As we mentioned in our Week Ahead post, NAM President John Engler yesterday participated in an event with the National Assessment Governing Board and education leaders in the release of two 12th-grade reports from "The Nation's Report Card," officially called the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Unfortunately, the results weren't great.

According to this AP story, "Nearly 40 percent of high school seniors scored below the basic level on the math test. More than a quarter of seniors failed to reach the basic level on the reading test." Gov. Engler commented that, "The skills needed to compete in a 21st Century workforce are just those that our graduates are having the hardest time achieving -- math, reading and science."

As school spending increases, scores continue to go south. This is most discouraging, a word Gov. Engler used yesterday as well. We are the big end users of the products of America's schools, have a vested interest in their quality. Gov. Engler also noted the adage that what you measure improves and called for further measurement so we can track progress -- or lack of same. He always comments that the average manufacturer uses more metrics in a day than the US educational system uses in a year. We need to be able to track progress and then need to be able to do something about it.

Years ago, David Kerns, then-CEO of Xerox -- frustrated at having to teach new employees basic English and math skills -- commented that he was tired of doing the "recall" work for America's schools. America's manufacturers continue to serve that function, unfortunately and will continue to do so until the state of American education improves. The problems are many, but Steve Jobs certainly touched on one.

Here's a link to the report and here's a link to our press release.