In yesterday’s post about how poorly American schoolchildren compare academically with children in other parts of the world I suggested that we needed more Tiger Moms. After all, how could anyone miss the fact that the best students in the world are all in Asia.
Today, in an editorial, the Wall Street Journal took up the point:
American teenagers seem especially weak in core academic subjects with high cognitive demands, such as translating concepts into solutions for real-world problems. A quarter never become proficient in math. In Shanghai and Korea, the comparable figure is 10% or fewer. Some 7% of U.S. students reached the top two scientific performance levels, compared with 17% in Finland and an amazing 27% in Shanghai. Is it tiger moms or tiger schools, or maybe both?
The Journal adds an important point here. American teenagers especially lack the skill required for translating concepts into solutions. They have been trained to be idealistic critical thinkers, not to be engineers who are tasked with solving a problem.
It is worth underscoring that the nations who are outcompeting us are not outspending us. We Americans spend more on education and get less in return.
The Journal writes:
The U.S. is way out front in one measure: per-student spending. Only Austria, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland spend more. Despite laying out $115,000 per head, the U.S. did no better than the Slovak Republic, which spends $53,000.
As I mentioned yesterday the results are skewed against America because of high poverty levels and a high number of broken homes. When you compare apples to apples, as the saying goes, and compare students in a state like Massachusetts, known for academic excellence, against Shanghai, which scored best in the world, the results are sobering:
Then again, Massachusetts has been running public schools since 1635 and today is home to some of the best performers in the nation. The state entered Pisa as if it was its own country—but students of the same age in Shanghai performed as if they had two more years of math instruction than those in the Bay State.
If it’s a consolation, students in Massachusetts were only two years behind the best in the world.