America’s Skills Challenge: Millennials and the Future is depressing and alarming, writes Fordham’s Robert Pondiscio.
Young Americans have more years of schooling than any previous generation, writes Irwin S. Kirch, director of the ETS’s Center for Global Assessment, in the preface. The U.S. has the highest proportion of millennials who are college graduates of the 22 countries studied.
Yet, the educated and the uneducated “demonstrate relatively weak skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology rich environments compared to their international peers,” Kirch writes.
U.S. millennials outscore only their peers in Italy and Spain in literacy. They rank last in numeracy.
It’s not that the U.S. has more low-income or immigrant students, notes Pondiscio. When our wealthiest students are compared to their wealthiest, our best-educated, our native-born, our immigrants, the U.S. falls short.
One of the comforting lies we have told ourselves in recent years is that, while we might have problems, our top performers are still the equal of the best in the world. Alas, the score for U.S. millennials at our ninetieth percentile was statistically higher than the best in just a single country: Spain.
These are “the people who will work, earn, support families, create jobs, make policy, take leadership positions, and be entrusted generally with protecting, defending, and continuing our democracy,” Pondiscio concludes.
As commencement speakers put it, they’re the hope of the future. A slim hope.