Zakaria: U.S. must spend more on education for poorer children
December 4th, 2013
10:39 AM ET

Zakaria: U.S. must spend more on education for poorer children

The latest results of a new global exam given to 15 year-olds showed American students to be average in science and reading and below average in math. There were little or no gains in the last decade, while other countries raced ahead of the United States. Anderson Cooper speaks with Fareed and Amanda Ripley, author of the Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way, about why children in Shanghai and Finland seem to be doing so much better. This is an edited version of the transcript.

Fareed, this latest study is one of a continuing string of studies that shows the U.S. educational system lagging behind the rest of the world. What do you make of the results?

Zakaria: The study is very revealing. What it shows is that while we're sort of walking around in one of those people movers going nowhere, the rest of the world, very many countries, are on escalators. What this shows is that it's not so much that we've been doing anything dramatically badly, but in the context in which everybody else is playing to win, we're falling behind badly. And all of a sudden, we look at the difference between us and countries like South Korea and Singapore and it's widening. But increasingly, the gap between us and countries like Poland is also widening.

And, Amanda, you look at Vietnam, which just started this study and has a lot of child poverty, they've done really well. I mean, what are we doing wrong and what are they doing right?

Ripley: It was shocking to see Vietnam for the first time ever appearing in this test at the very top of the rankings. You know, up there with Finland and Canada and Poland, Estonia, too. These are countries with significant levels of child poverty, plenty of problems.

And they're not spending as much on education in a lot of cases as people in the United States is.

Ripley: Right. No, we spend more than all but four countries in the world per people, and those four countries are not for the most part on the top 10 list. So it’s not just a matter of spending. It is not just a matter of goodwill. It’s not just a matter of how much testing you do or how many students you have in your classroom. It really seems to get at, you know, how have these very small number of countries managed to inject a level of rigor through and through in their system, not just with their teachers, but also with their parents and their students?

Fareed, what do you see as what the United States could do better or is not doing well enough?

Zakaria: Well, at one level we're just not playing to win. There isn’t a real national focus that drives down to the states that we really are falling behind. Lots of people believe we're not and we're number one and we do things great. The first thing is these countries, almost all of them, their kids go to school a lot more than we do. They have much longer school days. They have much longer school years.

More from GPS: What Finland can teach us

I did back of the envelope calculations. A kid in South Korea by the time he is 18, by the time he has graduated from high school, has spent almost two years more in high school. And when you do something for longer, whether it's music lessons, whether it's sports, whether it's academics, you're going to be better at it.

Amanda, do you agree with it?

Ripley: It’s complicated. Because on the one hand I think that's true in many countries, that they are spending more time in school. On the other hand, other countries are spending about the same time in school like in Finland. American teenagers, for example, do more hours of homework than some of the students in some of these countries. What seems to matter most is not the quantity but quality. They are being asked to do a lot of work that maybe doesn't actually make them think very much for themselves, and you can see that mirrored in these results where the kinds of math problems that American kids are doing well on are pretty basic problems that require them to just, you know, deliver the result. And the kinds of problems they're really struggling with compared to their peers around the world are the kinds that involve thinking, that involve taking a real world problem like, say, figuring out the tip at a restaurant and turning it into mathematical thinking.

So those kinds of things that we know are really valuable in the economy today, those higher order skills are what's being neglected in the U.S.

Right, that seems particularly scary.

Zakaria: What's most scary about it, along those lines, is that until about 10 years ago, one consolation was the very best American students did pretty well. We ranked, the best kids in Massachusetts were up there with Singapore and South Korea. No longer true. Even our best students are no longer at the very top. They're doing OK. But they're not up there with Shanghai, Singapore, and South Korea.

Does some of this have to do with how education is funded in the United States?

Zakaria: The simple difference if you were to look at all these other countries, particularly the good ones, in those countries they spend more on poor kids, on kids who are disadvantaged, on the theory they're the ones who need the most help.

