Sunday, July 11, 2010

Is Education Really That Bad?

We've all heard the moaning and groaning about the 'just awful-terrible' education results in the US.

Yah, well, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

The article devotes the obligatory passage to the allegedly poor performance of American kids in international math and science tests. The article does correctly explain why this is highly misleading, noting for instance that the discrepancies are largely due to our sad failure
to deal with our underclass. But I wish the article had brought up the statistic that most clearly shows that we are actually doing OK after all: In the TIMSS test cited, on the eighth-grade science test, the scores achieved by Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming were quite good. Had these states--none of which has a substantial underclass--been treated as separate nations, each of them would have been outscored only by Singapore. See David Berliner, "Our Schools Versus Theirs," Washington Post, January 28, 2001. The article might have also noted that China and India, the main sources of the postdocs, refuse to participate in TIMMS, undboubtedly because of the same underclass issue. --Norm Matloff

The "underclass issue" has to do with grade-skewing of the tests because of significant problem-populations, namely the underclass.


Deekaman said...

Dad: I believe you are referring to the "dumbing-down" of tests when you refer to grade skewing? Or are you saying that it really isn't all as bad as we are lead to believe? Just askin'. I think I know the answer.

Dad29 said...

Matloff's point was that the US educational system is not nearly as bad as it's portrayed.

That is not something that NEA wants to hear, because they can't screech for "Mo' Money."

And it's not something that the labor-arbitrage people want to hear, because they might be forced to hire US natives instead of importing on the cheap.