December 15th, 2013
11:01 AM ET

'An absolute wake-up call for America'

“An absolute wake-up call for America.” That’s what U.S. Education Secretary Arnie Duncan called the recent release of test scores showing how American kids compared with their peers around the world. The test is called the Program for International Student Assessment or PISA. Here's how American kids ranked: 17th of 34 countries in reading, 21st in science, 26th in math, which doesn't look good.

How do we improve them? We have a terrific panel. Joel Klein is the former chancellor of New York City's school system. Wendy Kopp is the CEO and co-founder of Teach for All and the founder of Teach for America. Sal Khan, well, Sal Khan is one of the most innovative educators in the world and of course the founder of Khan Academy. And Tom Friedman is the three-time Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the New York Times.

Watch the video for the panel or tune into GPS today at 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

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Topics: Education • United States

soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. matslats

    bla blah.
    America could be the best educated country in the world if the elites wanted it.
    But the elites just want dumb compliant workers who respect, trust or fear authority.

    December 15, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • j. von hettlingen

      Indeed, it's important to uphold equality. Education shouldn't be a privilege for the middle-class and the elite. Or else we would have a society like in the third world.

      December 21, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  2. matslats

    Oh and don't act all surprised. John Taylor Gatto has been saying this for decades. But you don't want to hear.

    December 15, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  3. Allan Kinsman

    There is no education in America there is only training to fit in the market. We don't teach independent innovative thinking we fear reaching the truth and critical thinking. If we taught these ideals we would not be lacking in the world. The political mind does not want to build upon knowledge it wants to control information. Therefore you design programs oriented to passing tests about useless information. If you want a system to blossom you must first let in some light.

    December 15, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
  4. Lou Toth

    Teaching begins at home! I saw exceptions but dysfunctional "families" have a high correlation to dysfunctional students. We waste too much taxpayer money on primary and secondary education and little on trade and practical education solutions ( College graduation rates are too high! U.S. students find that a college degree does not necessarily lead towards a job much less a challenging or rewarding career.
    Answer: (1) Reduce public spending on schools and provide school choice with partial subsidies for students in non public schools.
    (2) Rank students beginning in "middle school". Top 40% are put on a college track, implement trade and business tracks for remaining 60% of students using local, state and national businesses for technical training (We need more competent plumbers and bridge builders than PhD computer science professors).
    (3) We waste public funding on a directionless and misguided education "business" in america that measures success by a diploma and not by the real metric of life long learning leading toward self sufficient individuals and families who enhance the society as a whole.

    December 15, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  5. Marv Reid

    Joel Klein? Are you kidding me? He's the reason NYC Schools are in the horrible shape they are in now! And Teach for All? It's the privatization (and profiteering) that is the problem, not the teachers and administrators. I am wondering how many Chinese (COMPANIES) are profiting on the backs of their students. If you believe a lie that is told often enough, you'll believe anything. Why are THEY on the panel and not the REAL people on the ground doing the real work? We will NEVER learn a lesson from schools overseas because there is entirely too much money to be made and not enough people willing to stand up and say ENOUGH! Stop stealing from our children. FYI: Joel Klein had to be given a 'waver' in order to be school's chancellor as did the current one; which means they were NOT QUALIFIED! Period. How many of us could walk into a school system and become chancellor without being qualified? NONE.

    December 15, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  6. Howard Myers

    I'm a retired teacher and administrator in an urban public school,system. So here's a view from the perspective of actual experience. Teachers are great and want appropriate support–professional development time, with flexibility to develop and perfect new approaches in partnership with master teachers. Unions are not the big problem; rather it's the monopolistic, rigid, inflexible bureaucracy in which most teachers and students are trapped that is the problem. Think of TR and his dogged approach to trust busting. We need him back.

    December 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
  7. Ram Ramabhadran

    I was educated early in India and later in the US. It is my firm belief that the educational systems in India and other 'ahead' countries discussed in the show train 'technicians' who can crunch math and answer science questions with 100% accuracy. But these cultures are weighted down by one factor that the US is mostly free of- questioning authority- which is a leadership quality that finds it greatest expression in the US. One visionary leader who defies the norm and the status-quo can lead thousands of 'technician' followers from the educationally advanced nations to get things done.

    While the US education may not be globally stellar in the STEM areas, the education system, notably at the universities, allows for an unprecedented exchange of cross-disciplinary education that is the ferment for creativity. How many countries do you know where an English major can choose to become an MD and how many countries do you know where a 50 year old can dream to change a whole career, like the air traffic controller I met who is now a practicing nurse.

    Salman Khan made the most sense in terms of addressing the statistics which provide fodder the ‘Chicken Littles’. US is a country of leaders and the rest of the world is creating robotic followers to be used in driving innovation. That is not to say that the US cannot do things better!

    December 15, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
  8. ger republikings

    wii don ned 2 wast muny un skools. wii kin bii hom skoold lyk wii r dun sowt. demokrates unlii wunt 2 tayk wey jezuz frum r skools enywey. demokrates unly wunt 2 tayk wey r gunz 2. demokrates wunt 2 raz moar taxiz fer skools n iv mi taxiz git razd i wun bii abell 2 git r dubl wyd tralr. ger republikings!!!

    December 16, 2013 at 9:07 am |
  9. Dave King

    Education Revolution in 8 Steps:
    (1) Grades 7-12 are a wasteland for too many of our youth: we should discard all course requirements and create unlimited paths of opportunity for teens and young adults to discover and pursue their interests, talents, and passions. (2) We should discard the idea of elementary teachers being generalists, and all current K-12 teachers should prove their level of accomplishment in one subject area. (3) The above reforms will create a huge pool of teachers who no longer match the needs of the educational system, including lots of English, math, science, and social studies teachers: we should employ all of them as one-on-one tutors for K-6 students who need help. (4) We should return to teachers the dominion of their classroom and return to principals the dominion of their school. (5) We should raise pay in order to attract those who have excelled as students and professionals in their field of interest. (6) We should offer students opportunities for health and fitness, not varsity jerseys and homecoming parades. (7) Government should take responsibility for ensuring a solid 6th grade education for all and, then, for maximizing the quality and diversity of educational opportunities for youth and young adults. (8) Students, with their parents, should take responsibility for their own educational choices and outcomes.

    December 16, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  10. acobbbalk

    What about critical thinking scores? What about creativity scores? What about joy for life scores? I am an international teacher and cultures that teach good memorization skills always to better in these tests. Do we really want out kids to go to school 6 days a week for 8 hours a day? I don't think so.

    December 16, 2013 at 10:15 am |
  11. Leigh Campbell-Hale

    The "guests" on this program–privatizers all and none of them representatives from public schools–demonstrate no understanding at all of any education issues.

    December 16, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  12. Cap Lee

    Some go to the moon, some have a rover on Mars, some find a cure for a disease, some help kids to learn and some score well on a test. Which of the above accomplishes nothing

    December 17, 2013 at 12:00 am |

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