When I read the following “report” from the National Conference of State Legislatures on “International Comparisons in Education,” it really disturbed me. I was not happy to hear that some of Ohio’s education leaders consider this as a “report we must take seriously.” http://www.ncsl.org/documents/educ/Edu_International_FinaI_V2.pdf
The document began with this statement: “We cannot ignore the reality that most state education systems are falling dangerously behind the world, leaving the United States overwhelmingly underprepared to succeed in the 21st century economy.”
WHEN did becoming excellent test-takers, which is what “high-performing” and “high-achieving” means, become the end-all, be-all measure of educational success? Creativity, innovation, wherewithal, and other extremely important “soft” skills essential for success, that cannot be measured on a standardized test, are what U.S. students have in abundance, that so-called high-performing countries like China do not.
Why would we want to set all of what makes us Us aside to become more like other countries, when China, for example, is starting to do things differently to become more like Us?
Most high-performing countries educate and test only their wealthiest students and “best” test-takers, whereas in the United States, we educate and test ALL students. Of COURSE those other countries will have higher test scores than we do, because they aren’t testing everyone! It’s an apples to oranges comparison…or, really, more like apples to watermelons comparison.
This simple fact was not mentioned anywhere in the NCSL report.
Perhaps before we completely dismantle our entire public education system and declare it “broken,” why not try something simple first: Maybe we should test only our brightest and wealthiest like They do to see how we rank for an apples to apples, rather than apples to oranges comparison?
I guarantee we would be right up there at the top.
Or, if we REALLY want to be like the “high-performing” countries our politicians are so envious of and want to emulate, why not take it one step further… since test scores are all that clearly matter right now, perhaps the U.S. should stop testing poor and other-than-the-best students. THAT would certainly solve our “achievement” issues and make our education system just like Theirs. Problem solved!
But is that what we really want? The amazing thing that differentiates Us from Them is that here in the United States, ALL students have the right to a good education – not just the brightest and wealthiest students, like most so-called high-performing countries do. Ironically, though, it is that same differentiation that brings down our overall test scores.
No matter how many tests we throw at our students and how much folks may want it to be, it is impossible to make ALL students good test-takers. Child development has a funny way of being like that.
We need to re-evaluate our measure of educational success. Achievement is and should be seen as only one small facet. We need to decide whether it’s important as a country to continue the high-stakes over-testing of all of our students in order to make misleading comparisons to countries that don’t, or should the U.S. only test its best students?
We cannot have both.
THEY do not have both, either.
~Kenna O’Sullivan, Ohio Education Advocates