Our system, as you know, is funded by property taxes. So we do the opposite. We tend to spend lots of money in affluent suburbs, we spend relatively less money in inner city places. And that means those kids, those disadvantaged kids really never have a chance to catch up.

So, Amanda, what is the takeaway on this?

Ripley: Well, I think it's true what Fareed is saying. We could do much better on equity, we should put much more attention into raising the bar for who gets to study teaching in college and how rigorous that training is. And I think the fact that 45 states have agreed on a set of common core standards which are more rigorous and aligned to international norms, if we can keep pushing through all the controversy around this and get to a good place, that's a huge step in the right direction.

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Topics: Education • Singapore • South Korea

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soundoff (569 Responses)
  1. iWeep4theFuture

    It's definitely the fluoride in the water – the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

    December 5, 2013 at 9:26 am |
  2. TexDoc

    We already spend more per child than any other country on the planet. What we need is better effort with the money we spend, first, education industry in the US is top heavy with management. We have one administrator for every two teachers! That's way too many. Finland, which out scores us by leaps and bounds, has one administrator per ten teachers.

    December 5, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  3. johnk

    rightospeak is exactly right in his comments. It is not throwing more money at the problem of America's education it is discipline, responsibility, and accountability, Our educational system needs to be revamped, More focus on financial literacy, more critical thinking skills, use of the Socratic teaching method, better training in public speaking and writing skills. Outside business leaders asked to come to the high school classroom to speak as to what they look for in hiring employees. Use of he Cone of learning teaching methods that have proven to be very successful, and finally better test preparation as to how to score better on tests since that is the standard all go by in ranking students in test scores.

    December 5, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  4. Occupy Wall Street for CONGRESS

    I can give two reasons.

    1. We don't teach financing in K-12. It should be mandatory that every kid in public school know everything about debt, interest rates, commodities, the global economy, etc....

    2. What happened to REAL social studies courses and understanding how various forms of governments work? How the Supreme Court works? Instead, we have people calling each other commies, socialists, fascists and whatever else without really understanding the truth behind it.

    I won't even go into the middle class falling apart and our own twisted two party system pointing fingers at each other while both of them rob us of our tax dollars.

    December 5, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Very well put, Occupy Wall Street for CONGRESS. Thank you.

      December 5, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • brianjaniczek

      The problem with social studies is that our classroom hours are being reduced and the focus is shifting towards math and science at the cost of everything else. I'm a social studies teacher, and because my subject isn't tested by the state (NC), schools don't care as much about us. I teach my class for about half the time other teachers teach. That's going to impact the quality of the education.

      Personally, I place a lot of emphasis on government types and the differences in political parties during my weekly current events class. Unfortunately, many social studies teachers do not have the time or desire to make connections between the past and the present and students tend to get nothing from those classes.

      December 5, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Krangle

      I would also add teaching foreign languages starting in pre school as well

      December 5, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

        "Foreign languages?"
        Do you mean English?

        December 5, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
      • Joseph McCarthy

        I agree, Krangle. If things don't change soon, the only foreign language our kids will learn will be that filthy Tea Party profanity which will in turn be a bad reflection on our society! No decent person wants to hear obscene language all the time or any of the time.

        December 5, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • Jon

      I had both of those subjects in high school, and I graduated 3 years ago.

      December 5, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Me Too

      I had both of those subjects in HS too. I graduated 37 years ago.

      December 5, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
  5. Ron Cacini

    Both responses have great points and are well placed. But, no where does it speak to their parents holding them responsible for doing their homework and taking ownership of their education! These poor kids get teacher support, too many don't get the support they need at home. No curriculum guide will help that!

