Reality is beginning to set in for the National Education Goals Panel, which is charged with monitoring progress toward the six education goals set by the nation's governors in 1989. ``Despite modest gains, our progress is wholly inadequate if we hope to meet the National Education Goals by the year 2000,'' says Nebraska Gov. Benjamin Nelson (D), outgoing chairman of the panel.
The third annual report card on the goals, released Thursday, draws from more than 40 studies to assess the nationwide and state-by-state status in each of the six areas.
The findings illustrate how much work still needs to be done:
* Goal 1 calls for all children to start school ready to learn. Yet, almost half of all parents do not read to their preschoolers every day.
* Goal 2 mandates a high school graduation rate of at least 90 percent. Despite steady increases in this area during the 1980s, dropout rates have now leveled off. More than 1 in 10 students fail to complete high school.
* Goal 3 requires students in Grades 4, 8, and 12 to demonstrate competence in English, mathematics, science, history, and geography. But studies show that less than one-quarter of students in these grades can understand challenging mathematics. About one-third meet performance standards in reading.
* Goal 4 challenges American students to become the best in the world in science and math. Yet the United States consistently ranks behind most other industrial countries on international math and science tests.
* Goal 5 envisions a society in which every adult American is functionally literate. But studies show that many Americans have ``only mediocre basic literacy.''
* Goal 6 calls for all schools to be free of drugs and violence. But a 1992 survey of 10th-graders found that 10 percent brought a weapon to school at least once during the previous month. Only half say they always feel safe at school. And 18 percent report being offered drugs while attending school.