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Perceptions about Public Schools in America June 23, 2015

Perceptions about Public Schools in America
It is said that perception is truth.
And it is the perception of many people outside the educational community that education in the USA is in need of reform, largely due to the perception that schools are not producing the educational results necessary for the current and future needs of this country.
In his book, The Reckoning, David Halberstam states that there are two real weaknesses in America's attempt to be competitive in the new era of international economic competition the US public school system and the low literacy rate. He quotes studies that concluded that if a foreign power wanted to undermine the United States of America, it would only need to give it the public school system it already has.
Accurate or not? It's still a perception and perhaps there's more than an element of truth in this perception? Or are we not confusing a stagnating school system with stagnating students?
Let's look at the facts.
In our agrarian school calendar, American public school students attend school on 175 to 180 days for an average 5.5 hours of instruction per day.  This is similar to most other countries. Yet students in the USA are on the skids.
In mathematics, 29 nations outperformed the USA in 2012, up from 23 in 2009.
In science, 22 nations scored above the USA in 2012, up from 18 in 2009.
In reading, 19 nations scored above the USA in 2012, up from 9 in 2009.
Less obvious in these rankings is that US scores largely remained the same from 2009 to 2012.  The underlying truth is that the USA is in a race in the global economy. The problem is not that we're slowing down. The problem is that our competitors are speeding up.
So what's the solution? It's not money. We already spend more per student than most countries. The Slovak Republic, for example, which ranks similar to the USA, spends around USD53,000 per student against our USD115,000 per student.
Perhaps it's attitude? Perhaps the abundances America enjoyed between 1945 and 1975 gave rise to expectations of entitlement? Perhaps the rise of other nations into middle-class existence meant that life for most Americans would inevitably become leaner? And perhaps few students have considered adjusting to an age of diminished expectations or how to survive in a world with increased competition?

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