How the US press continues to parrot the ‘party line’ that American students suck, despite the facts

This excellent post on how perhaps US schools aren’t so bad after all comes from The Daily Howler by Bob Somerby. He does a great service by putting together the points I was trying to make when I showed graphs and figures from the TIMMS report showing how well the US did. His summary is much better put-together than mine. Good job, Bob!

FOOLED ABOUT SCHOOLS: Fools for Finland!

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012Part 5—Good news outscored by script: How well did American students do on last year’s international tests?That can’t be easily answered. In reading, American students scored very near the top of the world. Among the large nations which took part, only Russia outscored the U.S.

In reading, American students outscored the vast bulk of the world! Unless you read major American papers, where this success was largely obscured.

In math, American students did somewhat less well—and without any question, a fairly small group of Asian nations tend to outscore the world by significant margins in math. That said, here’s a surprise:

In fourth-grade and eighth-grade math, American scores were “not measurably different” from the scores of students in Finland.

We mention Finland for an obvious reason. In the past decade, this small, middle-class, unicultural nation has been all the rage in America’s low-scoring press corps. Its strong performance on international tests has been a constant source of commentary from journalists who don’t have the slightest idea what they’re talking about.

That’s why you might think it would count as news when the U.S. came close to matching Finland on last year’s international tests. Indeed, Finland was walloped by some U.S. states—states which took part in last year’s testing as independent “education systems.”

Continue reading …

Why does no-one mention Finland?

Here is a table that gives the latest PISA results in science, reading, and math.

The NYT highlighted Shanghai, Macao, and Hong Kong, individual cities within China. A number of people have pointed out that Shanghai, in particular, probably attracts some of the brightest students within China.  I don’t think there is any way that American students would tolerate the extremely long hours and hard work that Chinese students put in.

Notice that I highlighted Finland.  Finland used to score at extremely low levels on international tests like this, but has risen dramatically in the past few decades. But NOT by using any of the methods currently popular among the US Educational Deform movement. Instead, they do just about the opposite. See my previous blogs on that.

US students are actually doing pretty well, compared to world!

We’ve all heard the continuing refrain from various politicians and “experts” that US schools are failing, that American students aren’t learning anything, that our schools are terrible compared to the rest of the world, and therefore we need to dismantle our public schools by one method or another.


Here is some evidence from the latest international TIMMS scores in the 4th and 8th grades. The data follows.

The red scores are from nations whose students do significantly better than American students.

The part in white shows nations whose students do about the same as American students.

The part in pink shows nations whose students score significantly worse than American students.

2007 timms us comparisonNotice that American students IMPROVED from 4th grade to the 8th grade, in comparison to the other countries – exactly the opposite of conventional wisdom.

And think about whether you would want your child, or any child you know, to have to undergo the pressure-cooker, totally conformist, force-fed type of education that they have in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, or Singapore. At least in America, students learn how to question authority and think for themselves. There is precious little of that in other school systems, based on my own personal experience.

Hmm – maybe that’s why we are being bombarded with the idea that Japanese, Chinese, and Korean schools are so wonderful: students there are essentially NEVER expected to question anything, and are trained to exhibit no independent thinking at all. Maybe that’s why powerful corporations and right-wing forces here in the US want to re-make US schools, even though they are, overall, doing a pretty good job?

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