States compared to Countries

Every comparative educational study demonstrates the sorry fact that American educational standards rank far below those of other industrialized countries. Most of these studies focus on the average student on a national scale. Critics of the studies argue that the heterogeneity of the American social system account for the wide disparity in student performance—the old apples to oranges argument. So one Stanford economist, Eric Hanushek, decided to change the parameters of the data; he set out to search for excellence. Rather than taking test results of the nation as a whole, he focused on the performance of the most capable students in each state,” using math tests as a proxy for educational achievement.” He wanted to determine he could discount national diversity by looking at each state’s performance separately. Could student in any states compare favorably with those in top performing countries? The results of his experiment appear in the December issue of Atlantic, and they are not promising.
Massachusetts received the highest ranking of all of the states, but placed in the seventeenth spot, with approximately 11% of its students demonstrating proficiency. (Only 8% of Connecticut students well; they ranked right below Ireland and above Lithuania.) That was far below the results of the top three countries: Taiwan (28%), Hong Kong (24%), and Korea (22%).The lowest performers in the US were in Mississippi, with only 1% capable of passing the exam, ranking with such countries as Chile, Thailand, and Romania.
Although Massachusetts if hardly a beacon of achievement, it presents at least a glimmer of hope for the implementation of some educational standards. For example, educators in other states should take note of the changes to qualifications required for teacher certification. Teachers in Massachusetts must pass a basic literacy test. In order for students to graduate from high school, they must pass a test. States are beginning to propose changes, but very slowly. This year, “At least 35 states and Washington, DC, agreed to adopt common standards for what students should know in language arts and math.” Colleges are beginning to impose math requirements on teacher candidates.
The status quo is static and unacceptable. American students cannot compete in a global economy if they are so far below their peers in other countries.

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