When the Department of Education issues statistics comparing the performance of American students to their counterparts in other countries, they often use “crisis” or similar terms to indicate how far our kids are behind the rest of the world.
But is our education system as whole all that bad? A closer look at the details “suggests that this story line may contain more than a few myths”.
1. U.S. students rate poorly compared with those in the rest of the world.
But only if you “cherry-pick” the results. The trend over a ten year period was for American students to be average or above in the tested subjects. Not great but not bottom of the barrel as suggested by politicians.
2. U.S. students are falling behind.
In fact the trend is up, with test scores steadily rising more than those in most countries. Even in math and science.
3. U.S. students won’t be well prepared for the modern workforce.
This is a criticism that has persisted since the country was founded. A little like the evilness of the music kids listen to.
4. Bad schooling has undermined America’s competitiveness.
According to several major studies, the American economy is less competitive than in the past. However, there are many more important factors for this decline other than education.
5. How we stack up on international tests matters, if only for national pride.
Ok, so that’s not so much a myth. National pride is the primary reason why politicians and news media pay so much attention to international rankings based on standardized test scores.
In his conclusion, the writer makes two excellent points that are usually ignored when creating political press releases and sound bites.
American schools may have a lot to fix, but they may be doing a few things right, too.
Continuous improvement should be our goal, regardless of whether we’re No.1 in the test-score Olympics.
Actually, those “test-score Olympics” are a major impediment to continuous improvement.
Rather than spending time whining over where we rank in a contest of test scores, there’s much more we could be doing to make teaching and learning more relevant to the world in which our students will be living and working.