Friday, November 12, 2010

Even good schools in the U.S. may not be so good compared to world standards

An important article in the Atlantic this month, one I passed along to
my husband as I try to advocate putting our son into an international baccalaureate (IB)-based program. He says our local public schools are good, which is true. They are good by U.S. standards. But they aren’t so great, especially in math, science and foreign languages, by world standards.

An intriguing excerpt reads:

“How would our states do if we looked just at the white kids performing at high levels—kids who are not, generally speaking, subject to language barriers or racial discrimination? Or if we looked just at kids with at least one college-educated parent?

As it turned out, even these relatively privileged students do not compete favorably with average students in other well-off countries. On a percentage basis, New York state has fewer high performers among white kids than Poland has among kids overall. In Illinois, the percentage of kids with a college-educated parent who are highly
skilled at math is lower than the percentage of such kids among all students in Iceland, France, Estonia, and Sweden.

Parents in Palo Alto will always insist that their kids are the exception, of course. And researchers cannot compare small cities and towns around the globe—not yet, anyway. But Hanushek thinks the study significantly undercuts the diversity excuse. “People will find it quite shocking,” he says, “that even our most-advantaged students are not all that competitive.”

One recourse would be to adopt IB or programs of similar quality standards in the local public schools. But according to the article, only Massachusetts has yet done this with any real effect, and even that state still has a way to go.


LazyBones said...

Our city has 2 things going for it's public school, neither being the test scores! The first is a program that ensures free tuition to any of a large number of participating colleges, including Syracuse University (who spearheaded this initiative) to any student who has attended city schools for at least the last 3 years of high school and has the grades to get in. The second is an IB program at the city high school nearest to our house. They also have an experiential middle school with a hands-on curriculum that I've heard good things about. I hope these things are still around by the time my kids are old enough to take advantage of them. If you look at test scores, the schools pretty much suck, but looking beyond that you can find some really cool things going on. You have to dig though, and know how to navigate the system. Many (maybe most) parents don't.

worldmomma said...

Very cool! I'm hoping we'll get an IB curriculum in a public school by the time we are using the school system. It's great you already have that option.