Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Organization for Cooperation and Development Study: U.S. Losing Ground in Education

(Courtesy of Melissa Purdue)

Study: U.S. losing ground in education
BEN FELLER, Associated Press
Published in the Lexington Herald Leader

WASHINGTON - The United States is losing ground in education, as peers across the globe zoom by with bigger gains in student achievement and school graduations, a study shows.

Among adults age 25 to 34, the U.S. is ninth among industrialized nations in the share of its population that has at least a high school degree. In the same age group, the United States ranks seventh, with Belgium, in the share of people who hold a college degree.

By both measures, the United States was first in the world as recently as 20 years ago, said Barry McGaw, director of education for the Paris-based Organization for Cooperation and Development. The 30-nation organization develops the yearly rankings as a way for countries to evaluate their education systems and determine whether to change their policies.

McGaw said that the United States remains atop the "knowledge economy," one that uses information to produce economic benefits. But, he said, "education's contribution to that economy is weakening, and you ought to be worrying."

The report bases its conclusions about achievement mainly on international test scores released last December. They show that compared with their peers in Europe, Asia and elsewhere, 15-year-olds in the United States are below average in applying math skills to real-life tasks.

Top performers included Finland, Korea, the Netherlands, Japan, Canada and Belgium.

A separate international review last year showed U.S. eighth-graders gaining on their peers across the globe in science and math. At the same time, though, fourth-graders here are falling behind others passed as their test scores remain stagnant, that study found.

McGaw said other measures of achievement - including how U.S. students do on this country's federal math and reading test - are fair to consider in rating performance.

Given what the United States spends on education, its relatively low student achievement through high school shows its school system is "clearly inefficient," McGaw said.

In all levels of education, the United States spends $11,152 per student. That's the second highest amount, behind the $11,334 spent by Switzerland.

"The very best schools in the U.S. are extraordinary," McGaw said. "But the big concern in the U.S. is the diversity of quality of institutions - and the fact that expectations haven't been set high enough."

The Bush administration says the 2002 federal law known as the No Child Left Behind Act is fueling higher achievement among all students - particularly poor and minority kids - by holding schools accountable for progress. But the international data, mostly gathered in 2003, are not recent enough to confirm that the law is producing results, McGaw said.

Higher education in the United States remains strong, and the nation continues to hold an advantage in innovation based on research conducted at universities, he said.

The report also underscores that women continue to get paid less than men.

Women in the United States who are 30 to 44 and who hold a university degree - meaning a bachelor's degree, master's degree, doctorate or medical degree - make only 62 percent of what similarly qualified men do.

That's a lower rate than in all but three of the 19 countries for which numbers are available. The nations with greater inequity in pay are Germany, New Zealand and Switzerland.

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Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

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3 comments:

Susannity! (Susanne) said...

I think this trend will continue to worsen as it has in the past 20 years. Money is not the issue imho. Heck, about 6k of my property tax each year goes to the local schools. It's what we make our priorities in our educational system.
My oldest son started first grade last week. Everyday we ask about his day and what he learned. Our school district is considered one of the best in the Seattle metro area. His answers do not warm my heart. We do homework with him almost daily, and I can see what he is capable of grasping. My child is not a super genius, he's just an average kid. Singing songs and all that is fine, but he's doing beginning level multiplication at home and the schools haven't even covered basic addition yet. And folks wonder why our companies are hiring IIT grads rather than our kids with degrees in sociology who can't even balance a checkbook.

Thivai Abhor said...

The problem is also that we are not teaching basic-level critical thought to K-12 students--rote memorization, order following and statistical knowledge are the program these days--but try to get them to break through the carefully framed box to think in multi-perspectival ways whereby they can think about the interelated effects of their actions in the world... well that is difficult (speaking as a professor teaching first year students). Questions why or what if... lose out to the ruling how and when...

Check out Jonathan Kozol's article in this months Harper's or the Nation's continuing series of reports on the state of eductaion in the US.

I would be happy if our children developed a true base of sociological knowledge to go with their drilling in facts/figures.

To make matters worse the training of B.A. education majors in the US is pitiful, the most embarrasing discipline I have seen... (saying this, some of the most bold and intelligent teachers I know are elementary school teacher--I'm talking about the discipline as a whole).

English professors dread having a class of education majors because they generally lack critical thinking skills.

Susannity! (Susanne) said...

I feel the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction. In the old days, the 3 Rs were the way, then we went into a broader exposure to other areas. I think this is definitely good, but we seem to focus so much on "broadening our horizons" by exposure to SO many different disciplines, that there is no concrete skillset or knowledgeset when kids graduate HS, let alone college. And if you are going to give them a broad education, at least give the basics of critical thinking, logic skills, and the 3 Rs so they can adapt to whatever field they choose at some point.