    December 5, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

      Teacher support? What teacher support?
      My teachers couldn’t have cared less about us. This is a subject that has come up quite a bit in my circle due to the fact my girlfriend and her mother are teachers. Everyone I’ve spoken to says they had a similar experience to mine or had ONE teacher out of the entire k-12 that actually tried to teach and cared weather they learned. I realize of course this is a terribly small sample size and isn’t a reliable source for a nation of teachers but neither are a few outspoken teachers blaming everything on the parents. My parents are the ONLY reason I was able to get through school. I’m sure there are plenty of terrible parents out there but this isn’t one side or the other. It’s BOTH of you and until you stop blaming each other and start following your own advice of personal responsibility nothing is going to change.

      December 5, 2013 at 11:51 am |
      • Mateo

        Of the 140 or so teachers I've worked with the past 15 years, I can count on one hand how many could give a rip. MOST care, and would readily go the extra mile to see their students succeed. I'm sorry you went to a crummy school.

        December 5, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Mateo

      Hands down, without a doubt, better education STARTS AT HOME. An education MUST be a vauled asset at home. Our education system is not to blame. Apathy beginning at home is the root of the problem. Everyone wants to lay blame on our education system, notably on teachers, when everything would be better if students and their parents valued edcation. The vast majority of teachers WANT our students to learn and excell. What we get the majority of the time from students and parents are excuses.

      December 5, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
  6. NorCalMojo

    Seeing 5 or 6 headlines a week telling them how stupid they are probably doesn't help.

    December 5, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  7. usaman

    Most of the countries listed don't send all students to traditional high school. If students are on the technical track, which many of them are, then they don't test. In many countries they only test the college bound students. In china they only report for specific locations. Only in America do we try to educate the masses and then compare ourselves to others that aren't....

    December 5, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • FKell

      Only in America do we ignore scientific facts that don't fit with our previous social/political beliefs and point and make excuses and/or outright dismiss them (well, not only in America. North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba, and several other countries do this as well, but it isn't a list that I would hope we want to be on). Because we are not number 1, you just dismissed these results saying that because China isn't testing their entire population, our results don't compare. While that may be true for China, it isn't true for Canada, Finland, Poland, the Netherlands, Germany, etc., etc., all of which did better than us.

      December 5, 2013 at 10:47 am |
      • usaman

        and they all test every 15 year old in the country???? check the facts....

        December 5, 2013 at 10:53 am |
      • Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

        You certainly have a point about the religious typing trying to control the education system. However if you think this only happens in America you’re not have as educated as you might think.

        December 5, 2013 at 11:53 am |
      • usaman

        ??? has nothing to do with religion... just that many nations on the list don't test all of their kids... for some it's not even a majority of the kids that get tested....

        December 5, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
      • usaman

        and here in the US we try to educate everyone, assess everyone and then compare ourselves to those that don't

        December 5, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • usaman

      and yes... many of the european nations send specific kids into technical or trade schools.... so they're aren't tested for these exams...

      December 5, 2013 at 11:02 am |
      • usaman

        should have been they're not... just a typo from being excited about someone spouting BS when they obviously know nothing about the schools in other countries.....

        December 5, 2013 at 11:09 am |
      • Pangloss

        I agree. Europeans are usually schooled together until about age 14 or 15, then they're either sent on to a "university" track, or diverted to a vocational track. You can bet the kids studying metal shop aren't the ones scoring high on advanced math or science in these national scores. As far as Asia goes, I wonder what amount of time and money they spend providing access and equal education to special needs kids? Those kids making Nike shoes – I wonder how well they're scoring on these tests? Yeah, they REALLY try to spend more on the "poor" kids' education in Vietnam, where middle school education is not compulsory and you have to pass an entrance test to get into high school. I mean really, are we to believe that their "scores" are anything more than a sample of their best students?

        While I don't think we need to remove any focus from improving our education system in the US, I get a little tired of hearing people crow about how much better everyone else is doing it without also pointing out that you're comparing models that are trying to do 2 essentially different things. We try to elevate everyone, while they're (especially Asia) trying to win.

