“U.S. School’s Suck!” Then Again, Maybe Not

This was probably one of the most interesting reports I’ve read in a while and will probably be one to fall to the wayside in a whirlwind of public debates. So many have been led to believe that schools in the United States fall below those in other countries. This report begs to differ.

The Stanford Graduate School of Education released a report which finds that US Schools are actually doing far better than most people have been led to believe, citing that many of the studies used have been flawed because they don’t accurately take into account our strengths in individual areas. In an era where testing and accountability have forced districts to look at subgroup upon subgroup, the same is not true of most studies conducted nationwide. Here are a few of the things the article points out.

“You can’t compare nations’ test scores without looking at the social class characteristics of students who take the test in different countries,” said Carnoy. “Nations with more lower social class students will have lower overall scores, because these students don’t perform as well academically, even in good schools. Policymakers should understand how our lower and higher social class students perform in comparison to similar students in other countries before recommending sweeping school reforms.”

The report found:
  • There is an achievement gap between more and less disadvantaged students in every country; surprisingly, that gap is smaller in the United States than in similar post-industrial countries, and not much larger than in the very highest scoring countries.
  • Achievement of U.S. disadvantaged students has been rising rapidly over time, while achievement of disadvantaged students in countries to which the United States is frequently unfavorably compared – Canada, Finland and Korea, for example – has been falling rapidly.
  • But the highest social class students in United States do worse than their peers in other nations, and this gap widened from 2000 to 2009 on the PISA.
  • U.S. PISA scores are depressed partly because of a sampling flaw resulting in a disproportionate number of students from high-poverty schools among the test-takers. About 40 percent of the PISA sample in the United States was drawn from schools where half or more of the students are eligible for the free lunch program, though only 23 percent of students nationwide attend such schools.

It’s interesting to see how well our schools actually are doing with our lower socio-economic groups. I recommend taking the time to look at the information. Then, go thank a teacher!

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