America, the Below Average

Amanda Ripley considers the results when one compares high-end test scores in math:

We’ve known for some time how this story ends nationwide: only 6 percent of U.S. students perform at the advanced-proficiency level in math, a share that lags behind kids in some 30 other countries, from the United Kingdom to Taiwan. But what happens when we break down the results? Do any individual U.S. states wind up near the top?
Incredibly, no. Even if we treat each state as its own country, not a single one makes it into the top dozen contenders on the list. The best performer is Massachusetts, ringing in at No. 17. Minnesota also makes it into the upper-middle tier, followed by Vermont, New Jersey, and Washington. And down it goes from there, all the way to Mississippi, whose students—by this measure at least—might as well be attending school in Thailand or Serbia.

One intention of researcher Eric Hanushek was to determine the validity of the diversity excuse: whether America’s diversity explains its poor results, on average, because our best and brightest have a much broader spectrum holding down comparisons with other nations. Sadly, even our most privileged students don’t do very well. I’d argue, as the article mentions, that American education is far too mired in a “no child left behind” mentality that places the focus on bringing up the bottom, with no provision for the brightest students to reach their own potential. (Did somebody say, “school choice”?)
Even so, Massachusetts proves that, while Americans can’t hope to match Singapore, Japan and Chinese Taipei are at least within reach:

Is it because Massachusetts is so white? Or so immigrant-free? Or so rich? Not quite. Massachusetts is indeed slightly whiter and slightly better-off than the U.S. average. But in the late 1990s, it nonetheless lagged behind similar states—such as Connecticut and Maine—in nationwide tests of fourth- and eighth-graders. It was only after a decade of educational reforms that Massachusetts began to rank first in the nation.
What did Massachusetts do? Well, nothing that many countries (and industries) didn’t do a long time ago. For example, Massachusetts made it harder to become a teacher, requiring newcomers to pass a basic literacy test before entering the classroom. (In the first year, more than a third of the new teachers failed the test.) The state also required students to pass a test before graduating from high school—a notion so heretical that it led to protests in which students burned state superintendent David Driscoll in effigy. To help tutor the kids who failed, the state moved money around to the places where it was needed most. “We had a system of standards and held people to it—adults and students,” Driscoll says.

Rhode Island parents with children in the public school system should come down like a ton of bricks on Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee if he attempts to roll back Education Commissioner Deborah Gist’s efforts in that direction. Just go ahead use an interactive tool that accompanies the article to compare Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Pick RI first and then be prepared to gasp upon bringing up the results for MA.
When it comes to math, our little state is in the league of Alabama and, internationally, Turkey. Only an electorate dominated by the constituencies to blame for those results would be content to let them continue for a single additional year.

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Mark
Mark
10 years ago

It’s too bad Governor-elect Moonbeam isn’t capable of understanding the chart or the consequences. The NEA told him lower test scores require more funding for the overworked teachers because the kids aren’t understanding the concepts presented.

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
10 years ago

The number 1 issue the Right should use nationwide is School Choice.
Blacks like it.
Browns like it.
Asians like it.
The poor like it.
The working class like it.
The middle classes like.
The only ones who don’t like it (other than the obvious) are the Millionare Marxists whose “great support for the public schools” is equally matched by their determination to never let their own children set foot in one.
Dismantle the damned, failed AFT/NEA schools and give PARENTS the choice.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
10 years ago

Chafee attended Providence Country Day.
What does that say about the school?
The day that Sheldon Whitehouse,the Chafees,Ira Magaziner,etc ever send their kids to public school will never be seen by the “commoners”.
Well said,Tommy.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
10 years ago

Chafee attended Providence Country Day.
What does that say about the school?
The day that Sheldon Whitehouse,the Chafees,Ira Magaziner,etc ever send their kids to public school will never be seen by the “commoners”.
Well said,Tommy.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
10 years ago

Except for a brief fad, a few years back, on Wall Street for Asian mathematicians; I haven’t heard in any inreased demand in the marketplace for mathematicians.
This does not mean we might not benefit from increased skills in basic math, such as geometry and algebra.

David S
David S
10 years ago

2+2=5 and joe b makes cents tommy c is a jerk

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