New Reports Show US Continues to Lag in Education
Two new reports conclude that U.S. Education is in a downwards spiral. Earlier this year the Program for International Student Assessment, an international assessment that measures the performance of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics, and science every three years, reported that U.S. students rank fourteenth in reading, twenty-fifth in math, and seventeenth in science compared to students in other industrialized countries. In a 2010 report, 30 other countries had more students able to perform advanced level mathematics. Among all 8th graders, the U.S. ranks 32nd in math.
An Independent Task Force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations recently concluded,
”The United States’ failure to educate its students leaves them unprepared to compete and threatens the country’s ability to thrive in a global economy.” Such was the dire warning recently issued by ”
The report further noted that similar to health care, the U.S. spends more than other developed countries but its students are not competitive. Failure rates are high. More than 25 percent of students fail to graduate from high school in four years; for African-American and Hispanic students, this number is approaching 40 percent. Even among those who graduate, most are deficient in civics and only 22% are ready for college.
In a second report, Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance & Education noted additional disturbing trends. The new PEPG study linked states’ performance data to countries’ performance on the international PISA tests from 1992 to 2011 for 4th and 8th graders. Although the U.S. spent more than other countries, 24 countries continued to improve at a faster rate than the U.S. while an equal number trailed the U.S. The report noted that the rates of change are different enough that it’s unlikely the U.S. will ever catch up with the leaders unless the U.S. improves.
Variation across states was as large as variation among the countries with some states making three times the gains of others. The most improved states were Maryland, Florida, Massachusetts, Louisiana, South Carolina, New Jersey, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Virginia. The bottom five were Iowa, Maine, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. However, data for nine states couldn’t be estimated—Alaska, Illinois, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington. There was only a trivial relationship between education spending and improvement suggesting that states don’t know how to improve their educational programs even when they want to. Michigan, Indiana, Idaho, North Carolina, Colorado, and Florida made the most achievement gains for every dollar spent . However, as already noted they were spending much more than countries that made much greater improvements. Maine, Wyoming, Iowa, New York, and Nebraska got next to nothing for their expenditures.
Additional analysis of 8th graders suggests that the vast majority of the gains that occurred over the decade occurred before the 4th grade. For 17 years olds, the gains over the last 20 years are virtually non-existent and are similar to data showing a lack of wealth accumulation among the middle-class. The data also showed that the educational data is very highly correlated with each countries Gross National Product. The report concludes
“Because rates of economic growth have a huge impact on the future well-being of the nation, there is a simple message: A country ignores the quality of its schools at its economic peril.”
How bad is it really? Only 28% of 8th graders were able to answer the following question correctly.
Three tennis balls are to be stacked one on top of another in a cylindrical can. The radius of each tennis ball is 3 centimeters. To the nearest whole centimeter, what should be the minimum height of the can? Explain why you chose the height that you did. Your explanation should include a diagram. Correct Answer: 18cm
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