Dismal Math and Science Scores for American Students

According to The Washington Post, “scores in math, reading and science posted by 15-year-olds in the United States were flat while their counterparts elsewhere — particularly in Shanghai, Singapore and other Asian provinces or countries — soared ahead, according to results of a well-regarded international exam released Tuesday.”

“The [Program for International Student Assessment] 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.”

Top performer, Shanghai, “has catapulted to the top in PISA over the past decade after focusing on teacher preparation and investing in its most challenging classrooms, among other things.”

The American Federation of Teachers: “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.”

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  • pbrower2a

    An uneducated populace is just the thing — for a nation of farm laborers, shade-tree mechanics, shyster businesses, and tribal politics that serve a few big profiteers. Who wants to live in Mississippi in the early 1960s? That could be where we are heading.

    OK, we Americans are often at fault, so separate the kids from the electronic toys and restore an emphasis on reading and math.

    • The problem with separating kids from the electronic toys is that you have to offer an alternative that will attract and keep their attention. The things we teach, and the way we teach them, don’t do that.

      Every summer here in North Carolina, 600 of the state’s top rising seniors spend six weeks at the NC Governor’s School – a school for gifted and talented students established by Terry Sanford in 1963. Walk onto that campus, and you won’t find ANYONE playing playing video games – you’ll find them in classrooms and seminars and in small groups all over campus challenging each other to REALLY THINK about stuff. When they get back home to their X-box, they usually find that they’re not interested in it anymore. They also find that the hardest thing about Governor’s School is that last year of high-school – a year or utter boredom that they will sleep-walk through.

      We need to educate every student to that student’s fullest potential – not to meet an arbitrary and inadequate minimum.

      • pbrower2a

        Let youth discover the great richness of human interaction, and they might spend the evening discussing the great realities of the universe. Someone who does that does not need a six-pack, a TV, video games, or even a computer. That is how Plato did things.

        We do badly in math, but we also do badly in psychology and philosophy. We have an electorate as manipulable as any that has ever existed — one that falls for hollow, but pretentious, memes.

  • The American education system is not going to catch up until we start investing in our best students. I volunteer for an educational non-profit in my spare time, and I can tell you exactly what’s wrong with America’s schools and why we’re losing ground internationally. It’s simple. Every program we have enacted in the past 50 years has been designed to help bring the poor-performing students up to a level of mediocre adequacy. Our entire education system is built on getting as many students as possible to achieve a minimum score on a not-too-difficult test.

    While this goes on, our best students are often languishing in classes that do not challenge them. Their potential is being wasted because properly educating them would require individualized instruction, highly-trained and highly-paid teachers, and improved facilities. But our legislators and administrators do nothing because they assume (falsely) that smart kids will succeed on their own, without help.

    Another problem is the stigma of the gifted. Seriously. We’re all perfectly willing to admit that some kids are stronger, faster, more agile, more talented, and better-looking than others. We celebrate these kids on the football field, the basketball court, the theater stage, or the concert hall. But nobody wants to admit that some students are smarter than others. Their accomplishments are rarely celebrated (and often totally unknown) by other students. And they are much more likely to be ridiculed and ostracized than celebrated.

    • LKM

      I couldn’t agree more. I have one child with absolutely no mathematical aptitude. She has been failing or near-failing math since second grade despite a lot of work on her and our part. I have another who is mathematically gifted, able to understand complex concepts the moment they are introduced.

      Guess which child gets a double period of math? Why the first of course, because she has to pass a state algebra exam to graduate high school even though there is zero chance that she will ever pursue a career that uses much math.

      The gifted child is getting A’s in his class with all the others, and scores in the top 1 percent of standardized tests so what more could possibly be desired?


      • Exactly. If you are making an A in a class targeted towards the top 50% of your students, then it’s assumed that you’re learning all you need to know. If you’re getting in the top 5% on national standardized tests, it’s assumed that you’ve learned all you can.

        Nobody ever looks at these kids in the top 1% and asks if they are being under-served. But they are.

        • LKM

          And when people say “where are the resources for that?” the answer is the resources are being used trying to teach my musical, artistic, creative writer how to do Algebra. The concept (not the actual policy which is hopeless) of “no child left behind” should mean that every child should be given resources necessary to embark on their path in life. Yes, many of the best paying jobs will be in math and science, but if you have no aptitude for this it doesn’t mean your only option is unemployment. By high school, there should be several paths that allow youth to focus their energies. The current trend isn’t serving anyone.

          • My answer to “Where are the resources for that” goes like this…

            I want to start a new program in a high school. This program will require special facilities costing over $300,000 to build. It will require special equipment costing several thousand dollars a year. It will require hiring a special teacher who will be paid more than others. And it will benefit, at most, fifteen students a year. Of the students who participate in this program, it is highly unlikely that any of them will use the skills they learn here professionally. Do I have your permission to move forward?

            No? OK, then, cancel the basketball team.

    • pbrower2a

      Our elites are scared of intellectuals unless they are engineers or research scientists.

      Intellectuals are hard to control. Dolts are easy to manipulate.

  • Alun Palmer

    Ditch high school graduation and introduce subject tests instead.

    • LKM

      Or subject competency. Tests prove very little other than someone has learned how to decode test language and take tests well.

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