As news of how US students’ scores on the most recent Program for International Student Assessment exams compared to their peers in many other countries, a kind hysteria set in. US students’ proficiency in math, science, and reading barely ranked in the top 20.
While some education and business experts read the results as further proof that the nation’s education system needs a complete overhaul, others saw the results as proof that the reform measures of the last 15 years have failed. They blame the lackluster scores on policies like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.
Education historian Diane Ravitch, unimpressed with the hoopla over PISA results, said in a recent blog
that a little context is needed. First, US students haven’t fallen from the top because they were never among the highest scorers in the first place.
Secondly, Ravitch cites the work of former US Department of Education researcher Keith Baker, whose studies showed that high achievement on PISA have little relationship to how countries have performed economically. Even with the US’s average scores, the US produced far more patents and our economy over the last century outpaced all others.
Ravitch makes the argument that innovation rather than meeting excessive testing standards is what continues to drive economic performance. Imagination, creativity, problem-solving, and analytical thinking has given the US its competitive edge over the years.
And much of what we’re focused on testing, says Ravitch, doesn’t support or measure these qualities in students.