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James Shott / Feb. 25, 2015

America's Schools Produced Disappointing Results in Recent Surveys

The news about U.S. education from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) is much less than satisfactory, showing that Americans aged 16 to 34 – the so-called millennial generation – scored lower than their peers in 15 of the 22 countries participating in the assessment, despite being regarded as the most educated generation in U.S. history.

The group ranked last for numeracy, tied with Spain and Italy, and last in problem solving in technology-rich environments, tied with the Slovak Republic, Ireland and Poland.

The Educational Testing Service, which reported the results, notes that America’s huge investment in K-12 education has produced disappointing results when compared with students in other countries.

The National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) commented on the report’s conclusions that “while more young Americans have attained higher education levels since 2003, those who have at least a high school education have demonstrated declining numeracy scores.”

The PIACC assessment is not the only discouraging news on the education front.

Reporting on an analysis of achievement differences in 28 countries in the Organisation (sic) for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), NCPA notes that the U.S. has a higher percentage of 15 year-old students living in single-parent families than all countries except Hungary, with the U.S. showing 20.7 percent of those students, and Hungary having 20.8 percent. The average of all countries with 15 year-olds living in single-parent families is 13.7 percent, meaning the U.S. has half again more than the average of OECD countries.

Ludger Woessman of the University of Munich performed the analysis, and NCPA notes that he reported that “single-parent homes tend to have fewer resources – and less time – to devote to their children, and various studies indicate that children of single parents in the United States face greater emotional distress and have lower educational attainment,” and that generally, “children of single-parent families score lower than students in two-parent families, on average scoring 18 points worse.”

The difference in performance between single- and two-parent families is more pronounced in the U.S., amounting to approximately one grade level, and is further affected by socio-economic status, immigration status, and parent’s education levels.

Not that additional proof is needed that our cultural decay, particularly where the family is concerned, has far reaching implications, this information ought to serve notice that if we don’t restore traditional American values and reestablish stable families, our future is bleak.

Back in 2005 Bloomberg Business reported that “Today’s U.S. workforce is the most educated in the world,” citing statistics showing that 85 percent of Americans had at least a high school diploma, more than three times as many as in 1940, and that five times more Americans had a college degree over that same period.

It was this focus on education that Bloomberg cited as the reason for the U.S. economy being the world’s largest.

But Bloomberg offered this warning: “But now, for the first time ever, America’s educational gains are poised to stall because of growing demographic trends. If these trends continue, the share of the U.S. workforce with high school and college degrees may not only fail to keep rising over the next 15 years but could actually decline,” citing a report by the nonprofit National Center for Public Policy & Higher Education. The report goes on to say that as highly educated baby boomers age out of the workforce, young Hispanics and African Americans, who are far less likely to earn degrees, will replace them, and those replacements will earn less, and therefore drive down the standard of living.

Today we have a growing number of young people less interested in getting an education, and an education system that provides far too many of those who do go to school an inadequate education.

There are many examples where public schools seem to have renounced common sense and adopted politically correct paradigms. In one, a six year-old boy was suspended for “sexual harassment” for giving a female classmate a peck on the cheek. A high school senior was given in-school suspension for the felonious act of saying, “bless you” when a classmate sneezed. A seven year-old boy was suspended for chewing a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun, and supposedly saying “Bang, bang.” An elementary school impounded a third-grade boy’s batch of 30 homemade birthday cupcakes because they were adorned with green plastic figurines representing World War II soldiers.

It is important how many Americans are high school and college graduates, but more important is that they actually command useful information that prepares them to be good citizens and get and hold a job. If we have become more concerned with infecting schools with politically correct nonsense, or focus more on test results than on making sure students know American and world history, can perform functional math, can communicate effectively, understand basic science and economics, and can think critically, diplomas and degrees will mean little or nothing.

Education must again become purely the domain of states and localities, and parents must have not only primary responsibility for how their kids perform in school, but they must also have the ability to send their kids to schools that perform best.


James Shott is a columnist for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, and publishes his columns on several Websites, including his own, Observations.

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