From our experience we know that test scores aren’t the final verdict on how students eventually will perform in a given endeavor. Test scores are a measurement of what a student has learned in a certain subject. We also know that some students do well on tests and others don’t, even though they may be considered good students.
Generally speaking, American students do not rank high when competing with students from other countries. In fact, the Americans’ ranking in some subjects is an embarrassment. Where should the blame be placed?
The test results of the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) came out recently, and our students did not do well, dropping in the ratings. The American 15-year-olds made no progress and dropped even more in some tests. The U.S. students dropped from 25th to 31st in math since 2009, and from 20th to 24th in science.
In the important test for reading, our students went from 11th to 21st from 2009 to 2012, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, which gathered and analyzed the data in the U.S. The Wall Street Journal reported in depth on the tests. It said that 510,000 students took the exams in 65 countries and locales, representing 80 percent of the world’s economy.
The results indicated that American students are being outpaced in education compared to students in many other countries. Changes have been made in many of our schools to boost results, but with hardly any positive results based on this study. The policy changes included grading teachers on their students’ test scores, school choice options have been expanded and there has been more concentration on math and reading standards.
In the U.S. about 6,000 students were selected at random from 161 public and private schools to take the tests. The exams are scored on a 0-to-1,000 point scale. U.S. teens scored 497 in science and 498 in reading, which was average among the students tested. They scored 481 in math, below the average of 494.
Some experts say there are differences in socioeconomic and racial composition that must be taken into consideration when looking at the test results. The U.S. has more children living in poverty than do many other industrialized countries, they added.
It is interesting to note that students in Shanghai ranked the highest in math with a score of 613. Singapore, 573, Hong Kong, 561, South Korea, 554, and Japan, 536, followed in that order. The U.S. score was 481. At the bottom was Peru at 368. Many countries were in the 500s and 400s.
The blame for low scores can’t be placed solely on the schools. We know some students begin school with two strikes against them due to their family life. They aren’t taught at home. There are many distractions for both students and families. Motivation in the early years must come from the home. We can’t expect the schools to substitute for family life. Attitudes toward education often are the reason many students aren’t motivated by their parents.
We have heard off and on that there has been a general “dumbing down” of subjects taught and in requirements for graduation. That’s probably true in some school districts. It also is true that school districts have elevated their standards. We do know this: Many of the high school graduates in this area go on to college and do very well, and become productive and successful in their fields. This tells us the education is there to have if students apply themselves.
To improve education generally takes a combination of the family and the schools. It has to be a cooperative effort. The schools were not meant to be substitutes for families. Board of education members should give attention to the curriculum and cooperate with school officials when they want to strengthen it. We should not graduate students who don’t meet the basic standards. Again, to be honest, most of us know of students who should not have been given a high school diploma.
There are many things that need to be reformed in our school systems. It also is a fact that there are many things that are right about our school systems.