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If American education is so great why do we lag behind many other nations? No Child Left Behind

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US achievement doesn’t measure up to some foreign nations.

The United States is known for offering perhaps the finest higher education in the world. 

The same can’t be said, however, for American K-12 education. 

 According to the National Assessment for Education, American students’ knowledge and skills in math and reading have declined significantly in recent years.

Table 1. Changes in average score and at chosen percentiles. Based on subject and grade.

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Maxim Russu

There are, of course, some possible explanations. 

First, the pandemic inflicted a huge hit on education worldwide, and America’s progress out of it has been slow. Other countries that were hard hit, such as China and Japan, recovered more quickly. And while the Japanese or Chinese models could serve as a model for U.S. education, they do come with their own flaws, including higher stress rates and student depression.

Unfortunately, the U.S. is in double-trouble. America’s progress in recovering from the pandemic has been especially slow in schools that stayed in lockdown longer. To add salt to the wound, America’s students have been particularly damaged by the pandemic in terms of their mental and physical well being. This has certainly contributed to lower scores. Students now have less motivation to study and perform well, feeling that they already have missed out on a lot. 

U.S. spending on education falls short of benchmarks set by international organizations such as UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Education spending in America accounts for only 12.47% of its total public expenditures, compared to the United Nations’ minimum standard of 15%.

Even a small country like Luxembourg spends approximately $25,500 per pupil. And some African nations contribute more, on average, of their gross domestic product to education than the United States.

Test scores provide more evidence that America is lagging behind other nations. Students in countries like Japan, South Korea, England, Estonia and Taiwan far surpass their U.S. peers in math, reading and science test scores.

Taiwan Performance (2022)

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Taiwan performance for 2022

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Korean performance for 2022

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Estonian performance for 2022

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So why are we behind? 

One reason for this decline can be attributed to the No Child Left Behind Act, which despite its wide support, might have actually reduced the performance of U.S. students.

 According to University Texas at Austin researchers, despite its good intentions, the act moved the U.S. education system from a more equal and accessible schooling system to one that is more polarized, in which socioeconomically disadvantaged schools are severely punished for not producing good results.

Another reason is schools do not spend enough time on core subjects (although some critics argue there is too-great a focus on core subjects, to the detriment of students’ overall educational experience). To recover from the covid decline, some experts have suggested adding another year to high school or devoting a particular year to intense focus on core materials. 

As our world progresses, and the U.S. falls back, closing the gap is easier said than done. But economic and social justice demands that we change. If the U.S. fails to help students catch up on their work, it is not the covid pandemic that will be responsible for the failure, but us. 

Information sources:

https://educationdata.org/public-education-spending-statistics#:~:text=Report%20Highlights.,fund%20K%2D12%20public%20education.

https://ncee.org/top-performing-countries/

https://honors.cns.utexas.edu/sites/default/files/documents/allison_woods-nochildleftbehind.pdf

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/05/11/opinion/pandemic-learning-losses-steep-but-not-permanent.html

https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/profiles/stateprofile/overview/CA?chort=2&sub=MAT&st=MN&year=2022R3&sfj=NP&cti=PgTab_OT&sj=CA

https://standtogether2.org/news/ways-to-improve-the-quality-of-education-in-the-us/

https://www.brookings.edu/articles/the-alarming-state-of-the-american-student-in-2022/

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Maxim Russu
Maxim Russu, Reporter
I attend Cordova High School in Rancho Cordova.
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