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.
Any way you slice it, we're not where we want or need to be.
One strategy of changing our direction as a nation is the adoption of Common Core State Standards, meant to teach children the skills they need to be successful in college and careers — skills such as critical thinking and deep analysis.
These are things that Americans recognize that our schools need to teach. According to a Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll released Wednesday, 80 percent of Americans strongly agree that schools should teach critical thinking skills, 78 percent agree that they should teach communication skills, 57 percent agree that they should teach students how to collaborate and 51 percent believe that they should help build student's character.
The Obama administration strongly supports the Common Core, and the American Federation of Teachers endorses it. The president of the United Federation of Teachers says that most teachers agree it should be implemented. And, according to CoreStandards.org, "45 states, the District of Columbia, four territories and the Department of Defense Education Activities have adopted the Common Core State Standards." This seemed like a sure thing. The problem is that, in some states, Common Core testing has been implemented before teachers, or the public for that matter, have been instructed in how to teach students using the new standards.