Falling Behind By Running In Place…

2013-12-03_09-45-16 “Our scores are stagnant. We’re not seeing any improvement for our 15-year-olds,” said Jack Buckley, commissioner at the National Center for Education Statistics, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education. “But our ranking is flipping because a lot of these other countries are improving.” The test scores offer fresh evidence for those who argue that the United States is losing ground to competitors in the global market and others who say a decade’s worth of school reform has done little to improve educational outcomes.

“While the intentions may have been good, a decade of top-down, test-based schooling created by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top — focused on hyper-testing students, sanctioning teachers and closing schools — has failed to improve the quality of American public education,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement. The AFT released a video on Monday in which it implored the public not to blame teachers, the unions, parents or students for poor PISA results. SOURCE: U.S. students lag around average on international science, math and reading test – The Washington Post.

It seems the rest of the world realizes how important math and science is for their future whereas we in the U.S. haven’t got that message yet.  This article ends with the teachers union representative saying “don’t blame us”. I would have much rather him say “we teacher are part of the problem and we are determined to be part of the solution.”

It seems that everyone in this falling further and further behind area is in the “don’t blame us” category. Parents say it is the lack of funding or bad teacher. Teachers say it is the lack of funding or parents. Everyone blames someone else. They are convinced that it is someone else’s fault. Meanwhile we fall further and further behind…

I know this is not a recent problem. It has been going on for decades. In my mind part of the problem is that the education of our children continues to be pretty much a local issue and many localities just are not up to the task. Local property taxes for the most fund our educational system. So, if you are fortunately enough to live in an affluent area you will go to a first-rate high school often times with facilities rivaling those of college campuses. But if you are in a densely packed urban or small rural area you will struggle to get the courses with qualified teachers that are required for college entrance or what is needed in today’s workplace.

When I was in high school ninety percent of the teachers there were fresh out of college. The other ten percent were local farmers and such who got their teaching credentials so many years ago to make them more or less archaic in the world of education. The fresh out of college teachers spent two years in our school and then with that experience on their resumes they moved on to the larger and better paying school systems.

What our current education system needs is for everyone to take their share of the blame for our running in place and then set out to work together to catch up with what the rest of the world already knows.

3 thoughts on “Falling Behind By Running In Place…

  1. Switzerland is one of the few on the top of the list who educates everyone and all are eligible for the PISA. I spoke to a friend there. She said they completely reformed math ed about 15 years ago. They teach rote memory until grade four (9) and then start application math. They still take exams at sixth grade which decide which 20% will continue through twelve years of academic or move into the 80% in the skilled tract.
    Teachers are well educated and well paid. All students are given a solid base- no matter what. Only the top are encouraged to go to university while the others are given a skill. Computer programming is one of the top skills taught today in the non university schools. Excellent. Btw- everyone is bilingual (German/English) by ninth grade. The ones who go on also have a third language (French and Chinese lead).
    Shanghi has only 100,000. 15 year olds out of a population of 24 million – every year. Who knew?


  2. RJ – this story on education seems to me to be another example or issue in our society today where we need to realize that we’re all in this together – that we’re all accountable for where we are today and we all have to pull together to make things better. I agree with Janette on many of the things tried in other countries that have worked there – why not try some of those here. Give the size of our country and the various pushes and pulls in the various states, though, I continue to wonder if “education” is something that should be focused to the degree that it is at the local/state level vs. having more funding (and coordination?) at the federal level to create a more coordinated/national approach to education? But I know there are those who never like any regarding growing our central government because they don’t feel that our national government can do anything right…..Mike


    1. Thanks for the info Janette. I remember the old joke:

      * What do you call someone who knows two languages? Answer- Bilingual
      * What do you call someone who only knows one language? Answer – American.

      Our seemingly inability to learn from others, especially those in foreign lands, is going to eventually be our downfall in this country. We just seem to be too arrogant to think that someone else may have better answers than we do…..

      Mike, you and I see much of this in the same light.. Leaving education decisions at the local level have caused so much disparity between areas of the country and even within State localities. We need a national goal and more control at a higher level to ever really get a handle on improving opportunities for all of our citizens. But that is kind of like universal single payer healthcare, the rest of the world already knows that is the answer to run away care costs, but we are just too stubborn to learn that one either.


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