        December 5, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • Porsche73RS

      We shouldn't make excuses for why we do poorly. It is just a study that has come to this conclusion. Excuses like this are there just to make ourselves feel better when we shouldn't. You think the real world is a fair place? Think again. As a country we need to support our children and tell them the truth about their education levels compared to their peers in other countries. We should strive to increase the standards our schools place on students and not lower them. if a student in another country does poorly, they do not move up a grade. My wife moved here from Vietnam in the 7th grade. She had lived in Malaysia for a couple years as a refugee and missed 2 years of school. When she took the test for placement, her language score placed her in 7th grade for English (non ESL) and math score placed her in high school. Keep in mind she had only spoke english for two months when she took this test and scored exactly at her expected level for reading and writing in a non-native language. We need to wake up as a society because our children and ourselves compete with foreign students for work. Currently we send out children to a Vietnamese school on top of their public school education. The teachers at this school are volunteer, yet they hold the students to a higher level. Their are children in middle school in our school system that still attend the Vietnamese school in 3rd and 4th grade levels because they have never passed the exams to move on. American schools have little to no standards and all our society seems to produce are future consumers with a mediocre education.

      December 5, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
  8. wideglide_07

    What are we doing wrong? We are spending all our money on teachers pay and benefits to a bunch of people who only care about indoctinating their students into being a new generation of hand out liberals instead of free thinking individuals with the tools needed to compete in a more and more technical and complex world. Pretty soon we are going to have a nation full of people who do not know how to do anything except vote for people who promise to take care of them. Problem is, all the producers of wealth are dying, leaving or being taxed out of existence. Soon there will not be any wealth to redistribute.

    December 5, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • brianjaniczek

      You're ignorant.

      December 5, 2013 at 10:43 am |
      • wideglide_07

        You make my point!

        December 5, 2013 at 10:47 am |
      • brianjaniczek

        As a social studies teacher, I do my best to promote both sides of the American political spectrum. I work with current events once a week and I ensure that my students are exposed to differing opinions. Your focus on "hand out liberals" shows a clear bias towards one side. The problem with education stems from both sides politicizing education rather focusing on the actual issues at stake.

        Your claim is ignorant and fails to examine the root of the issue. The failure of our education system stems from coddling the children too much. Parents, regardless of their political affiliation, view teachers as babysitters and don't take responsibility for their children in the home. I realize this is a generalization, but it is the case for the majority of my students. When our children's priorities aren't on education and learning, their progress will suffer.

        You are doing a disservice to everyone by blaming the problems on a specific political group.

        December 5, 2013 at 11:02 am |
      • Jeff

        Agreed. That person makes no valid argument. The comments sound like they came from a biased angry person. Some times I wonder if the internet is such a good thing, or just a open view into the ignorance that so many people have. I was probably happier without all of this "information" that is available now.

        December 5, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
      • Captain Wolff

        Brianjaniczek, don't talk to conservatives that way! It hurts their feelings when you use logic.

        December 6, 2013 at 1:00 am |
  9. Sherri

    Three reason:1) parents do not hold kids accountable for what they do in school (make them GO to school, make them DO their homework) 2) teachers who are burned out and don't even try to teach 3) kids who don't care and don't do what they are supposed to do while IN school.
    Sad thing is, when these kids get out of school and have no skills, the rest of us end up supporting them. When you read some of these posting boards, you can see that many cannot spell, can't write a complete sentence. Do not have reading comprehension.

    December 5, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  10. GeoSpawn

    Motivation starts and ends in the home. Also, we are asking children to do something fundamentally unnatural to them. Sit down, be quiet, be still, and get to to work. Children don't learn best this way, especially younger children. They learn from actively playing, using their imagination to pretend to do what their parents do, in small groups with adult role models. By placing young children in a classroom of thirty students with one teacher, burdened with stupid required use of technology, and continual group testing and data keeping, we get what we deserve. Many of the great thinkers, writers, and mathematicians of previous ages learned in one-room drafty school buildings with few hours of teaching per day, breaks to help on the farm, using slates and chalk, and without access to much literature. In some cases, their teachers were barely literate. How did they do so well? They were motivated due to the culture of their families and society in general. All the burdens we place on teachers that are not directly related to teaching reduce their time for planning and thinking about how to individualize for their 30 students, and then we require them to continually update their own education, and use their home time to grade papers and make lesson plans, while we pay them barely enough to live within the lower middle class. How could anyone expect this all to work?

