ERIC Number: EJ969966
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Feb
Reference Count: N/A
What Can U.S. Schools Learn from Foreign Counterparts?
District Administration, v48 n2 p30-32, 34-37 Feb 2012
If the results of the most recent international achievement tests were graded on a curve, U.S. students probably would rank somewhere in the B range. They placed 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in mathematics among 70 countries whose 15-year-olds participated in the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) testing, the latest figures available. How could U.S. students make it to the top tier and thus maximize their chances of competing in a global economy? It would require that radical reforms in curriculum, testing and funding be instituted at the national level. Students should be required to study content in depth and show they can think critically about it through standardized but essay-heavy tests before finishing their education. School systems should spend more money on training and paying high-quality teachers, and less on state-of-the-art facilities, new textbooks and central office administrations. A century ago, the United States was eager to benchmark its education system against the best in the world, primarily those of Germany and Scotland; but since World War II, Americans have come to believe they don't have as much to learn from others. As a result, the United States has adopted very few of the strategies of best-performing countries, and the strategies the United States has adopted most enthusiastically are rarely found elsewhere. Education leaders in high-performing countries not only haven't replicated, but also would find downright "bizarre" such U.S. reforms as using standardized tests to evaluate teachers and then reward or punish them, fixing broken schools by "turning loose young entrepreneurs" who have little education experience, and funding charter schools that purport to "reform the system by taking schools out of the system." High-wage nations like Singapore or Finland and those that want to be high-wage nations like China recognize that education systems designed to sort students and give only some of them demanding curricula will not produce adequately educated citizens for the 21st century. Countries that benchmark their own performance using one another's results are trying to understand "what another country is trying to achieve, how they have gone about achieving it, what they would have done differently if they could have done so, what mistakes they made and how they address them, which factors most account for their achievements and so on." Benchmarking is a wide-ranging research program that never ends, because no country's education system stands still very long.
Descriptors: Achievement Tests, Standardized Tests, Global Approach, Educational Practices, Educational Change, School Administration, Needs Assessment, Teacher Effectiveness, Teacher Education, Teacher Salaries, Benchmarking
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Finland; Germany; Singapore; United Kingdom (Scotland); United States
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: Program for International Student Assessment