Performance on Tests not Quite as Bad as Advertised?

By Ben • Uncategorized • 2 Feb 2011

Yong Zhao, a Chinese-born, China-educated professor for many years at Michigan State University, now at the University of Oregon, sets the record straight. He points out that in the 1960s, America's 8th graders ranked at the very bottom of the first international assessment of mathematics and close to the bottom in the 1970s and 1980s on international assessments of math and science. Now, we are in the middle, which is sort of an improvement. But then comes his punch line:

"So who has made America 'the largest, most prosperous economy in the world?' Who are these most productive workers? Where did the people who created the successful companies come from? And who are these inventors that received the most patents in the world?

"It has to be the same Americans who ranked bottom on the international tests. Those 12th graders with shameful bad math scores in the 1960s have been the primary work force in the U.S. for the past 40 years. The equally poor performers on international tests in the '70s and '80s have been working for the past 30 years now. And even those poor performers on the 1995 TIMSS [Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study] have entered the workforce. Apparently they have not driven the U.S. into oblivion and ruined the country's innovation record."

Yong Zhao concludes, as I did in a blog that I wrote for The New York Times within minutes of the president's speech: If we want more creativity, innovation, and imagination, we won't get it by pursuing the remedies now prescribed by Race to the Top. Not by more testing, more test prepping, more narrowing of the curriculum, more lockstep instruction to ready for the next state test.

I had never heard that American students in the '60s & '70s were ranked so low on international assessments...

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