Reimagining Education

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American Students – Solidly Mediocre

By Peter Franzen, Director of Development

When I talk with people about the nature of our work and the need to reform the way we educate our children in America, people often assume we are talking about a problem confined to the poorest communities in the urban core.  Why shouldn’t they?  Most of what we hear about failing schools reinforces that idea.

However research findings released this week in Education Next by noted education reform scholar Jay Greene and his co-author, Josh McGee, take a broader look at American education in a way that should make us all take notice.  Their Global Report Card on education places the United States solidly in the middle of the pack when compared to other developed countries in the story called “When the Best is Mediocre.”

Greene is known for his book Education Myths in which he calls into a question a number of commonly held beliefs about education in America.  For example, in his book Greene points out that while education spending has at least doubled in the last 40 years, student performance has flat-lined.  If there is a direct correlation between spending more money and improved student outcomes, he argues, student performance should also have increased over that same time period.

His latest research should be a wake up call for anyone who understands that today’s marketplace is global.  Looking at 2007 math scores (the latest year for which a broad pool of data was available) Greene found that only 820 out of the 13,636 districts examined had average student achievement that would be among the top third of student performance in other developed countries.  That means that 94% of al U.S. school districts have average math achievement below the 67th percentile.

There are pockets of excellence as Greene and McGee point out in their research, but overall performance is disappointing by any standard.  Importantly, and to my original point, the issue of poor performance is as real in Beverly Hills as it is in Detroit.

Read the article here: http://educationnext.org/when-the-best-is-mediocre


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