Tuesday, December 3, 2013

We Continue To Fail Our Children

We are failing our children!
According to a 2102 study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), our children continue to fall behind their global peers in mathematics, reading and science. 
500,000 15 and 16 year olds were tested as part of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).  The program is designed to test the math, reading and science skills of students from across the globe.  The students represented 65 countries and 80% of the global economy.
US pupils ranked 36 among the 65 nations, producing below average scores in mathematics and average scores in reading and science.  Shanghai-China ranked #1 followed by Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.  The United Kingdom ranked 26th.  
Quoting from the PISA report:  “Just over one quarter (26%) of the 15 year olds in the United States do not reach the PISA baseline Level 2 of mathematics proficiency, at which level students begin to demonstrate the skills that will enable them to participate effectively and productively in life.  This percentage is higher than the OECD average (23%) and has remained unchanged since 2003.  By contrast, in Hong Kong-China, Korea, Shanghai-China and Singapore, 10% of students or fewer are poor performers in mathematics…Only 2% of students in the United States reach the highest level (Level 6) of performance in mathematics, compared with an OECD average of 3% and 31% of students in Shanghai-China.  The proportions of top performers in reading and science in the United States are both around the OECD average.”
This is pretty damning stuff.  We are not providing our children with the “skills that will enable them to participate effectively and productively in life.”  What does that say about us as a society?
Critics will place blame with the failings of inner city schools or single parent households or poor teachers with tenure.  But only 15% of our students attend inner city schools and we are guessing that there are poor teachers and single parent households in Shanghai too.  Yet they seem to succeed while we continue to fail.  We have thrown billions of dollars at the problem without any measurable success.  The numbers don’t lie.
We don’t have the answers…but we know where to find them.  Instead of re-inventing the wheel why don’t we set aside our “American Exceptionalism” for once and examine how other countries are finding success.
Shanghai is a city of 23 million people.  Students in Shanghai perform at a level at least one year more advanced than the average in math, reading and science.  How do they do it?
Sophie Brown @ CNN.com provides an excellent analysis of the East Asian success story.  According to OCED advisor Andreas Schleicher:  “Shanghai…and most East Asian school systems excel precisely because they are capable to leverage the academic potential of disadvantaged students much better than many Western nations do, and because they are able to break the downward spiral between disadvantage, lower performance and lower levels of student engagement…they have devised powerful strategies to attract the most talented teachers to the most challenging classrooms and to get the strongest principals into the toughest schools…they have convinced their citizens to make choices that value education, their future, more than consumption today…students not only believe they control their ability to succeed, but they are prepared to do what it takes to do so…students in most Asian countries believe that achievement is mainly the product of hard work rather than inherited intelligence…teachers have high expectations for every student and realize that ordinary students have extraordinary talents…and nowhere does the quality of a school system exceed  the quality of its teachers.” 
Translation...success comes from hard work and accountability.  The bar is set high and both students and teachers are expected to reach it.
We are failing our children.  It is time that we set aside the false notion of our genetic superiority and come to grips with the fact when it comes to education the only thing we are doing exceptionally well… is failing.  The solutions are out there.  All we have to do is summon the courage…and the humility…to put them into practice.
Kudos to Sophie Brown @cnn.com for her work on this important story.

No comments:

Post a Comment