By Kimberly Hefling
When compared to any other industrialized nation the richest country in the world has the worst education. And it is not an accident, public education in America ranks 29th out of 34 industrialized nations. And we’re paying twice as much to teach our kids less.
Drugs, gangs, over crowded classes, out-of-date text books, teen pregnancies, bullies, unqualified teachers, teachers molesting students, discrimination, sexism, racism and an education system rife with inequities for blacks and other minority students and those with disabilities.
“A quarter of high schools with the highest percentage of black and Latino students do not offer Algebra II; a third of these schools do not offer chemistry,” said the Education Department.
It’s not just lack of access to core curriculum subjects.
Christopher Emdin, a professor of science education at Teachers College, Columbia University, said if a school doesn’t offer advanced math and science classes, students are told they are not expected to take those classes.
“There is nothing more severe in contemporary America, particularly as it relates to youth of color, than the soft bigotry of low expectations,” Emdin said. “These inequities in the availability of science and math classes show young people that not much is expected of them.
Minority students are more likely to attend schools with a higher concentration of first-year teachers than white students. And while most teachers are certified, nearly half a million students nationally attend schools where nearly two-thirds or fewer of teachers meet all state certification and licensing requirements. Black and Latino students are more likely than white students to attend these schools.
The majority of US public schools do not conduct background checks or take any steps to protect children against mistreatment and abuse.
Children’s advocate groups say not all background checks are equal and warn that schools where young people are plentiful are often targets for abusers. There is a $10 basic-level background check option that includes a national criminal and sex offender search. In a sampling of 900 schools 11,277 background checks were conducted, 40% returned a hit, 21% or 2,320 returned records with felony offenses.
Insurance companies recommend schools conduct background checks but don’t require such screening for coverage. Insurance and child advocate groups also urge background checks not only be conducted on newcomers but with existing staff and volunteers.
Data released show the disparities begin among even the youngest of school kids. Black children represent about 18 percent of children in preschool programs in schools, but they make up almost half of the preschoolers who are suspended more than once.
Overly zealous discipline and “zero-tolerance” policies send students to court instead of the principal’s office, known as the “schools-to-prisons pipeline.”
SECLUSION AND RESTRAINT:
“Seclusion and restraint” is a term used to describe when students are strapped down or physically restrained in schools. The data show students with disabilities represent about 12 percent of the student population, but about 60 percent of students placed in seclusion or involuntary confinement and three quarters of students restrained at school. While black students make up about one in five of students with disabilities, more than one-third of the students who are restrained at school are black. Overall, the data show that more than 37,000 students were placed in seclusion, and 4,000 students with disabilities were held in place by a mechanical restraint.
40 percent of school districts do not offer preschool programs.
This year, the U.S. scores below average in math and ranks 17th among the 34 OECD countries. It scores close to the OECD average in science and reading and ranks 21st in science and 17th in reading.
USA NUMBER ONE? OR NOT EVEN CLOSE
The U.S. scored below the PISA math mean and ranks 26th out of the 34 OECD countries. The U.S. math score is not statistically different than the following countries: Norway, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Lithuania, Sweden, and Hungary.
One in four U.S. students did not reach the PISA baseline level 2 of mathematics proficiency. At this level, “students begin to demonstrate the skills that will enable them to participate effectively and productively in life,” according to the PISA report.
The U.S. ranks fifth in spending per student. Only Austria, Luxembourg, Norway, and Switzerland spend more per student. To put this in context: the Slovak Republic, which scores similarly to the U.S., spends $53,000 per student. The U.S. spends $115,000. The PISA report notes that, among OECD countries, “higher expenditure on education is not highly predictive of better mathematics scores in PISA.”
Finland, which is often pointed to as an example of an excellent school system, continued to perform well.
The United States’ poor math results—may be worth paying attention to for at least one reason. A 2011 study found that PISA scores are an economic indicator: rising scores are a good sign that a country’s economy will grow as well.
TOO MANY CHILDREN LEFT BEHIND
From CBSNews: The United States is losing ground in education, as peers across the globe zoom by with bigger gains in student achievement and school graduations, a study shows.
Among adults age 25 to 34, the U.S. is ninth among industrialized nations in the share of its population that has at least a high school degree. In the same age group, the United States ranks seventh, with Belgium, in the share of people who hold a college degree.
The report bases its conclusions about achievement mainly on international test scores released last December. They show that compared with their peers in Europe, Asia and elsewhere, 15-year-olds in the United States are below average in applying math skills to real-life tasks.
Top performers included Finland, Korea, the Netherlands, Japan, Canada and Belgium.
Given what the United States spends on education, its relatively low student achievement through high school shows its school system is “clearly inefficient,” Barry McGaw, director of education for the Paris-based Organization for Cooperation and Development said.
The report also underscores that women continue to get paid less than men.
Women in the United States who are 30 to 44 and who hold a university degree — meaning a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, doctorate or medical degree — make only 62 percent of what similarly qualified men do.
THE RICH GET RICHER
From TheLATimes: The nation’s upper-income households this year is nearly seven times that of middle-class ones. By Pew’s calculations, that is the biggest gap in the 30 years that the Fed has been collecting statistics from its Survey of Consumer Finances.
“The latest data reinforces the larger story of America’s middle-class household wealth stagnation over the past three decades,” Pew said. “The Great Recession destroyed a significant amount of middle-income and lower-income families’ wealth, and the economic ‘recovery’ has yet to be felt for them.”
In Pew’s definition, middle-income households are those earning between two-thirds and twice the median income, after adjusting for household size. The median marks the halfway point.
46% of American households were classified as middle income last year. One-third were considered lower income, and 21% upper income.
The Pew data shows that lower-, middle- and upper-income households all have yet to recover the wealth lost in the Great Recession. But higher-earning families had the smallest percentage loss of wealth from 2007 to 2010. And these same households, thanks in good part to their disproportionately large stock holdings, recovered a substantial part of the lost wealth since then, while lower-income families made no pickup at all.
Nobody knows when reality will overtake the rhetoric, lies, phony statistics, wishful thinking, fake prices and tiresome poseurs pretending to be world leaders. The situation is universal, a consequence of incompetent leaders and careless (or ignorant) citizenry. Global problems are continuing to mount, along with the risk that the consequences of years of bad policies and inept leadership compound (as sometimes happens) in a short window of time.