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US Education System Slipping Worldwide

Posted by on Jun. 29, 2013 at 6:49 AM
  • 75 Replies

The article doesn't even really get into what the results could be. But when we fall behind in science and math (or when we can't read), we are no longer globally competitive and will end up in s&%6's creek wondering how the hell we got there with no paddles.

The U.S. education system is not as internationally competitive as it used to be; in fact, the United States has slipped ten spots in both high school and college graduation rates over the past three decades, according to a new report and scorecard from the Council on Foreign Relations' Renewing America initiative, which examines the domestic foundations of U.S. power. U.S. national security is directly linked to issues such as education because shortcomings among American workers threaten the country's ability to compete with other countries and set a compelling example internationally.

"The real scourge of the U.S. education system—and its greatest competitive weakness—is the deep and growing achievement gap between socioeconomic groups that begins early and lasts through a student's academic career," writes Rebecca Strauss, associate director for CFR's Renewing America publications. Wealthy students are achieving more, and the influence of parental wealth is stronger in the United States than anywhere else in the developed world.

Although the United States spends the fourth most in the world on per-student primary and secondary education and by far the most on college education, those funds are not distributed equitably. The majority of developed countries invest more resources per pupil in lower-income school districts than in higher-income ones. It is the reverse in the United States, in large part because local property taxes provide most revenues for K-12 public schools. The investment gap continues in college and has increased significantly over time. In 1967, the gap in real annual per-pupil spending between the most and least selective colleges was $13,500. In 2006, the most recent year for which data is available, it was nearly six times larger, at $80,000.

"Human capital is perhaps the single most important long-term driver of an economy," Strauss writes. "Smarter workers are more productive and innovative. It is an economist's rule that an increase of one year in a country's average schooling level corresponds to an increase of 3 to 4 percent in long-term economic growth. Most of the value added in the modern global economy is now knowledge based."

Holding a college degree matters for landing a good job. In 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, thirty- to thirty-four-year-olds who had only a high school diploma earned $638 per week, and their peers with bachelor's degrees earned $1,053. Yet while more Americans understand that a college education is necessary for success, fewer say they can afford to pay for one.

The Obama administration's record for taking on education inequality is mixed, writes Strauss. It has set an ambitious agenda for education policy that pushes for more accountability, especially for schools that serve low-income students, along with more innovative ways to measure and evaluate quality. Yet funding decisions have taken federal policy in the wrong direction. The major federal programs for disadvantaged students are set to be cut back as part of sequestration, while several budgetary changes, particularly in higher education student aid, disproportionately favor the wealthy.

"The United States is in an era of austerity," the report concludes. "The challenge will be to expand higher-quality education for all Americans, rich and poor, in a time of tight budgets."

Read the Renewing America report and scorecard: Strauss wrote about the report's findings for the New York Times' Great Divide column.

This scorecard is part of CFR's Renewing America initiative, which generates innovative policy recommendations on revitalizing the U.S. economy and replenishing the sources of American power abroad. Scorecards provide analysis and infographics assessing policy developments and U.S. performance in such areas as infrastructure, education, international trade, and government deficits. The initiative is supported in part by a generous grant from the Bernard and Irene Schwartz Foundation.

by on Jun. 29, 2013 at 6:49 AM
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by Woodie on Jun. 29, 2013 at 7:02 AM
12 moms liked this

Here's my pretend shocked face!

 Sexy If its unladylike, fattening or fun, I'm in!

by Judy on Jun. 29, 2013 at 7:17 AM

I would bet it is more than 10 spots and 4 or 5 decades, not 3.

by Platinum Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 7:39 AM
4 moms liked this
If you want to improve education in this country .... Parents need to turn the TV off; that one step, would greatly improve education more than anything else ... Also, it's a very low cost.
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by on Jun. 29, 2013 at 7:40 AM
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I was a classroom teacher in the 1980s. I had my first child in 1989 and was active as a volunteer until my younger son graduated in 2011. I have seen the educational system change and decline. I was in high school in the late 70s. We were assigned 10-12 page typed research papers. We had to read several books each semester. Our parents did not complain about every single little thing in school. If we got in trouble at school, we were in double trouble at home. 

I have seen multiple changes in education and very few are improvements. We are pushing kids at earlier ages to do advanced math; however, by the time they are in middle school, they are behind. My sons attended a nationally ranked public school. They were assigned a "research paper" that was a joke. They were to have 5 pages. They were not taught how to outline a paper or how to actually formulate a thesis. In science they had few lab days. They did not have critical discussions in class because parents would complain about the school actually discussing controversial topics. When I taught, I had classroom discussions in both my economics and government classes on the role of government, public assistance, spending, etc. 

