U.S. Holds Students to Much Higher Standards, New Report Finds

By Richard M. Long

New analysis finds U.S. benchmarks are higher than the rest of the world--so U.S. schools are doing much better than rankings show

It has become part of our nation’s consciousness to say and believe, Our schools don’t do well when we are compared to other nations. 

But that statement is now proven to be a myth.  

A major new analysis sheds light on common school accountability benchmarks in the United States. How High the Bar? by the National Superintendent’s Roundtable shatters the idea that the U.S. is lackluster and falling behind by re-evaluating the international data and test scores and taking a close look at the bars set to measure achievement. How High the Bar? asks how well students in other nations would perform if they were held to the benchmark of “proficient” in the National Assessment of Educational Progress or to Common Core measures of “career and college readiness.

They found that most students in other countries couldn’t perform the tasks that we define as proficient. As was intended, a grade of proficient means pretty good, capable--and yet students in other nations aren’t meeting our definition, even those at the top of the chrts. 

According to this report, the U.S. ranks in the top five for reading in the fourth grade. This is a finding that should shift a lot of thinking.

What this means is that our education system isn’t mediocre. What it doesn’t mean is that we should be satisfied. 

We have a long way to go to provide all students with the life-changing potential of a good education. We should be focusing on helping students who live in poverty, not with modest programs that underfund all most all elements of making a difference for the poor; but real long-term investments. These investments would be in academics, support services, early childhood, counseling, and technology. It also means building programs for English language learners that move from a couple of classes a week to community and school-based efforts.  Additionally, programs are needed to help students with disabilities become full learners who take full advantage of what we have learned about learning and the tools we can use.

We need to revise our thinking about reform and change. We shouldn’t be thinking that we have to “fix” all of our schools; we need to help students who need it.

It also means that we should sit still. The excitement about using artificial intelligence, virtual reality and other tools will make a difference in how well, and how flexible our students learn to think and problem-solve. 

Now, the question is, will we change our thinking, policies, and practices to continue to improve?  If we are going to stay at the top, we need to act like we want to.

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