    December 5, 2013 at 11:15 am |
  11. robert

    After many decades of throwing money at the problem, in California Gov. Brown signed legislation – called the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). It replaces California’s overly complex, inefficient and inequitable finance system for K-12 schools and directs additional resources to the state’s neediest students, while restoring local control over how money is spent on schools.

    Unfortunately, in many homes the correlation between doing well in school and success in life is not taught. Until that changes, there will always be some left behind.

    December 5, 2013 at 11:23 am |
  12. brianjaniczek

    It's difficult to devote myself completely to teaching all of my students and providing a well thought-out lesson when I have to spend my evenings working a second job in order to support myself and repay the loans I was required to take in order to become certified to teach.

    December 5, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • unknown11

      You understand that everyone else has that same problem right? Except that we don't get the time off to work that second job.

      December 5, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
      • brianjaniczek

        Sure you do. You have your evenings. That's what I spend mine on. However, what motivation do most qualified people have to become certified to teach if we are disrespected and paid peanuts? Don't complain about the quality of education if you aren't willing pay to support it.

        December 5, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
      • unknown11

        brian, that argument always makes me laugh because the people making it don't seem to understand what they are really saying. You are saying that if the job paid better we could attract better people. That would be different people than the people asking for the raise. Get it? You are saying that if the job paid better we could get someone better than you to do it. It makes me laugh that teachers cannot figure that out.

        December 5, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
      • brianjaniczek

        That's not true. It simply refers to those working in major cities or in the south. Many northern states and suburban areas pay well and attract quality teachers. The area where America needs to improve is with poor city students. That's where the higher pay needs to go.

        You are making blanket statements.

        December 5, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
      • unknown11

        I live in a great district with high scores and the teachers here pull the same stunt at contract time. It was just your excuse too. So, there you go.

        December 5, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • KJ

      Google PAYE and PSLF. That second job may not be necessary.

      December 5, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
  13. brianjaniczek

    Additionally, pouring more funding into inner cities would help recruit better teachers. What motivation do poor yet qualified teachers have to accept less money to teach in an inner city when they can better pay off their loans and support themselves by working in the suburbs?

    December 5, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  14. usaman

    still say it's apples and oranges we're trying to compare... pull a list of the countries that send all their 15 year olds on to public school and test all of those 15 year olds and then do a comparison... the majority of the countries that place ahead of us do not do this... not saying we would be number one but it would be a very different looking list....

    December 5, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  15. The GOP Solution

    The GOP Solution: Turn all the Old, Sick, Poor, Non-white, Non-christian, Female, and Gay people into slaves. Then whip them until they are Young, Healthy, Rich, White, Christian, Male, and Straight. Or until they are dead. Then turn them into Soylent Green to feed the military during the next "unfunded/off-the-books" war. And don't forget the GOP all time favorite............TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH!!!!!!!

    December 5, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • unknown11

      You understand that this rant has nothing to do with the subject at hand, right?

      December 5, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
      • Not true

        Not true. It has everything to do about the topic. The GOP think that "TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH!!!" will fix anything.

        December 5, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
  16. DE

    While kids in the rest of the world are studying, American kids are hypnotized by their cell phones and tablets.

    December 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  17. jon wilson

    There's too many other outlets for American kids, They come home and watch cartoons, play with their X Box, or play Candy Crush on their Smart phones. Instead of doing homework right away and focusing on school they escape into La La land. It's the parents fault for buying them all these gizmo's and then not monitoring their progress. Other poorer countries kids who don't have these luxuries focus more on education and thus do better in school.

