Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Endangering Prosperity: A Global View of the American School

In Endangering Prosperity: A Global View of the American School by Eric A. Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann (Brookings Institution Press, 2013) scholars from Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Munich show just how far American students are falling behind their global counterparts and how the looming failure of our education system imperils our economic future. 
Through their research, the authors show just how dire the situation is:

- Just 7% of U.S. students performed at an advanced level in mathematics, lower than 29 other countries.

- Only 32% of students were proficient (had adequate skills) in mathematics, ranking Americans behind students from Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Canada, Estonia, Slovenia and 21 other countries.

- Contrary to stereotypes, the lack of U.S. student proficiency in math and reading is not a "minority" problem. White students lag far behind proficiency averages for all students in 16 other countries.

Absent a radical change in the way we educate our children, America faces a disconnect between a dynamically changing world economy and a stagnant school system unable to produce the knowledgeable, highly skilled citizens needed to ensure the country's future prosperity. Our lagging schools are costing America hundreds of billions of dollars in GDP each year because they are graduating mediocre students who can't compete globally.

- If America could improve its education system so that students graduate with standardized test scores of German students, the economic impact on future GDP would be ten times greater in present value than the total losses from the 2008 recession.

- If the United States got even more ambitious and matched the performance of students in neighboring Canada, the equivalent would be a 20 percent addition to the paychecks of U.S. workers every year until 2093.

- Bringing the 20 percent of low-performing U.S. students up to international proficiency levels would imply a GDP that averages 12 percent per year higher over the next 80 years.

The authors conclude that the current way we educate our children has failed. Despite decades of exhortation from politicians and assurances from the education establishment, we are spending billions in federal tax dollars on education each year without seeing the anticipated results. Among findings:

- Current expenditures per pupil, adjusted for inflation, are 2 1/2 times what they were in 1970 and class sizes have fallen by 1/3—with no noticeable gains.

- Other countries have shown that a much higher rate of improvement in school outcomes is possible.

- Our best performing states have shown that improvement within the United States is possible.

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