Reforming an 'average' system

Recent educational revelations prove we need some changes The state of U.S. education has had a roug

On December 5, 2013

The state of U.S. education has had a rough week.

This week, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) unveiled its newest findings, which showed children from the United States are scoring below average in math (ranked at 36) and just about average in reading and science.

Generally, American students don't do as well on scholastic assessments as students from other countries, but these recent revelations are an ominous sign as we are living in an increasingly globalized economy.

The pundits came out fast once PISA released its data. Many are quick to point their fingers toward what they believe are the causes and what may be the potential remedies to prevent future U.S. children from slipping below the international average.

There is no denying that we are living in a meritocratic society where it is tough to get ahead. Children today aren't just competing amongst those in their own country; they are competing with children from all countries.

It is worth noting, however, that these findings only reveal how well students are scoring on tests. And some cultures are more conducive for students scoring well on tests.

The highest scores came out of Asian countries. This should be no surprise. Students in Asian countries are trained to score well on tests at a very early age. They are instilled with work ethic and are in school year round.

What they have realized that we, as a nation, have yet to realize as fully, is that preparing our students for success in education and in a global economy starts at a young age. If students are not properly prepared for the kind of educational setting full of demands and requirements, it is hard to break that routine later in life.

President Obama has made clear his intent to reform early childhood education. Unfortunately, this seems like an unlikely proposition. Congress is not cooperating with him and it will be hard to convince Republican leadership to invest in such a measure.

But it is perfectly clear that our public education system is lacking in preparing its students for the demands of assessments. And something should be done about it.

In our view, rectifying this problem and altering the trajectory of poor test scores for our students starts at an early age. We need to prepare our students better for these assessments and we should use technology that enables them to do so.

But this is not to say that students' test scores are the only indicator of success. In fact, people who do poorly in school and on tests often do very well in business. As Malcolm Gladwell has pointed out, it is surprising to many how such an overwhelming number of successful businesspersons have dyslexia.

Having a disadvantage of some kind becomes a way to develop an innovative way of thinking - a way of finding alternative approaches. Well, America is still doing relatively well in business. There are certain kinds of success and intelligence that simply do not translate on a standardized test.

Investing more in early education and reforming the system is a good move, and there are others that deserve attention.

Government can only do so much. And it can't control parents. But parents are inevitably responsible for their children, and this should be a sign that parents need to be more involved in their children's educational experiences - and help them do better on these tests.

That includes making them study more and paying attention to what is going on with them at school - and if they need a tutor, getting them one.

What we learned from these test scores is certainly not calamitous, but it is a bad omen. It is an even worse omen if we don't do anything about it.



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