Monday, March 14, 2011

Is our children learning? Yes!

Yes! Despite the chicken-little tactics of education reformers our schools are performing pretty well actually by historical standards. Kevin Drum points us to a Brookings Institute study which shows the following,

The... numbers show how American students compared to the average of the entire dozen countries. In 1964, we were 0.35 standard deviations below the mean. In the most recent tests, we were only 0.06 and 0.18 standard deviations below the mean. In other words, our performance had improved.

And here is the study's author blowing a hole in the myth of America as the world's former leader in education,

This is a myth. The United States never led the world. It was never number one and has never been close to number one on international math tests. Or on science tests, for that matter....[And] there has been no sharp decline—in either the short or long run. The United States performance on PISA has been flat to slightly up since the test’s inception, and it has improved on Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) since 1995.

This is the big fallacy in the school reform movement - that we are somehow falling behind and doing much worse today than we were 30, 40, or 50 years ago. It's simply not true.

We do need to better serve our poor and urban students but so far no one has been able to demonstrate that privatizing schools through vouchers and charters and making teachers easier to fire has actually improved education outcomes. At best schools that operate under these reforms do about as well as any other school.

So the vitriol aimed at teachers and unions is misguided at best and likely in many cases is more about politics and personal animus, not simply the best interest of the kids as reformers claim.

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