Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Excellence Gap - Our public schools are shortchanging their best students.

In reading this article, I had to disagree with one of the author's conclusions in that "Democrats and Republicans need to reunite and recognize that federal support for elite education—above all, in math and science—is essential for advancing America’s economic success."

Being one of the proponents of the original NCLB legislation, the author has a vested interest in staying with the Federal Government as a cure all. I am happy to see that charter schools are now in the mix.

It is my feeling that the education of our children should be left at the local level and that the Department of Education should be assigned to the trash bin. There is absolutely no proof that the Feds have had any favorable influence on our education system.

Excerpt: If an out-of-control national debt weren’t reason enough to worry about America’s global competitiveness, here’s another. Virtually all education reformers recognize that America’s ability to remain an economic superpower depends to a significant degree on the number and quality of engineers, scientists, and mathematicians graduating from our colleges and universities—scientific innovation has generated as much as half of all U.S. economic growth over the past half-century, on some accounts. But the number of graduates in these fields has declined steadily for the past several decades. A report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation concludes that “bachelor’s degrees in engineering granted to Americans peaked in 1985 and are now 23 percent below that level.” Further, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 6 percent of U.S. undergraduates currently major in engineering, compared with 12 percent in Europe and Israel and closer to 20 percent in Japan and South Korea. In another recent study, conducted by the Conference Board of Canada, the U.S. scored near the bottom relative to major European countries, Canada, and Japan in the percentage of college graduates obtaining degrees in science, math, computer science, and engineering. It’s likely no coincidence that the World Economic Forum now ranks the U.S. fifth among industrialized countries in global competitiveness, down from first place in 2008.

Making matters worse is mounting evidence that America’s best students—kids we’re counting on to become those engineers, scientists, and mathematicians—have had a drop-off in academic performance over the past decade. A recent Thomas B. Fordham Institute study finds that the country’s highest-performing students in the early grades are losing some of that advantage as they move through elementary school and into high school.

Ironically, one reason for their slipping performance is almost certainly the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, the most significant federal education-reform legislation of the past half-century. Partisan squabbling has stalled congressional reauthorization of NCLB for two years. But NCLB became law thanks to a rare bipartisan consensus that U.S. public schools were failing to turn out high school graduates who could flourish in a technology-based economy.

Read full article here.

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