Monday, January 31, 2011

This Couldn't Have Come at a Better Time...

I italicized in bold what I believe to be the most significant parts of this article... whether I agree with them or not ;-)

From the Washington Post about a month ago:

International test score data show U.S. firmly mid-pack

By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 7, 2010; 6:00 AM

After a decade of intensive efforts to improve its schools, the United States posted these results in a new global survey of 15-year-old student achievement: average in reading, average in science and slightly below average in math.

Those middling scores lagged significantly behind results from several countries in Europe and Asia in the report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to be made public Tuesday.

South Korea is an emerging academic powerhouse. Finland and Singapore continue to flex their muscles. And the Chinese city of Shanghai, participating for the first time in the Program for International Student Assessment, topped the 2009 rankings of dozens of countries and a handful of sub-national regions.

U.S. officials said the results show that the nation is slipping further behind its competitors despite years spent seeking to raise performance in reading and math through the 2002 No Child Left Behind law and a host of other reforms.

"For me, it's a massive wake-up call," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Monday. "Have we ever been satisfied as Americans being average in anything? Is that our aspiration? Our goal should be absolutely to lead the world in education."

The Obama administration is likely to use the results to press Congress next year to rewrite the federal education law to prod states to do more to help the lowest-performing schools. The District and dozens of states -- including Maryland but not Virginia -- have also approved new national academic standards that are meant to make U.S. schools more competitive.

On Monday in North Carolina, President Obama warned that the United States faces a "Sputnik moment," needing innovations akin to the effort to put a man on the moon after the Soviet Union launched the first satellite into orbit in 1957.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is a 34-nation organization, based in Paris, that seeks to promote sustainable growth, world trade and higher living standards. Its testing program tracks the knowledge and problem-solving abilities of 15-year-olds every three years.

The report released Tuesday focused on reading ability and found that more than a dozen countries, from Korea to Poland, performed significantly better than the organization's statistical average in that area. The United States did not.

The U.S. scores of 500 in reading and 502 in science, on a 1,000-point scale, were about the organization's average, according to the report. The U.S. math score of 487 was below the average of 496.

Education experts cautioned that the strong marks for Shanghai, as well as those reported for Hong Kong, were not representative of education trends in China as a whole because the testing program did not canvass the entire country.

Still, Andreas Schleicher, who oversees the the testing program, called the results from Shanghai "stunning." He said it has been especially adept at moving talented educators into the most challenging assignments through career and pay incentives.

Susan Fuhrman, president of Teachers College at Columbia University, said several of the Pacific Rim nations that excelled in the testing have strong academic standards and a culture of high expectations, with particular emphasis on math and science. She added that the teaching profession is often more prestigious in such countries.

"We are not drawing from the top group of college graduates for teaching" in the United States, Fuhrman said, "and some other countries are."

Among the other key findings of the study:

-- Girls outperform boys in reading in every participating country. The gender reading gap, among the organization's members, was equivalent to about 39 points on the testing scale, or a year of schooling.

"In the United States, we're quite used to this" gender gap, said Tom Loveless, an education scholar at the Brookings Institution, "but it turns out that it's a worldwide phenomenon."

-- Countries with similar levels of economic prosperity can yield widely varying academic results. Korea, the strongest performer among the group's member nations, has a lower gross domestic product per capita than the organization's average. So does Shanghai.

-- U.S. math results were up since 2006 but not measurably different than scores in 2003, the earliest year in which comparisons were possible. U.S. science scores were up since 2006, a bright spot in the results.

Testing was conducted in the United States from September to November 2009, including 5,233 students from 165 public and private schools, randomly selected.


  1. Okay admittedly I didn't read this because I'm to ADD at the moment, but I did notice the mention of South Korea. Glen's Korean parents bow to him and value every word his says... they RESPECT their teachers, which could explain their success

  2. *too ADD... see what I mean? LOL

  3. This is a hot topic… and with 30 years in the education field I would like to . . . cry.

    All students are tested on the grade they are in… however we do not instruct them on that level.
    A child in 4th grade learning support takes the same test as the child in 4th grade gifted program. (Do they have LS in South Korea?)

    However with guided math and reading we adjust everything to their tested reading and math level during the school year.
    When they take the standardized test there are terms and words that are too hard and many children do not have the tools to complete the tested task. (One fifth grade PSSA test had a story about a locomotive – not one child that read this story to me could pronounce it… they had no idea that the article was about a train… and I am not permitted to pronounce the word or explain it to them.) :(

    You see, we cannot “leave them behind” (old term—“fail” them) and because of this practice many parents do not push their child... after all he is “passing” why does he need to complete homework or read every night.

    It is very sad to see a sixth grade child reading on a 2nd grade level and believe that this is OK… they do not see the need to practice because they will go on to the next grade anyway.

    I have no solution to solve this problem. I work every day with struggling children. I love them dearly and my goal is for them to believe in themselves enough to try harder than anyone else. Learning does not come easy to everyone but I believe that every child can learn if they believe and work hard. :)