The latest (2015) release of PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) scores are out, and the all important ratings for 15-year-olds in now a matter of record. We have long mourned the performance deficits in our educational system and the resulting standing our students have on the international stage where America must compete more and more in the high tech areas of AI, genomics, and nanotechnology – the main sectors that will determine who will win and lose both economically and strategically in the coming pre-Singularity decade(s). As the chart below shows, America will not be among the winners.
Our deplorable ratings have been covered here for years. During that same interval progressivist pundits have been white-washing the bad news to our gullibles as nothing to worry about, that we’re doing OK in our super expensive, union-dominated public schools. The latest spin comes from a team of researchers from the University of Chicago and University of California, San Diego. These academic worthies have conducted some psych experiments with students and concluded that US kids are just as smart as anyone, but that they’re simply not trying hard enough (also note the inappropriate use of "about average" with the above data). They ran a test with American and Chinese (first place) math students to see how performance could be improved with cash money prizes. (more here)
Well, guess what? It turns out that the Chinese were not much affected since they were already on top, but US kids’ performance improved enough, that according to the pencil pushers, they would have placed 19th instead of the (fasten seatbelts) dismal 36th among the 65 nations taking the PISA tests. So the conclusion is that our kids just don’t give a crap about doing well on such tests, and they would do much better if motivated by some kind of valuable prize. (Recall, they’ve all grown up in world where everyone gets a trophy for just showing up and fogging a mirror.) Now, 19th in the world in math is still horrible for our country’s future, but that claimed improved score is specious on its face. It assumed that the rest of the world’s scores were static; no other country’s kids were enticed with prizes. A more rigorous test would have been to offer such rewards to all the test takers, and then see how much our students’ ranking would have improved.
So that no one misunderstands, American students’ gray matter is just as good as that between the ears of the rest of the world’s students – i.e. we are not genetically disadvantaged. Where we have a huge deficit is in our carefully inculcated culture of learning – three generations of politically correct schooling and parenting – and a school system designed to keep the bottom quartile of college graduates gainfully employed and fully pensioned (with unfunded pension portfolios).
The cited study heralds that if we just motivate our students better, their performance can be improved from putrid to piss poor, and we can all stop worrying about our schools. Well, that’s not the case in any of the three tested areas – science, reading, math – as the above data plot shows.
In parting, we should remember two notables. In Silicon Valley, where STEM jobs/skills dominate, more than half the workers are foreign born and educated. And to show how good California’s schools and economy are in supplying and attracting born-in-state workers, only 18% of such students qualify for and/or accept jobs in the highly-touted high-tech mecca from which Sacramento draws the lion’s share of its tax revenues. (more here)
The second notable is the absolute bullpucky in PISA’s testing in the ‘science’ category. They make it out as if science and math are somehow two separate and disjoint areas of learning, and therefore produce two separable skill sets. This myth is designed to successfully fool those holding education degrees, and the general public which doesn’t have a clue. The simple truth of the matter is that for at least the last half century there has been no science without math, and today ALL science is done with and within the language of mathematics. (emphasis mine)