National Embarrassment, Disaster– Failing Public Schools: U.S. is Falling Drastically Behind Rest of the World…

U.S. public schools are failing to educate students– they are getting ‘worse’ at math and science, and their reading skills are stagnate… An updated study by Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) found that U.S. students are having major problems with math and science, and have fallen significantly behind the rest of the world…

These finding are part of the PISA study that looks at performance of more than 500,000 students, all who are 15-years of age, across schools in more than 70 countries… with just under 6,000 students who took part in U.S. schools…

The top performing country in all three categories of– math, science, reading– was Singapore, while Hong Kong and Macau were second and third in mathematics. Japan and Estonia, and Canada and Hong Kong rounded out the top-three in science and reading, respectively. The U.S. ranked 40th in math, 24th in reading, and 25th in science…

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In the article Math a Concern for U.S. Teens; Science, Reading Flat on Test by Jennifer C. Kerr writes: U.S. students have a math problem: The latest global snapshot of student performance for 15-year-old shows declining math scores in the U.S. and stagnant performance in science and reading. U.S. is losing ground– a troubling prospect when, in today’s knowledge-based economy, the best jobs can go anywhere in the world… According to John B. King Jr.; students in U.S. aren’t just vying for great jobs in U.S. towns and cities and across state lines, but they must also compete with peers in Finland, Germany, Japan… and across the globe…

According to Peggy Carr, acting commissioner at National Center for Education Statistics; this pattern of U.S. students failing math and science, as compared with other countries, is consistent with previous yearly test assessments… U.S. student proficiency in these critical subjects is just getting worse… The 2015 PISA study is the latest to document that U.S students are under performing peers in nations through the world… and if this continues the U.S. will become a third world nation…

This ever 3-year test study of more than half a million 15-year-old students in about 70 nations and educational systems is coordinated by the Paris-based ‘Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’ (OECD)… Here is a brief summary of the testing:

U.S. SCORES AND RANKINGS: Not so encouraging… The test is based on a 1,000-point scale. Average scores in math have been on the decline since 2009. Scores in reading and science have been flat during that same time period. Across the globe, U.S. students were outperformed by their counterparts in 36 countries in math; 18 countries in science, 14 countries in reading. Among the findings:

  • In math; U.S. average score 470, below international average of 490. Average scores ranged from 564 in Singapore to 328 in the Dominican Republic…
  • In science; U.S. average score 496, about same as international average of 493. Average scores ranged from 556 in Singapore to 332 in the Dominican Republic…
  • In reading; U.S. average score 497, about same as international average of 493. Average scores ranged from 535 in Singapore to 347 in Lebanon…

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WHAT IS GOING ON WITH MATH? According to Andreas Schleicher; high-performing countries do really well in math in three things: rigor, focus, coherence, e.g.; many high-performing countries will teach a lot less but focus at much greater depths, particularly in countries such as; East Asia, Japan and Singapore… U.S. students are often good at answering the first layer of a problem, but as soon as students have to go deeper and answer the more complex part of a problem, they have difficulties…

BRIGHT SPOT IN THE U.S.: All eyes are on Massachusetts– the Bay State participated as an international benchmark in the PISA study and received scores separate from the U.S., as a whole. Students in the state performed exceptionally well… Massachusetts’s average scores were higher than the U.S. and the international average scores in science, math and reading… And for reading Massachusetts was a top-tier performer, just behind Singapore, and tied with Hong Kong and Canada…

According to Mitchell Chester, commissioner of Massachusetts public schools; the state has spent two decades implementing higher standards, testing of student performance, and money to support poorer districts… and measure progress against these standards… They hold people accountable for results, and financially support the system to reach the desired results…

WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING: What do the PISA high-performing nations do different than the U.S.? According to Lily Eskelsen Garc, National Education Association; they invest in students… It’s a combination of high standards, useful assessments, and investing in educators with high-quality curricula and professional development that can make a very meaningful impact. When you look at public schools that are successful, both in countries and states, they have this blend, and there is ‘real’ improvement…

OTHER FINDINGS: Globally, gender differences in science tended to be smaller than in reading and math. But on average, in 33 countries and economies, share of top performers in science is larger among boys than among girls. Finland was only country where girls were more likely to be top performers than boys…

ABOUT THE TEST AND COMPARISONS: The PISA test is conducted every three years, and  schools in each country are random selected. According to OECD; student samples are drawn from a broad range of backgrounds and abilities… Another international test, known as the ‘Trends in International Mathematics and Science’ Study (TIMSS) had similar international comparisons with Asian countries, and they too solidly outperformed U.S. students

In the article More Money, Same Problems by Gerard Robinson and Benjamin Scafidi write: Showering public schools with funds has been a costly failure. Why not try something different? There are states that are looking at ways to fix public schools beyond more money and more bureaucracy… Some are pushing for state constitution amendments that would allow them to take control of persistently failing public schools… Hence, state would either manage failing public schools directly or convert them to charter public schools governed by local boards of parents and other citizens…

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As mentioned earlier Massachusetts has shown that U.S. student can learn and excel in math and science… Massachusetts has one of oldest charter school laws in the nation and is home to the highest-performing charter schools… and these student have tested among the best in the world… With results like these, you might expect people to cheer; but that is not the case. Most U.S. school districts are content with the status quo, and with their heads in the sand…

It’s about time that public school administrators try something different to improve U.S. student education… It’s about time to give all students opportunity to succeed… It’s about time that– parents, business, institutions, government… even teachers unions– all join together and demand, yes demand, better education for all students… It’s critical for the future of the student, and it’s critical for the future of the nation…

While important, money alone cannot solve this systemic problem in the nation’s public school: It needs different and more creative thinking and the implementation of realistic and effective teaching and learning initiatives that prepare all student for the 21st Century, and beyond…