Wednesday, June 1, 2011

New study explains international achievement gap

A major study that will be published by Harvard University Press in September asks the question: What are the countries which outpace the United States in educational achievement doing differently?

Results of the study, from the National Center on Education and the Economy, are previewed in this paper by Marc S. Tucker. The study is focused on educational systems in Ontario, Canada, Shanghai China, Finland, Japan and Singapore.

Tucker writes, "We conclude that the strategies driving the best performing systems are rarely found in the United States, and, conversely, that the education strategies now most popular in the United States are conspicuous by their absence in the countries with the most successful education systems."

Among those differences:

  • The most successful countries don't rely on standardized tests the way that we do in the U.S.

  • Successful countries have funding formulas that put emphasis on the students most in need, instead of local distribution of resources.

  • Others put greater priority on the profession of teaching, emphasizing training, professional development and compensation.

In the United States, teacher unions have been cast as villains, but Tucker points out that the other countries that outperform us are heavily unionized, but along models that have progressed from an industrial to a more professional standing.

The nuggets revealed in this paper create make waiting for publication of the whole book an exercise in anticipation and patience.

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