Tuesday, December 3, 2013

American Schoolchildren Lag the World

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence but, in the age of Obama, American schoolchildren have fallen further behind their counterparts in other countries.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the most recent results, which compare scores from 2009 with scores from 2012:

U.S. 15-year-olds made no progress on recent international achievement exams and fell further in the rankings, reviving a debate about America's ability to compete in a global economy.

The results from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which are being released on Tuesday, show that teenagers in the U.S. slipped from 25th to 31st in math since 2009; from 20th to 24th in science; and from 11th to 21st in reading, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, which gathers and analyzes the data in the U.S.

Naturally, a massive effort is underway to explain how this could have happened.

High on the list is the fact that more Americans live in poverty. Apparently, after four years of Obama the nation’s poverty rate exceeds that of other industrialized countries. One might also ask how many American children are being brought up on broken homes. Surely, that impacts academic performance.

The Journal explains:

Experts caution against reading too much into the rankings without a deeper understanding of the differences in socioeconomic and racial composition among countries. The U.S., for example, has more children living in poverty than do many other industrialized countries, and 15% of the variance in test scores can be explained by socioeconomic status, according to the OECD analysis.

The New York Times has debunked the idea that it’s all about America’s unacceptably higher level of poverty. When the survey isolates the best American students and compares them with the best in other countries, our children do not fare well:

In the United States, just 9 percent of 15-year-olds scored in the top two levels of proficiency in math, compared with an average of 13 percent among industrialized nations and as high as 55 percent in Shanghai, 40 percent in Singapore, and 17 percent in Germany and Poland.

Jack Buckley, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, noted that American students from families with incomes in the highest quartile did not perform as well as students with similar backgrounds in other countries.

As for what we can do to improve test scores, class size does not seem to matter, but a child’s good character does:

The analysis found a strong correlation between higher test scores and students' school attendance and punctuality. But it found a low connection between class size and test scores.

What does America need? More Tiger Moms!


Charles A Pennison said...

When I took Physical Chemistry in college in the early 1970's, our professor said that we were good students, but not as good as students he taught just 20 years earlier. He wasn't talking about our class specifically, but our generation versus the earlier generation. He also was at a loss to explain why.

I don't know why either. The one big difference between the two generations is TV.

TV leaves little to the imagination. You don't have to think about fantasy, you just observe it. I also observed this difference when personal computers first came out. I enjoyed playing text computer games. You had to ask the program questions to frame a picture in your mind of the program's universe. As you played the game and walked around its universe, you had do so with the fantasy universe in your head. There were no pictures on the screen, just text. With modern video games, you no longer have to fantasize about the games universe, because it's right there on the screen. We simply are using our minds less and less as communication technology advances.

Machines are doing a lot of our thinking for us.

I'm not saying that this is the reason why we're less able students than we use to be, but it's a difference that I've observed over time.

Sam L. said...

Teachers' Unions hardest hit.

Anonymous said...

Shocking. I am shocked. I thought greater self esteem was correlated with greater achievement.

Clearly, the data say otherwise.

American parents will do well when they unite in bringing up independent, decent contributors to society rather than trying to protect them from failure and social feedback about their own behavior. Sure, school kids can be cruel sometimes, but real life is a real eye-opener. Best to get started early.

I talked today with an employer who says he won't hire young people straight out of college anymore. He said all they care about is vacation days, benefits, guarantees for one-on-one career development attention, and carefully detailed instructions on how to do their job correctly (notice: not training, but fledging). He said he doesn't have the time for this stuff. If he did, why would he hire someone? He'd do it himself! This youth attitude is all about "What are you going to do for me?" while they are simultaneously puzzled by inquiries about initiative, substantive leadership experiences, or contributions to something greater than themselves based on elbow grease rather than setting to hook up. And he added these were kids from impressive universities.

Failure is like chicken pox... better to get it as a kid than to have to deal with the deadly, shocking onset as an adult.


Anonymous said...

Oh, and another thing: this same friend of mine (who our entire community knows to be an upstanding, committed, loyal and generous employer) said if he hears a recent college grad talk about "fairness" or "objective criteria for performance evaluation" again, he'd go bezerk. I told him I'd start a countdown on a quick clock...