Wednesday, December 08, 2010

"The countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow." Barack Obama

Following the publication of performance tables by the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) today, the blogosphere in the USA is a-buzzing with debate about the decline in standards over there too.
'Your child left behind' is one of the latest postings on Kitchen Table Math, a clearly ironic response to the US government's 'No child left behind'. The title of the posting is a reference to the recently published article in the Atlantic magazine, in which Stanford economist Eric Hanushek and two colleagues raise the same kinds of serious questions as many are beginning to raise over here.
Two of the more important conclusions Hanushek drew were that: 'more money does not tend to lead to better results; smaller class sizes do not tend to improve learning'; and that even the 'most-advantaged students ... do not compete favorably with average students in other well-off countries'.
Massachusetts comes out as the best performing state, which isn't saying much, though it's a lot better than lowest performing Mississippi. Why? Because they have for some time been much more focused on outcomes and because they have raised the standards required for people entering the teaching profession. For example, new entrants to the profession are now required to pass a basic literacy test before they can enter the classroom.
In response to Catherine Johnson's posting on the Irvington Parents Forum posting, in which she has 'pulled' some of the more significant points made by Hanushek, I noticed that Matthew Tabor had this to say:
"Here are the 40 finalists of Intel's Science Talent Search 2010:
I'll list off the first series of surnames:
Christensen, Yeung, Anand, Shahmirian, Ye, Suh, Jakpor, Liu, Nelakanti, Gandelman, Rudolph, Puranik, Fein, Li, Sharma... etc
We can look at finalists in the famed Westinghouse competition and a dozen others if anyone's interested.
Here are the surnames for Michigan State University's Cardiovascular Fellows:
There are 9 fellows and their surnames are Ghanem, Mughal, Gadeela, Viqar, Vedre, Chandra, Skaf, Pervaiz and Shamoun. They might be members of the Francis Cooke Society - descendants of Mayflower Compact members - but probably not."
It is information like this that is exercising people's minds and encouraging them to think carefully about the way they are educating their kids.
Finally, Hanushek concludes his piece in the Atlantic with this little gem:
"Early last year, President Obama reminded Congress, "The countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow." This September, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, visiting a local school on the first day of classes, mentioned Obama's warning and smugly took note of the scoreboard: "Well," he said, "we are out-teaching them today."
Arne Duncan, Obama’s education secretary, responded to the premier's trash-talking a few days later. "When I played professional basketball in Australia, that's the type of quote the coach would post on the bulletin board in the locker room," he declared during a speech in Toronto. And then his rejoinder came to a crashing halt. "In all seriousness," Duncan confessed, "Premier McGuinty spoke the truth."

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