There are multiple causes of the decline in education.

1. I think parents are involved in a negative way. I have seen this on CM in post after post about something petty that the parent wants to complain about or take to the school board. Teachers are so busy trying to cover their asses that they cannot teach.

2. Our society is busy trying to make sure that every single student has the same experience. When I was in school, there were 4 groups of courses: honors, above average, "regular," and remedial. In our attempt to make sure that every child has the same education, we have dumbed down education. This is evident in the No Child Left Behind movement.

3. Teachers have to make sure that they don't offend any group or individual. I am thinking of high school classes on this point. My older son had a fabulous English teacher. She was literally called on the carpet because an administrator heard her students laughing during class time. His government teacher could not discuss current events IF the topic might offend any parents. Heaven forbid that seniors discuss supreme court rulings on abortion or the death penalty. I was fortunate that when I taught we were allowed and even encouraged to discuss current events with our students. After all, many of my students were actually adults.

This just scratches the surface of the issue. I am alarmed by the decline in education.

by Woodie on Jun. 29, 2013 at 7:40 AM
8 moms liked this

Stop worrying so much about your snowflake's emotions and self esteem and teach them to do things they don't want to learn the boring stuff!

by Platinum Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 7:46 AM
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I'm very glad we live in a district that does push students and does set high standards for them and that many parents are very involved in their kids' education and lives. Sadly, I know many kids don't have that.
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by on Jun. 29, 2013 at 7:49 AM
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It is not the education system alone. It's parents. They micromanage everything with their kids. My oldest was a freshman this year. She had a wonderful English teacher who said at the parents night she teaches at a college level. Parents were bitching and moaning all year. It was too much work, etc. poor little Susie and Johnny couldn't handle it. Give me a break. My dd ended the year with a 100 in her class for the year. She worked her ass off. Thankfully, most of the parents in her school aren't like this but a few can ruin the bunch.  Also, many of those kids transferred out to "easier" public schools. Now there is a smart parental move...not.

by Silver Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 8:04 AM

Education used to be worth something, but not any more.  It's too easy for any one to get--even so-called college level (which is not near real college level that I had).

Too many people can get the high school diploma, but haven't learned anything.  What happened to memorizing the multiplication tables, the periodic tables, etc? Oh, we can't hurt Johnny or Susie's feelings--really?

As for the research papers, so many schools don't even require a major term paper any more--let alone using research other than Google or Wikipedia.

If students really had to work to EARN that education, things would be very different, but that doesn't happen in the U.S.  Think about it, students can now take a course that lasts for 5 weeks--you can't learn diddle-squat in 5 weeks, but the colleges take the government money and fill the next class (and pay the adjunct instructor diddle-squat).

Compared to foreign students, the U.S. students are a major joke and the foreign students know it.  It's very sad because the U.S. used to be near the top in education, but now is near a third world country.  We can't have students really working to earn and learn and retain any information now, can we?

by on Jun. 29, 2013 at 8:09 AM
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I have seen parents jump in and prevent their kids from dealing with the consequences of their behavior. At the high school my sons attended, the varsity football players had their own set of rules. Underclassmen were not allowed to get a drink at one specific water fountain. It is TX and gets super hot. A kid got a drink. He was hit, repeatedly, with cleats. His chest was bruised terribly. The school would not issue punishment, so she went to the police. Two of the football players were convicted in court of assault. This poor kid and his family were targeted and their lives were made to be miserable. A group of seniors thought it would be funny to take a naked picture of two men in a homosexual act and photoshop two assistant principals' faces on the bodies. The photos reportedly looked very real. They sent this photo to EVERY senior in the class...all 400. They committed several crimes and at least one was a felony. I adore one of the asst. principals involved and I saw how this really hurt him. The school put pressure on these assistant principals to NOT participate in the investigation and pressured them to discourage the DA from taking the boys to court. The argument was that they were just teens and one was going to an Princeton and if the principals pursued this, it would ruin the lives of these fine young men. It made me sick.

In both of these cases, the parents exerted huge pressure on the schools to protect their baby boys. It was sickening. The ring leader of the photo scandal is currently in law school. Disgusting. 

by on Jun. 29, 2013 at 8:15 AM
5 moms liked this
The slip in international educational rankings seems to coincide with the US slip as the undisputed world power. No nation has managed to stay a superpower forever, and neither will the US.
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