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‘Wake-up call’: U.S. students trail global leaders

2010.12.08 Няма коментари
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Out of 34 countries assessed, U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science, 25th in math

By CHRISTINE ARMARIO

United States students are continuing to trail behind their peers in a pack of higher performing nations, according to results from a key international assessment.
Scores from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment released Tuesday show 15-year-old students in the U.S. performing about average in reading and science, and below average in math. Out of 34 countries, the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.
Those scores are all higher than those from 2003 and 2006, but far behind the highest scoring countries, including South Korea, Finland and Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai in China and Canada.
‘Brutal truth’
“This is an absolute wake-up call for America,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The results are extraordinarily challenging to us and we have to deal with the brutal truth. We have to get much more serious about investing in education.”
Brutal truth’
“This is an absolute wake-up call for America,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The results are extraordinarily challenging to us and we have to deal with the brutal truth. We have to get much more serious about investing in education.”
Grim figures
Between 1995 and 2008, for example, the United States slipped from ranking second in college graduation rates to 13th, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Paris-based organization that develops and administers the PISA exam. Of 34 OECD countries, only 8 have a lower high school graduation rate.
The top performers in reading were South Korea, Finland, Hong Kong and Shanghai in China, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia.
The gap between the highest performing countries and the United States is stark — students in Shanghai, for example, had an average score of 556 points in reading, 56 points higher than the 500-point average reached by United States students. Shanghai students also posted the highest score in math, with an average of 600 points, 113 points higher than the 487 point U.S. average.
OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria cited ongoing evaluations, an emphasis on the importance of education, and a curriculum that is relevant to everyday life as reasons for the Chinese success.
“They don’t only produce children who know the matters by heart,” Gurria said. “They’re educated to understand and face the challenges of real life.”
He noted that the Chinese scores were strong in all three subject areas. “That speaks about who is going to be leading tomorrow,” Gurria said.
The report also notes that the GDP per capita in Shanghai is well below the OECD average — highlighting another finding of the study: Low national income does not necessarily signify poor educational performance. South Korea, another top performer, also has a GDP below the OECD average.
Newsweek: Why Michelle Rhee isn’t done with school reform
“While national income and educational achievement are still related, PISA shows that two countries with similar levels of prosperity can produce very different results,” Gurria said. “This shows that an image of a world divided neatly into rich and well-educated countries and poor and badly education countries is now out of date.”
The United States spends more per student, on average, than other countries. In the 2009 PISA study, only Luxembourg spent more per student. The report notes that countries like Estonia and Poland perform at about the same level as the United States, while spending less than half the amount per student.
Common academic standards
He said many of the things the United States is doing, such as developing common academic standards and smarter assessment systems, are important, positive changes.
“What we have seen from other countries doing similar things is those initiatives do pay off in the longer term,” Schleicher said.
The study found that the best school systems were also the most equitable, meaning students from disadvantaged backgrounds were just as likely to do well academically. In the U.S., 17 percent of the variation in student performance was found to be related to a pupil’s background — compared to 9 percent, for example, in Canada.
The report notes that Canadian 15-year-olds, on average, perform more than one school year ahead in math than 15-year-olds in the United States, and more than a half year ahead in reading and science. Canada, like the U.S., has a decentralized education system.
“Canada’s experiences raise questions about why the United States has so far not equaled the performance of it northern neighbor,” the report states.
Newsweek: Why education reform could happen
Mexico had the lowest reading score among OECD member countries, with an average of 425 points — the equivalent of more than two school years behind the highest member score. Among all 2009 participants, there was a gap of 242 points between the highest and lowest reading scores — equal to more than six years of schooling.
Mexico was commended for reducing the number of low performers in reading, and for improving math scores.
Gurria said the report’s overall message is that, “Even in this crisis and even with the expenditure cuts, keep on supporting the education but also look at what successful systems have in common. They all can be very different but they have in common a number of features that can really make for better systems.”
United States students are continuing to trail behind their peers in a pack of higher performing nations, according to results from a key international assessment.
Scores from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment released Tuesday show 15-year-old students in the U.S. performing about average in reading and science, and below average in math. Out of 34 countries, the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.
Those scores are all higher than those from 2003 and 2006, but far behind the highest scoring countries, including South Korea, Finland and Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai in China and Canada.
‘Brutal truth’
“This is an absolute wake-up call for America,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The results are extraordinarily challenging to us and we have to deal with the brutal truth. We have to get much more serious about investing in education.”
Brutal truth’
“This is an absolute wake-up call for America,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The results are extraordinarily challenging to us and we have to deal with the brutal truth. We have to get much more serious about investing in education.”
Grim figures
Between 1995 and 2008, for example, the United States slipped from ranking second in college graduation rates to 13th, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Paris-based organization that develops and administers the PISA exam. Of 34 OECD countries, only 8 have a lower high school graduation rate.
The top performers in reading were South Korea, Finland, Hong Kong and Shanghai in China, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia.
The gap between the highest performing countries and the United States is stark — students in Shanghai, for example, had an average score of 556 points in reading, 56 points higher than the 500-point average reached by United States students. Shanghai students also posted the highest score in math, with an average of 600 points, 113 points higher than the 487 point U.S. average.
OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria cited ongoing evaluations, an emphasis on the importance of education, and a curriculum that is relevant to everyday life as reasons for the Chinese success.
“They don’t only produce children who know the matters by heart,” Gurria said. “They’re educated to understand and face the challenges of real life.”
He noted that the Chinese scores were strong in all three subject areas. “That speaks about who is going to be leading tomorrow,” Gurria said.
The report also notes that the GDP per capita in Shanghai is well below the OECD average — highlighting another finding of the study: Low national income does not necessarily signify poor educational performance. South Korea, another top performer, also has a GDP below the OECD average.
Newsweek: Why Michelle Rhee isn’t done with school reform
“While national income and educational achievement are still related, PISA shows that two countries with similar levels of prosperity can produce very different results,” Gurria said. “This shows that an image of a world divided neatly into rich and well-educated countries and poor and badly education countries is now out of date.”
The United States spends more per student, on average, than other countries. In the 2009 PISA study, only Luxembourg spent more per student. The report notes that countries like Estonia and Poland perform at about the same level as the United States, while spending less than half the amount per student.
Common academic standards
He said many of the things the United States is doing, such as developing common academic standards and smarter assessment systems, are important, positive changes.
“What we have seen from other countries doing similar things is those initiatives do pay off in the longer term,” Schleicher said.
The study found that the best school systems were also the most equitable, meaning students from disadvantaged backgrounds were just as likely to do well academically. In the U.S., 17 percent of the variation in student performance was found to be related to a pupil’s background — compared to 9 percent, for example, in Canada.
The report notes that Canadian 15-year-olds, on average, perform more than one school year ahead in math than 15-year-olds in the United States, and more than a half year ahead in reading and science. Canada, like the U.S., has a decentralized education system.
“Canada’s experiences raise questions about why the United States has so far not equaled the performance of it northern neighbor,” the report states.
Newsweek: Why education reform could happen
Mexico had the lowest reading score among OECD member countries, with an average of 425 points — the equivalent of more than two school years behind the highest member score. Among all 2009 participants, there was a gap of 242 points between the highest and lowest reading scores — equal to more than six years of schooling.
Mexico was commended for reducing the number of low performers in reading, and for improving math scores.
Gurria said the report’s overall message is that, “Even in this crisis and even with the expenditure cuts, keep on supporting the education but also look at what successful systems have in common. They all can be very different but they have in common a number of features that can really make for better systems.”
www.msnbc.msn.com

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