from other countries," Duncan said. "That is absolutely unfair to our children and that puts our country's long term economic prosperity absolutely at risk."
The impact of improving math, reading and science scores could be radical: A recent OECD study with Stanford University projected that
if the U.S. boosted its average PISA scores by 25 points over the next 20 years; there would be a gain of $41 trillion in the U.S. economy over the lifetime of the generation born in 2010.
The top performers in reading were South Korea, Finland, Hong Kong and Shanghai in China, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia.
The gap between the highest performing countries and the United States is stark — students in Shanghai, for example, had an average score of 556 points in reading, 56 points higher than the 500-point average reached by United States students. Shanghai students also posted the highest score in math, with an average of 600 points, 113 points higher than the 487 point U.S. average.
OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria cited ongoing evaluations, an emphasis on the importance of education, and a curriculum that is
relevant to everyday life as reasons for the Chinese success. "They don't only produce children who know the matters by heart," Gurria said. "They're educated to understand and face the challenges of real life." He noted that the Chinese scores were strong in all three subject areas. "That speaks about who is going to be leading tomorrow," Gurria said.
Another finding of the study: Low national income does not necessarily signify poor educational performance. South Korea, another
top performer, also has a GDP below the OECD. The United States spends more per student, on average, than other countries. In the 2009 PISA study, only Luxembourg spent more per student. The report notes that countries like Estonia and Poland perform at about the same level as the United States, while spending less than half the amount per student.
"I think we have to invest in reform, not in the status quo," Duncan said. With that as a national backdrop, consider this-----if performing
at an average level is acceptable to the Education Secretary and the President, what would they say about results that are near the bottom.
As a business leader I want to talk about results of this system. I am not seeking to point the finger of blame at any one person, but
rather suggest that when there is a broken and dysfunctional system, we must be concerned and take drastic action. If education in North Chicago were a business enterprise that required profit and productivity, it would be out of business, and probably brought up on charges of fraud, misallocation of resources, and systemic disregard for product safety and viability.
Is that too strong, too provocative, or are there facts to support it? For 12 years, I have heard about the system of mis-education in our town. We have lamented over it, marginalized it, given money to
it, sent speakers to it, provided tutors, tried to augment math and science, and given away scholarships. If average results provoke the Secretary of Education and the President of United States to say that something must be done then clearly the below average results should be a wake-up call for all of us. Over the last few weeks, I have researched publicly available data, talked to people and here are the uncomfortable facts. In all of the research that I have done-- North Chicago schools are well below the State averages in every single major category that I could find. Unfortunately not just slightly below but so far below that it is startling.
Neal Math and Science Academy ranks 1450th out of 1464 middle schools in the State. In the same survey the high school ranks 611 out of 664 high schools in the State of Illinois. Imagine if you were forced to go to schools like this simply because of your zip code.
The average ACT score of a North Chicago high school junior is 15.5. In the PSAE test, last year 89% of juniors were below or at warning level in Reading and Science, 84% below or at warning level in Math, 81% below or at warning level in Writing. In the ACT college readiness benchmarks 91% not prepared in Reading, 92% unprepared in Math, 98% unprepared in Science and 84% unprepared in English.
At the same time the teacher salaries in North Chicago are a bit higher than the state average.
If you are like me, then you might be asking the question, what in the world is going on within this system? The data has been consistently bad for a number of years. I know that if a business kept putting out bad cars, bad medicine, and bad repairs that there would be major consequences. Imagine if your doctor mis- diagnosed your cancer for a cold or your brain tumor for sinus headache. Many of you or your families would want to string that doctor up on charges and take away their licenses.
But what many of us have done is just marginalized it and said, “well it’s bad, but that’s just North Chicago”…….well today I’m wondering out loud, when is enough—enough?
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