    December 5, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  18. meatball

    1. America keeps dumbing down standards. 2. Our teachers are not in control of the classrooms. 3. Parents are not mentoring properly. 4. As DE stated, too much time being hypnotized by cell phones, and playstations.

    December 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  19. Brian

    Where are the special education population of these "advanced" countries? Are they testing the mentally retarded, learning disabled and emotionally disturbed students as the U.S. schools are required to do? I highly doubt that this significant portion of their population is being included in the evaluations. How many non-native speakers of their language are taking the tests? How many of them that are tested are tested in a language they barely know as is required of English-language-learners in U.S. schools? The people that tout these rankings as a failure of the U.S. education system are skewing information. Bill Gates is one of the main people spewing this nonsense, he should know that if you skew the data going in, you skew the results coming out- it's an old computer term, Bill, GIGO.
    Here is an excellent article that supports the claim that poverty influences the scores. It has a great statistical analysis....actual factually based claims, unlike so many we see.
    http://nasspblogs.org/principaldifference/2010/12/pisa_its_poverty_not_stupid_1.html

    December 5, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • usaman

      they're not even testing all of the regular population... much less the special populations... most of the countries that we are compared to start assessments early and by the time kids are in high school they are either on a voacational/technical track or on a college bound track (often different schools completely)... those on the college bound tracks are the only ones required to take the international testing.....

      December 5, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
  20. unknown11

    We have enabled an underclass in this country. There are a huge number of people who do not every intend to be productive members of our society, and they have at least as many kids as everyone else. To them, all they need to know is how to game the system. Any first grade teacher in many schools in the US can tell you which kids will be going to jail or killed. So, these kids are forced to attend school and it is basically used as a temporary prison for them. Their parents have no expectation that the learn, and they in turn have no expectation. This is all a result of liberalism gone amok. If you intend to never get a real job, why get a real education. What they need to know is not what you learn in school.

    December 5, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  21. Sireena

    As a person who has studied under the Indian system of education back home, I can say this in comparison to American education which my kids anre currently studying – Too many concepts jammed into an academic year and TOO LITTLE PRACTICE!!..I can't stress the importance of repition and practice where new mathematical concepts are concerned. I find it so strange that the only aim of this kind of education is to expose the kids to a wide variety of mathematical concepts and confuse them with different strategies( which they can chose from,even in 2nd grade) at a very young age , nevermind whether the child has perfected a particular skill or not. This really is one of the reasons kids here could be falling behind in math scores.

    December 5, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • ES

      Exactly. They teach probability concepts in 1st grade here, before multiplication. It is crazy.
      I have MS in math from Russia , I teach my kids myself using russian books.
      American math is horrible, nobody can learn math like this.
      I would've thought it is a conspiracy to keep kids dumb if I didn't know better.

      December 5, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
  22. thetaz12

    Is it any wonder why we are falling behind? The no child left behind act had good intentions but now teachers with 30 plus kids must teach to the lowest level child in the class. The higher level children are now left behind and not challenged. We have faced this with our child; she was bored in the class room when we asked the teacher she told us she is not allowed to give extra work to the gifted students and she just needs to make every child meet the minimum requirements. In Ohio schools are required to indentify gifted students but not required to do anything for them. Since gifted programs don’t have as many students they are the first to be cut!

    December 5, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  23. wrm

    "and I think the fact that 45 states have agreed on a set of common core standards which are more rigorous and aligned to international norms"

    Weird how standardization is used synonymously with effective or productive. All you've managed to do is agree upon a terrible approach to educating and measuring.

    December 5, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  24. Sireena

    And the solution lies in more and more testing , not less...ask the chinese, Indians, Sinagporeans..there's no other way to get those scores up . Oh The number of practice tests we have gone through in our lifetime !

    December 5, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  25. Juan in El Paso

    Until the minority communities stop looking down on education and achievement all the spending in the world wont help.

    December 5, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      Careful, Juan. You are in danger of being called elitist.
      You don't like voices with an "operatic" sound, do you?
      Try to stay back with the rest of the class.

