I don't think kids, in general, are any less intelligent than those 40yrs ago. I don't think teachers are any less qualified than any in the past. I DO believe that the intrusion of politics, politicians and government mandates interfere with the "old school" goals of teaching basic foundation information and problem solving skills.
While the idea of programs like NCLB and CASHEE are noble in concept, the implementation has had the unintended consequence of forcing teachers accept school administrator overrides to a "retention" recommendation, to what amounts to student "social promotion" through the school system.
It's the kind of direct observation about the current state of education or should I say "the politics of education" that seems to be driving more and more parents to seek out private schools or choosing home schooling options for their kids.
Now there may be some data to back it up.
From: Carpe Diem
"...Degrees and diplomas may not translate to on-the-job success"
From the study: More Grads, But Cognitive Ability Declines
The study suggests that because the ability level of the average high school graduate has changed over time, finding job candidates with the same level of ability as 1970 high school graduates requires employers seek out applicants with two or more years of college training.
MP: Hey, but aren't grades (and self-esteem) at an all-time high in both high school and college?