View Full Version : Really? How Is The US Doing With Education?

05-01-2013, 10:44 AM
Pretty darn well if the kids are bright and prepared. Not so good if poor. One thing not mentioned in the following article, the US is basically alone in developed nations in NOT forcing children into tracking system. We don't say that a 5th grader reading at 3rd grade will not take prep courses. Something very much to keep in mind with math scores:


You'll Be Shocked by How Many of the World's Top Students Are American The U.S. claims one-third of the developed world's high-performing students in both reading and science
Jordan Weissmann (http://www.theatlantic.com/jordan-weissmann/) <time datetime="2013-04-30T14:00:00-04:00">Apr 30 2013, 2:00 PM ET

</time>When you look at the average performance of American students on international test scores, our kids come off as a pretty middling bunch. If you rank countries based on their very fine differences, we come in 14th in reading, 23rd in science, and 25th in math. Those finishes led Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to flatly declare (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/07/education/07education.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0) that "we're being out-educated."

And on average, maybe we are. But averages also sometimes obscure more than they reveal. My colleague Derek Thompson has written before (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/01/why-gloomy-pundits-and-politicians-are-wrong-about-americas-education-system/267278/) about how, once you compare students from similar income and class backgrounds, our relative performance improves dramatically, suggesting that our educational problems may be as much about our sheer number of poor families as our supposedly poor schools. This week, I stumbled on another data point that belies the stereotype of dimwitted American teens.

When it comes to raw numbers, it turns out we generally have far more top performers than any other developed nation.

That's according to the graph below from Economic Policy Institute's recent report (http://www.epi.org/publication/bp359-guestworkers-high-skill-labor-market-analysis/) on America's supply of science and tech talent. Among OECD nations in 2006, the United States claimed a third of high-performing students in both reading and science, far more than our next closest competitor, Japan. On math, we have a bit less to be proud of -- we just claimed 14 percent of the high-performers, compared to 15.2 percent for Japan and 16.2 percent of South Korea.

http://cdn.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/business/assets_c/2013/04/EPI_PISA_Top_Performers-thumb-570x256-120278.jpg (http://cdn.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/business/EPI_PISA_Top_Performers.JPG)

Part of this is easy to explain: The United States is big. Very big. And it's a far bigger country than the other members of the OECD. We claim roughly 27 percent of the group's 15-to-19-year-olds. Japan, in contrast, has a smidge over 7 percent. So in reading and in science, we punch above our weight by just a little, while in math we punch below.

But the point remains: In two out of three subjects, Americans are over-represented among the best students.

If we have so many of the best minds, why are our average scores so disappointingly average (http://www.oecd.org/pisa/46643496.pdf)? As Rutgers's Hal Salzman and Georgetown's B. Lindsay Lowell, who co-authored the EPI report, noted in a 2008 Nature article (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7191/pdf/453028a.pdf), our high scorers are balanced out by an very large number of low scorers. Our education system, just like our economy, is polarized.


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Here's a link to an article that discusses some alternatives countries use instead of our, 'all college prep for all,' :


Germany requires 13 years, not 12 of compulsory education, but has a very developed master/apprentice system for many, many careers that follow without any university: