U.S. students were average in reading and science, and below average in math, in the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) rankings. What’s so awful about being average? asks National Journal.
Can the United States, one of the most diverse of the world’s developed countries, really compete with much smaller and homogenous countries like Finland and Korea? . . . With the United States’ broad range between rural and urban, rich and poor populations, what can it realistically expect in worldwide educational comparisons?
Homogeneity isn’t educational magic, responds Kevin Carey of Education Sector. PISA champion Finland has a sparse, overwhelmingly white population who practice the same denomination of Christianity and are concentrated near the capital city. So does Utah, which produces mediocre test scores.
That state would be Utah, whose results are decidedly mediocre.
Finland isn’t successful because it’s homogenous. (Albania is homogenous.) It’s successful because it has clear, well-implemented national standards, equitable school funding, a strong social safety net, high-quality early childhood education, and smart, highly-trained teachers. We could have those things in America, too.
“Learning is the entry ticket to the idea economy,” writes Tom Vander Ark of Revolution Learning. The uneducated will be stuck in the service economy, unable to qualify for a middle-class job.
David Kirp, a Berkeley professor, points out that high-achieving countries all have highly centralized systems with a national curriculum and “well-trained, comparatively well-paid teachers.” Strategies range from “skill-and-drill to a Dewey-influenced constructivist approach.”