Education reforms are needed

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A report recently published by Harvard University's Program on Education Policy and Governance found that students in Latvia, Chile and Brazil are making gains in academics three times faster than American students, while those in Portugal, Hong Kong, Germany, Poland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Colombia and Lithuania are improving at twice the rate. Researchers estimate that gains made by students in those 11 countries equate to about two years of learning.

What gains U.S. students posted in recent years are "hardly remarkable by world standards," according to the report. Although the U.S. is not one of the nine countries that lost academic ground for the 14-year period between 1995 and 2009, more countries were improving at a rate significantly faster than that of the U.S. Researchers looked at data for 49 countries.

The study's findings echo years of rankings that show foreign students outpacing their American peers academically. Students in Shanghai who recently took international exams for the first time outscored every other school system in the world. In the same test, American students ranked 25th in math, 17th in science and 14th in reading.

A 2009 study found that U.S. students ranked 25th among 34 countries in math and science, behind nations like China, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Finland. Figures like these have groups like StudentsFirst, headed by former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, concerned and calling for reforms to "our education system (that) can't compete with the rest of the world."

Gordon Philpot

Walla Walla

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