With last year’s statistic of 65% of students having a “basic” grasp of science on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), maybe America isn’t as bad off as we thought when it comes to preparing students for the global economy. This morning however, Joel Klein, former Chancellor of the New York City Schools, points out that these reports ignore what every serious educator knows: scores of “basic” on that test is evidence of only limited familiarity with a subject — as opposed to “proficiency,” which was demonstrated by only 35% of our eighth graders in math and 34% in reading.
Of even concern are international comparisons of advanced achievement in math which indicate that 16 countries now produce at least twice as many advanced math students per capita as we do, an important predictor of how many engineers and scientists we’ll have in the future driving economic growth. Mr. Klein offers a prescription for improvement, though, and names it the three t’s — teachers, time, and technology.
Klein explains that we need to recruit and train better teachers across the board, particularly in math and science, and make it a national priority. Second, our kids need to spend more time on task. This is particularly important for students living in high-poverty areas and the U.S. has among the shortest school days and years among leading nations. Third, he says, we need to do more with technology. Doing so will make teaching and learning more customized and engaging.
He wraps up the post saying, “resting on inadequate laurels is no way to help America’s children prosper in a global age.” I like it. Yes, change is hard and takes a lot of work, but resting on our laurels is definitely not the American way.