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How Does the United States Stack Up? International Comparisons of Academic Achievement

Jan 24, 2014


Over the past thirty years, the modern workplace has changed radically, and the demands on those making the transition from the classroom to the workforce continue to rise. Students from Baltimore and Boston no longer compete against each other for jobs; instead, their rivals are well-educated students from Sydney and Singapore. But as globalization has progressed, American educational progress has stagnated. Today, the United States’s high school graduation rate ranks near the bottom among developed nations belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

This fact sheet details how fifteen-year-old students from the United States compare with fifteen-year-olds in other OECD member countries in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) measures of academic proficiency.

One Comment

  1. photo
    Dr. Charles Stallard
    Posted 2 years ago

    It amazes me that no one has taken an in-depth look at the factors behind our nation’s poor standing in the world when it comes to educational attainment. It is a bleak story, whether you look at graduation rates or mastery of the basic disciplines. We are below average on most counts.

    Thousands of articles are written to complain about the problem or to place blame on one or another party to the educational process, but where has anyone seriously studied the problem in a way that answers the question, why?

    Some things are obvious. Schools have not changed their structures or methods in ways that can accommodate the changes that culture has created in the children now coming to school. Today’s student is very different from that of the 1950’s. In many ways, today’s child is less ready for school upon entry than a child in 1940 or 1950. Changes in the early childhood environment and in the structure of the family generally are enough to place more of the burden of child development on the school than the school is able to provide.

    At the same time, the schools are virtually leaderless as they try to cope with the challenges that grow year by year. There is no real profession of education. The way the system is organized and managed by lay individuals offers no guidance other than what the K-12 Education Materials Industry markets. That industry has no incentive to undertake serious and expensive development efforts when schools will buy whatever curriculum or technology gimmick that can be hyped strongly enough.

    As I look at the condition of our schools and what it means for our future I am most disappointed in the failure of journalists to dig into this story and present it in ways the American public can understand. Until that public stands up and says it is fed up with federal and state incompetence in the face of providing quality education, little will ever change.

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