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Are We Getting Dumber?

The Washington Post has a nifty feature on its site called “The Fact Checker” that attempts to provide the facts behind the presidential candidates’ political spin, and a recent post tackles the issue of just how smart we are.

Sparking the post was former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel’s proclamation that Americans are getting “dumber.” He made that announcement on Yahoo’s Democratic Candidate Mashup, which is also worth visiting because you can play video snippets of the Democratic presidential candidates’ views on education.

While the Post’s Fact Checker asserts we aren’t getting dumber, there are plenty of stories in Education Week every week that could provide evidence for Sen. Gravel’s assertion. Our latest edition of Diplomas Count reveals that graduation rates have remained stagnant since 2002 at around 70 percent (which Gravel correctly points out), which means that an estimated 1.2 million of the Class of 2007 didn’t graduate. Another story highlights a study that found that improvement in test scores for 4th graders in reading has fallen off over the last several years, and slowed in math, while efforts to close the achievement gap have practically come to a stop.

While it may not be politically correct to label your potential voters as “dumber,” Gravel is calling attention to an issue that lies at the heart of most education reform proposals—the need to improve student achievement. Or, as Gravel would probably put it, the need to make our students smarter.

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