By: Julie Heath
The title of this post—at least the first part—probably looks familiar to you. We’ve heard for some time that U.S. students do not perform as well on tests of math and reading as do students in many other post-industrial countries. In fact, in international comparisons, the U.S. ranks 14th in reading and 25th in math, results that have generated much hand-wringing and apocalyptic scenarios wherein the U.S. loses its competitive standing in the world. Education policy has targeted STEM programs in an effort to counteract this disturbing development. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has called this situation “unacceptable”, saying that “Americans need to wake up to this educational reality instead of napping at the wheel while emerging competitors prepare their students for economic leadership.” Further, the educational system is seen as particularly failing students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Given the numerous reports and the relative ranking stated above, this warning is entirely appropriate. Except the reports, while not wrong exactly, are incomplete and oversimplified.