"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Thursday, February 16, 2017

United States Basic Education Falling Behind Other Countries

Headlines are often composed to capture people's attention, sometimes without faithfulness to the truth. Reading the entire article is usually necessary to extract what is real and what is simply sensational. And when we read, we frequently look for confirmation of our prejudgments. Thus, it is not surprising that even with real news, we tend to gravitate towards the fake pieces of an article. For instance, it is so much easier to believe that schools in the United States for both elementary and high school education are falling behind school systems in other countries. After all, one can easily reach this conclusion by simply looking at one number, the average score of American students in an international standardized exam.

Above copied from the Washington Post
The headline maybe valid. US students currently rank 40th out of 73 countries in an international math exam. Thus, US basic education is indeed falling behind. But there is really so much about education that it cannot be captured by a single number. And in the case of basic education in the United States, one really needs to dig deeper into these test scores. Dale Hansen of the Huffington Post did take a second look at these scores and found that if one considered the poverty rate in each US school and separated the scores according to this category, the US actually came on top of the list:


Above copied from 
Hansen's analysis agrees well with the findings made by PISA regarding the variability of test scores in the US:


Differences are explained by a school's economic status. Thus, there are failing schools in the US and these schools unfortunately are those where the majority of students live in poverty. This is the real news. Not knowing the real news prevents us from proposing the right solution. Relying on sensational headlines only forces us to pick the wrong people to solve the problem. Our misguidance only leads us to the wrong people to tackle the real challenges of basic education which is clearly manifested in how the nation's leaders gather people to discuss the issues of basic education in the United States. Valerie Strauss in his recent article in the Washington PostHere’s who Trump invited to the White House to talk about schools. The list says a lot about his education priorities, points out:
The 10 invited teachers and parents were, according to the White House:
* Carol Bonilla, a Spanish teacher at a private school
* Bartholomew Cirenza, a parent of seven students in a public school
* Kenneth Michael Smith, a parent and president of a dropout-prevention program
* Aimee Viana, a parent of two students at a private school and a former principal
* Kathyrn Mary Doherty, a parent of a student at a private Catholic school
* Laura Lynn Parrish, a parent of a home-schooled student
* Julie R. Baumann, a fifth-grade teacher at a public school
* Jane Quenneville, a principal of a public school specializing in special education
* Jennifer Jane Coleman, a parent and a teacher of four home-school students
* Mary Caroline Riner, a parent of a student at a charter school
Keep in mind that more than 80 percent of America’s schoolchildren attend traditional public schools... ...What does this tell us about the education priorities of Trump and DeVos? Exactly what supporters of public education had expected: that the Trump administration would focus on promoting alternatives to traditional public education rather than working on helping improve the schools that most students attend....
The problem does not lie in the public education system. The problem lies in poverty and lack of equity. US schools are now segregated, segregated according to income. Schools that serve more children in poverty need our help. These schools need resources so that their teachers can better attend to the needs of poor children. These challenges cannot be addressed by those who work in private schools or parents who home school their children. These issues can only be addressed by those who firmly believe that the only purpose of a school to ensure that every child learns, including those who come from poor families.

No comments:

Post a Comment