Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Underachievement and the Recession

I read an interesting article in USA Today this morning. It's called "The permanent recession," by Laura Vanderkam (click here to visit her website). This is the tag line:
"It’s no secret that America’s educational system doesn’t stack up well with the rest of the world. What’s not as front and center is that this underachieving has a dramatic economic toll, too."
She starts with some of the same basic statistics I've shared with you before (hers are more recent) about international competitiveness and biased perceptions of school quality, but then she brings everything back to relate to a subject most people care a lot about these days: the economy.

Here are a few big ideas:
"...international test scores for the top 10% of American 15-year-olds are far below those of the top 10% in other rich countries such as Finland and Switzerland."

"Economists know from years of analysis that people who do better on standardized tests grow up to be more productive workers."

"...if U.S. children did as well as students from nations such as Finland, our economy would be 9%-16% larger."
Assuming the numbers are sound, what does that mean?
"...our schools are costing us $1.3 trillion to $2.3 trillion every year. Just for comparison's sake, as of late May, economists thought the recession would shave 3.7% from our economy."
Ms. Vanderkam suggests that what we really need is a more challenging education - even, or maybe especially, for the brightest students. She reminds us that achievement needs to mean something, or that diploma will be nothing more than a piece of paper.

I don't want to dwell on the negative, though. To all of you who work hard with your children toward excellence, keep up the good work! What this article says to me is that what your families and my family are doing is very important. So hang in there! You can do it!


Anonymous said...

I've had two Finnish students and agree that their education is far superior to what students in America receive.

1 Smart Mama said...

Thanks for sharing! I'd love to hear more about the areas where you find the biggest differences in preparation...