Center for American Progress analysis. Many students aren’t challenged in school and aren’t working very hard, conclude Ulrich Boser and Lindsay Rosenthal, who analyzed federal education surveys.

Some 37 percent of fourth-graders, nearly one-third of eighth-graders and 21 percent of 12th-graders say their math work is often or always too easy. Just under half of 12-grade students say they are always or almost always learning in math class.

Civics and history work is easier: More than half of eighth-grade and high school students say their civics and history work is often or always too easy.

For most students, school is not a “pressure cooker,” Boser, a senior fellow at the center, told USA Today.

Only one in five eighth-graders read more than 20 pages a day, either in school or for homework. Most report that they read far less.

“It’s fairly safe to say that potentially high-achieving kids are probably not as challenged as they could be or ought to be,” Boser said.

Almost a third of eighth-grade students report reading less than five pages a day.

The report recommends raising expectations and standards.

Here’s an interactive map of the states.

About Joanne


  1. Schools have always had to cater to the middle, while offering extra support to low-performers. Smart kids “can take care of themselves”.

    Thanks to NCLB and similar programs, the historic neglect of better performing kids has become exaggerated.

    No news here.

  2. In far too many places, school is too easy. Sadly, parents and students want it that way, and they are content. How can you, as a parent, be satisfied that your child’s senior year consists of art, weight training, team sports, and maybe a “history of pop culture class”?

  3. Well, as a nation we spend far more on low performing students in the U.S. than we do on the top 5 to 10 percent of students. I’ve seen many articles where the top students are often asked to help tutor low performing students, but I ask myself “how does this benefit the top students?”

    Until we start adopting better ways of instruction for top students (including grade skipping, credit by examination, and other concepts), we’ll continue to have this problem.

    Today’s bachelor’s degree is roughly the equivalent of a high school diploma earned in the 1950’s and 60’s (under a knowledge guideline) for many disciplines.


  4. I can guarantee that the second I raise the difficulty or time demands of my class, the principal will start getting calls from parents about how my class is cutting into little Susie’s field hockey, lacrosse, dance, etc…. I also know whose side he will take.

  5. In my 5th grade team we do ability grouping for math. The high kids get pushed, hard, and the kids who still need to spend time on their multiplication tables also get pushed, hard. It’s how it should be, and I think those who ignore the potential of ability grouping have really done our school a disservice.

  6. Ummmm, didn’t most schools get rid of tracking and grouping students by ability in the 80’s or so…I know it was around when I was in middle and high school (late 70’s)…

    • I don’t know of any schools that don’t still have honors and college prep classes, if not also essentials and special ed, especially at the high school level. Elementary schools will often wait until 4th grade before instituting pull-out classes for advanced and struggling students. But at the high school level, ability grouping is pretty standard.

      • To follow up – my honors and AP courses are anything but “easy.” And, we must not forget the millions of students who are regularly completing AP programs – which is “college level in high school.” And algebra is now regularly moving to 8th grade – which has never been the case before. So, it depends on the classes, school, community, etc.

      • Crimson Wife says:

        My district doesn’t start honors classes until ELEVENTH grade. I don’t know how my district expects its bright students to survive in college competing against classmates who have had a full 4 years of honors classes, but I doubt administrators care much.

        “Algebra 1” in 8th grade is standard but it’s not a true Algebra 1 class. It’s kind of a hybrid of pre-algebra and the easier part of Algebra 1. The rest of Algebra 1 has been lumped into the Algebra 2 course, bumping the harder topics in Algebra 2 into pre-calc.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      From what I understand, most high schools have a two-track system, Honors and College. Lots of places don’t start tracking until high school. In many places, the College courses are now “inclusion” courses: about the only people who aren’t in the class are people with major developmental disorders.

  7. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Yes, tracking was killed years ago in the interest of “diversity”. What we have now, except in a few areas like Palo Alto and Cupertino, is a one size fits all with special attention to “special” students.

    • nailsagainsttheboard says:

      Why have you excepted Palo Alto and Cupertino? You can’t mean public schools, because they are all subject to Federal, State and County “diversity” programs! I teach in a Los Altos public school.