Education: Losing Ground in Global Competitiveness
By Alex Carter
March 28, 2008 - 10:45am ET
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Newly released data by the Department of Education illuminates the educational landscape of America. There is much for progressives to feel good about; enrollment in Pre-K programs has dramatically increased since 1980; the pupil-to-teacher ratio is declining—meaning classrooms are not as packed as before (even though overcrowding is a major problem for urban school districts); the number of high school students graduating continues to grow, and the number of people over the age of 25 with a high school, bachelor’s or graduate degree has increased as well.
However, some disturbing findings in this report underscore vital needs of our education system that have not truly been addressed: teacher’s salary increased only 1%-after inflation since 1995-96. The result is that inadequate pay leads to a disastrous teacher retention rate. In addition to being underpaid, teachers are forced to spend their own money for classroom supplies —because otherwise their students just won’t have them—on top of paying off college loans and the cost of living.
The report also finds that the average reading score of 17-year old students is the same in 2004 as it was in 1971. These students are at a transition stage from which they will take their education into real-world application or continue to college—however, the lack of improvement in reading skills leaves them—— unprepared for most future endeavors.
Finally, the most troubling news is about how our educational system compares with the rest of the world. The Department of Education provides statistics of the United States ranking in comparison of other countries educational systems in four areas: mathematics, reading, science, and problem solving. The results are astonishing.
• Mathematics—The United States ranks 25th out of the 30 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and is well below the average score.
• Reading—The United States ranks 16th out of the 30 OECD countries and barely beat the average score (by 1 point).
• Science—The United States ranks 20th out of the 30 OECD countries and is well below the average score.
• Problem Solving—The United States ranks 25th out of the 30 OECD counties and is well below the average score.
In comparison to previous years, the United States is making improvements at home. Compared to the rest of the world, we are losing ground.
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