-Ranked 27th in the last OECD figures for maths tests, it appears that many policy makers and commentators in the USA are in denial about the mathematical poor standards which appear to be prevalent across many different states. Reported by the BBC, there are 23 US states which would be ranked below 30th place in an international ranking of 34 OECD countries at maths.
“There is a denial phenomenon,” says Prof Peterson, co-author of this report and professor of government at Harvard University and director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School.
The report, published in Education Next, written by Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson and Ludger Woessmann, challenges the view that in widely held within the country that the problems in education are mainly those of “poor kids in central city schools”. Underachievement in some southern states was a reflection of deep-rooted historical divides and disadvantages. The report continues:
We find that the international rankings of the United States and the individual states are not much different for students from advantaged backgrounds than for those from disadvantaged ones. Although a higher proportion of U.S. students from better-educated families are proficient, that is equally true for similarly situated students in other countries. Compared to their counterparts abroad, however, U.S. students from advantaged homes lag severely behind.
Arguments about this underachievement will continue with some saying that the USA must cure poverty before addressing the achievement problems in schools, whilst others say that US schools are generally doing fine, except for the schools serving the poor. The debates are likely to continue.