Friday Follow-Up: Educashun Reform

A wide-ranging meeting, with 16 of us, including newish members Brenda and Bill, Richard returning from a long hiatus, and my Debbie.  Thanks to Aaron for presenting and to others who shared their experiences in the educational system, notably Mike and Carl’s guest, Anthony.

Two small points of follow-up.  First, I wanted to post something concrete on how the United States stacks up to other countries.  But, a little research reveals that such comparisons are a complicated matter.  Do we compare test scores?  Graduation rates?  Spending levels?  Teacher pay?  Wages after graduation?  Etc.

Tests: Math and Science

Based on one common test, we’re as expected, middling in science and math.   Moreover, this Atlantic Monthly article points to a problem I didn’t know we had and that no one else mentioned last night, either.  Even considered separately, none of our 50 states has their students performing anywhere near the level of students in the top foreign countries.

Differences between states are stark, too.  According to one study:

While students in Massachusetts, the top-scoring state in math, can rightly boast that they do nearly as well as students in those high flying Asian nations, students in places such as Mississippi, New Mexico and Washington, D.C., register math results comparable to Bulgaria, Moldova and Macedonia.

If you’re a real glutton for punishment and want to get a better idea of how difficult it is to make international education comparisons, try this study.

How Hard Are The U.S. Tests?

NCLB tests vary by state — sometimes quite dramatically.  But, there is one, single test administered to all public school children in the United States: The National ‘Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).  NAEP tetst are given to every public school student in grades 4, 8, and 12.

Are you smarter than a 4th, 8th, or 12th grader?  Just try some of the sample questions yourself!  I’d recommend the civics or history or geography ones.  Note that the sidebar on the left lets you narrow your focus; e.g., you can select only questions for 12th graders or only the open-ended or multiple choice questions.

How hard do you think they are?

Any other thoughts that we neglected to mention last night?

Next week:  The future of space travel.

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