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America's homework is to find common good in common core

By CHARLES M. BLOW

America, we have a problem.

Our educational system is not keeping up with that of many other industrialized countries, even as the job market becomes more global and international competition for jobs becomes steeper.

We have gone from the leader to a laggard.

According to the Broad Foundation, an educational reform group, “American students rank 25th in math, 17th in science and 14th in reading compared to students in 27 industrialized countries.” And we have gone from No. 1 in high school graduation to 22nd among industrialized countries, according to a report last year by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

That same report found that fewer than half of our students finished college. This ranked us 14th among OECD countries, below the OECD average. In 1995 we were among the top five.

Some rightly point to the high levels of poverty in our public schools to adjust for our lagging performance, but poverty — and affluence — can’t explain all the results away.

As Amanda Ripley, an investigative journalist, explains in her new book, “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way,” American students are not performing at the same level of their peers internationally.

She writes: “American kids are better off, on average, than the typical child in Japan, New Zealand, or South Korea, yet they knew far less math than those children. Our most privileged teenagers had highly educated parents and attended the richest school in the world, yet they ranked 18th in math compared to their privileged peers around the world, scoring well below affluent kinds in New Zealand, Belgium, France and Korea, among other places. The typical child in Beverly Hills performed below average, compared to all kids in Canada.”

A report this month by the company that administers ACT, the college admissions test, found that only a fourth of those tested were ready for college. And that was among motivated students who want to go to college, from all sorts of schools, not just public school students.

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