      December 5, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
  26. Polrbear

    If the US really wanted to improve the educational system, wouldn't it be smart to look at what the others are doing right and then implement it? Granted, maybe with a few modifications so that it makes sense here... but what it is the common denominator between Finland, Canada and other countries...??? What makes them so good and the US so poor?

    December 5, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • unknown11

      The families sending their kids to school.

      December 5, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • ES

      In all those countries not everyone is allowed to attend high school, only those who are college bound and can perform.
      If the US had some sort of an entrance exam into HS I am sure our results would've been great too because at least 50% wouldn't pass and wouldn't be in HS being tested.
      Why teach someone HS material when they didn't even learn the middle school Algebra? It is a waste of everybody's time and effor.

      December 5, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  27. Nguyen

    Right. Vietnam is 17th place. Way above US, UK, and French. I am Vietnamese and I was born and grow up in Vietnam. Like many of my friends who were raised and educated in Vietnam, we are NOT impressed with the result. My first reaction when I heard this is laugh. We are not surprise with the result. Vietnam education system is broken. So when someone asked why Vietnam has so many child poverty but they did great in education, but we always ask our self "We did great in education but why are we still poor". So American: don't be alarm by this silly test score of whatsoever. Your education system is working. If you try to change it, you will may accidently broke it.

    December 5, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
  28. dbtunr

    Education is localized in the US. Many school systems are poor, many are excellent. Move to an excellent district if you don't like your local system.

    The other point is many of these reporting countries simply cherry pick. China is not reported as a nation, rather Shanghai. The average Chinese person is illiterate. China only shows it's best district. Very disingenuous. Other countries weed out the not so smart into trade schools. Those in trade schools are not counted either. The US counts everyone; smart, not so smart, special ed, illegals. I would love to see an apples to apples comparison.

    December 5, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • unknown11

      I agree with almost everything you say. However, moving to a better school district alone does not work. Generally it results in ruining another school district. These problems are generally from home. Places where the parents insist that the kids get an education and force the kids to do their homework have good schools. Places where the parents are not doing a good job of parenting have bad schools. Kind of amazing how that works.

      December 5, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
    • usaman

      Most of the countries listed don't send all students to traditional high school. If students are on the technical track, which many of them are, then they don't test. In many countries they only test the college bound students. In china they only report for specific locations. Only in America do we try to educate the masses and then compare ourselves to others that aren't....

      December 5, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
      • usaman

        it's amazing that the media will never point out in a cover story that we are comparing completely different things when we compare ourselves to some of these countries....

        December 5, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • war_monger

      Literacy rate: US: 99%, China: 95.1%, India: 74%, Brazil: 90.4%.

      I think the illiterate population in China are mainly 50+. They won't be in these tests.

      December 5, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
  29. Jeff

    This a real funny read. I work in the public school systems in my state (not a teacher) and come next year they will be using a new assessment test called PARCC. From the reading I have done these new assessment tests have heavy weights in the reading department. Most of the stories I read suggest what the story above is saying....weak Science and Math. Why would new assessments be driving the reading portion of things? I know my son will be in 3rd grade (first year children will be PARCC tested) on the first year it will be used. The teachers have been really ramming the reading portion as the main focus of his learning so far. It is expected that he reads at 4 days a week for 15-20min, and while I'm not opposed to this I also see that no other subject matter is being pushed this hard this early on. Teacher raises are affected by this new system too from what I understand. Also if a child fails PARCC they have to be held back.

    December 5, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
  30. Ger republikins

    wii don ned 2 spen moar muny un edjewkashun. wii kin bii hom skold lyk wii r dun sowt. wii don ned da demokrates 2 raz r taxiz fer skols neder. demokrates unly wunt 2 raz taxiz n tayk jezuz owt uv r skols. n tayk wey r gunz 2. iv demokrates mayk mii pey moar taxiz den i wunt bii abell 2 git a dubl wyde. Ger republikinz!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 5, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
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