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Educational Proficiency Decrease in the United States


Social science studies the whole complexity of human interrelations within society. Education, as one of the most important spheres of social life, is also the subject of social science study. Aside from various purely educational aspects of this subject, there are social sides thereof. First of all, education is the basis on which society is built and developed. Secondly, human interrelations are dependant on the levels of education that people possess. In this respect, the recently observed decrease in the educational proficiency levels of the American people constitutes a threatening sign of the overall social recession. Namely this educational proficiency decrease is the subject of the current study. In this paper, I will briefly focus on the major areas of the study, specify the study participants and privacy policy, focus on the brief literature review of the relevant sources, and consider the most appropriate methodology for the research.

Thus, the study will be focused mainly on researching the reasons for the decrease of the educational proficiency observed in the recent years in the USA. Also, the current state of affairs will be studied on the site of one of the schools in the local school district through the participation of 20 students selected according to their age, grade, academic performance levels, and certain background personal characteristics including racial belonging, sex, religion, etc. One of the aims of the study will also be to clear out the reasons to the aforesaid problem based on one of the mentioned criteria of participants’ selection. Moreover, the special questionnaire will be developed in order to obtain the opinions of the study participants on the issue of the educational proficiency decrease and on the ways they see as the solutions to this problem.


As it has already been mentioned, the participants of the study will be 20 students of one of the local schools. The criteria of the participants’ selection have also been mentioned, but it is necessary to consider them in detail. First of all, the age groups of the participants should cover all the school grades in which the educational proficiency decrease is observed according to the specific school data and the general information by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The participants will also be selected according to their academic performance level to ensure that there will be low-, middle-, and high-achievers among the study respondents. The personal background information will also be rather relevant as it might allow establishing some trends in educational proficiency based on sex, race, etc., and will add the sociological credibility to the study. Having the comprehensive social picture of a school under consideration, it will be possible to project the study implications on the American society as a whole.

However, the ethical side of the study is also of paramount importance as far as numerous people are involved in it. The ethical considerations of the study participants will amount to the practice of the informed consent and assuring privacy policy by the researcher. In more detail, the former is the practice under which the research participants are prior informed about the aims and the procedures of the study, and give their consent to participate in it realizing all the duties they might have and use they might bring to the social science. As for the privacy policy, the information about the participants’ names, familial affiliations, addresses, or any other private data will not be requested by the study and will be kept private even if some data become known to the researcher.

Literature Review

The literature review is also rather important for the study as far as it provides the researcher with the data that other scholars have obtained on the topic of educational proficiency and its social significance and also highlights the areas in the topic that still demand study and further consideration. The topic of educational proficiency decrease has always been rather important, and in the recent years, when it became a burning social issue, scholars have focused on it rather substantially.

For example, Adiguzel & Vannest (2008) take their time to examine the situation in the American education in the context of the proficiency decrease: “proficiency in science continues to be below expectation when only 29 percent of 4th- and 8th-graders reached proficiency, and 12th grade proficiency dropped to 18%” (Adiguzel & Vannest, 2008, p. 127). The author also offer certain solutions to the issue reported by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), including the use of computer-based testing for finding out the reasons for the decrease and understanding the main students’ motivations that will allow improve the educational proficiency situation.

Bradley (2005) considers the controversial issue of the simultaneous increase in the proficiency levels of the alternate achievements among the school-age youth and the decrease in the average percentage of the academic achievement proficiency levels. In his Bill to the United States Congress, Bradley (2005) states this controversial situation and demands effective and timely actions from the Congress to improve the state of affairs. The paper by the Public Education Department of New Mexico (2006), Report Profiles (2007), and SMART (2008) also deal with the same problem. The essence of these papers is the establishment of the goals that every school and school district should strive to achieve. The following three points are viewed as basic for proficiency levels increase:

  1. Achieve a 95% participation rate in state reading and math assessments.
  2. Reach targets for either proficiency or decrease non-proficiency in reading and math. Note: the decrease non-proficiency option is not applicable for 2005-2006 because this is a baseline year for the standards-based assessments.
  3. Reach targets for one other indicator in all three grade spans – attendance rate for elementary and middle schools and graduation rate for high schools (Public Education Department, 2006).


As for the research methodology implemented, the character of the study requires the combination of the quantitative and qualitative methods. The former is a necessary tool for handling the figures and calculating the percentage of the study questionnaire answers regarding this or that topic. Moreover, the relations between the total amount of participants, the numbers of different education-based, age-based, gender-based, etc. groups and the number of the similar answers to some questions should be statistically processed through the quantitative research. However, the next step will be data analysis which is rather difficult without the qualitative research method. The latter will allow not only seeing how certain groups of study respondents are related to the issue studied but also see the underlying reasons to the issue and offer some ways to solve it.


Adiguzel, T., & Vannest, K. J. (2008). Web-Based Formative Assessment as Evidence-Based Practice in Science Instruction. School Science and Mathematics, 108(4), 127+.

Bradley, M. (2005). The Bill. Web.

Public Education Department. (2006). Measuring the AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) in New Mexico. Web.

Report Profiles. (2007). Reading and Mathematics Proficiency of High School Seniors. Web.

SMART. (2008). Sample SMART Performance Goals for District Educational Improvement Plans. Colorado Department of Education: Mountain Vista School District.


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