Report: Education failure puts U.S. at risk

Educational failure threatens our economic prosperity, global leadership and national security, according to a report by a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) task force chaired by Joel I. Klein, former head of New York City public schools, and Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. secretary of state.

Too many young people are not employable in an increasingly high-skilled and global economy, and too many are not qualified to join the military because they are physically unfit, have criminal records, or have an inadequate level of education.

“Human capital will determine power in the current century, and the failure to produce that capital will undermine America’s security,” the report states. “Large, undereducated swaths of the population damage the ability of the United States to physically defend itself, protect its secure information, conduct diplomacy, and grow its economy.”

Among other policy suggestions, the report calls for expanding Common Core Standards to include “the skills and knowledge necessary to safeguard the country’s national security,” including science, technology, foreign languages, creative problem-solving skills and civic awareness.

Update:  History, science and art are “truant” from school, said panelists at a  Common Core discussion. Common Core will be creating Common Core State Standards-based curriculum maps in history and geography. David Coleman, one of the lead writers of the new English Language Arts standards, said it’s impossible to teach K-5 reading “without coherently developing knowledge in science, and history, and the arts.”

 And that is why NAEP scores in early grades can improve slightly but collapse as students grow older. Because it is the deep foundation in rich knowledge and vocabulary depth that allows you to access more complex text.

Let’s not get confused here that [the CCSS] are adding back nice things [history, arts, science] that are an addendum to literacy.  We are adding the cornerstones of literacy, which are the foundations of knowledge, that make literacy happen.

There is no greater threat to literary study in this country than false imitations of  literature which do not deserve to be read.

Coleman told states not buy mediocre materials with a “Common Core” stamp.  Wait for the good stuff to be available, he said.

U.S. lags in high-level math achievement

The U.S. isn’t a high achiever in math education, conclude Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson and Ludger Woessmann in Education Next.

No fewer than 30 of the 56 other countries that participated in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) math test, including most of the world’s industrialized nations, had a larger percentage of students who scored at the international equivalent of the advanced level on our own National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests.

Only 6 percent of U.S. students scored at the advanced level on the PISA 2006 math exam, compared to 28 percent of Taiwanese students and at least 20 percent of students in Hong Kong, Korea, and Finland.  Race and poverty don’t explain it: Eight percent of white students in the U.S. and 10.3 of those with a college-graduate parent achieve at the advanced level.

Twelve other countries had more than twice the percentage of advanced students as the United States: in order of math excellence, they are Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Japan, Canada, Macao-China, Australia, Germany, and Austria.

The remaining countries that educate a greater proportion of their students to a high level are Slovenia, Denmark, Iceland, France, Estonia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the Slovak Republic, Luxembourg, Hungary, Poland, Norway, Ireland and Lithuania.

The U.S. performs at the same level as Spain and Italy and outperforms Portugal, Greece, Turkey, and Mexico.

Massachusetts, with over 11 percent of its students at the advanced level, does better than any other state, reaching the level of Germany and France. Minnesota, with more than 10 percent of its students at the advanced level, is up there with Slovenia and Denmark.

The lowest-ranking states — West Virginia, New Mexico, and Mississippi — lag Serbia and Uruguay but edge out Romania, Brazil, and Kyrgyzstan.

In Your Child Left Behind in The Atlantic, Amanda Ripley looks at the study, noting that the U.S. spends more per student on K-12 education than all but three other countries — Luxembourg, Switzerland and Norway.

She also reports that a “2010 study of teacher-prep programs in 16 countries found a striking correlation between how well students did on international exams and how their future teachers performed on a math test.”

Our future middle-school math teachers knew about as much math as their peers in Thailand and Oman — and nowhere near what future teachers in Taiwan and Singapore knew. Moreover, the results showed dramatic variation depending on the teacher-training program.

Nearly all U.S. teens say it’s important to “be good at math and science,” and 85 percent are confident about their own math and science abilities, an Intel survey finds. They’re much more realistic about their country’s performance. Only 10 percent say the U.S. is leading the world in math and science learning: 67 percent say Japan or China is the top country.

Teens say the U.S. lags in math and science because Americans don’t work hard enough and lack discipline.  Only a third blame inadequate funding or a failure to emphasize math and science.

Update:  Half of U.S. graduate students in mathematics can’t work for the National Security Agency because they’re not U.S. citizens, reports Business Week.

Math is more important than ever at the NSA. Chances are, the world’s growing rivers of data contain terrorist secrets, and it’s up to the agency’s math teams to find them.

. . . The agency is even co-sponsoring math and programming contests run by TopCoder, a Connecticut company whose matches attract geeks from all over the world.

But only two of 70 TopCoder finalists were U.S. citizens in 2009. Twenty came from China and 10 from Russia. Eastern Europeans also did well. The winner of the algorithm competition was an 18-year-old student from China, Bin Jin, who calls himself “crazyb0y.”

Via Concernedabouteducation’s posterous.

Check out Hechinger’s Go Deep on math for more on why so many U.S. students aren’t mastering math.