Tuesday, November 27, 2007

And You Thought No Child Left Behind Was Bad News!

In his essay, Time To Think Global In Terms Of Testing U.S. Students, Raymond C. Scheppach thinks that we should not only adopt federal standards in education but international ones as well!

He states:
Today, it’s less important how students in Iowa or Oregon compare to those in Alabama or Virginia on a national test. What matters most is how students in North Carolina or Texas compare to those in Denmark or Russia, and so on.

In short, educational protectionism is outdated and ignores the realities of the 21st century global economy.

In the Global Competitiveness Report 2007–2008 released last month by the World Economic Forum, the United States again ranked as the world’s most competitive economy. Yet the 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)study, administered in 46 countries, found that U.S. eighth-graders ranked 14th in mathematics achievement. And on the 2003 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey, U.S. students placed below average in math, science and problem-solving among countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. This is a major concern because the most important factor in competitiveness is education and training of the labor force. Thus, U.S. education performance today is the best indicator of America’s competitiveness tomorrow.

The United States faces significant challenges in the international marketplace not only from Europe but also from rapidly developing countries like China, and India to say nothing of regional innovation centers in Brazil, Eastern Europe and many other parts of the world. The countries that benefit in this new global, entrepreneurial and knowledge-based economy will be those that have the most highly skilled and educated labor force. The United States will witness major reductions in its real wages and real income, and thus our standard of living, if our workforce loses its current competitive edge.

So how do we ensure that our students are prepared to compete in the global economy now and in the future? We must start by adopting the correct conceptual standard.
And who, pray tell, has the "correct conceptual standard"? Who is going to set these "international benchmarks"? Certainly by the looks of what Scheppach claims it won't be the USA since we are lagging behind everyone else in the world according to those tests he mentioned above. So should we be adopting educational practices and standards from China, India, or Brazil? Personally, I don't think so. Otherwise explain to me why all their students come here to do college work and research? I also don't think that those tests mentioned above accurately measure the true intelligence and capability of those countries' populations as a whole. They seem to test only certain portions of their societies, where I believe that we have an overall higher literacy rate and more of our kids actually go on to do college work (God knows they have the loans and debt to prove it!). Perhaps Scheppach thinks a global body such as UNESCO should call the educational shots... now there's a scary thought!

On the other hand, I think as a country, we can do better. We do tend to clutter up our kids' school day with social policy and politically correct dogma as well as other useless mind-numbing nonsense. If we perhaps concentrated more on the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, through a real classical education and a thorough understanding of real honest to goodness history based on original documents instead of revisionist or spoon-fed interpretative nonsense, and if we didn't dumb down our curriculum to the point of producing kids needing remedial courses in high school and college, then we might get somewhere in the world of international testing. We certainly could do better in encouraging students to pursue engineering and higher mathematical and scientific studies, but then again we also need craftsmen and plumbers and hairdressers. I'll tell you one thing, I think we still have some of the most creative and brightest minds on the whole, and we have an incredible entrepreneurial spirit as well as a free market capitalist society that offers many incentives to succeed (that is for the time being, until even that is slowly eroded away by the Socialists and other "looters" in this country).

Scheppach believes this:
Over the last two decades, states have provided the leadership to create education standards and assessments. Benchmarking them to international standards is just the next step. Further, most of the expertise necessary to take that next step resides in the states, not the federal government. The existing NCLB framework is helpful, but governors, chief state school officials and legislators understand the urgency of international benchmarking, and they clearly understand the link to competitiveness. They are committed to continuing the momentum toward world-class education systems.
Yes, globalism is here, but the The World Is Flat simply because the cost of labor is so much cheaper elsewhere (like China and India), and because communication is easier and technology is adaptable and available. For sure we need to upgrade and reform our education system, but we certainly should not defer to some other country's set of standards.