"Generally speaking, the smartest countries tend to be those that have acted to make teaching more prestigious and selective; directed more resources to their neediest children; enrolled most children in high-quality preschools; helped schools establish cultures of constant improvement; and applied rigorous, consistent standards across all classrooms."
A recent article in the New York Times tells us what the most successful countries - in terms of education - do to ensure their students are performing well academically. That list shouldn't be eye-opening, but in the United States, it can be. None of those things are particularly groundbreaking ideas, nor are they new inventions. And in small pockets of the U.S., they are doing these things. But as a whole, our country is woefully behind.
The article reviews the results of the PISA exam, given to 15-year-olds in 69 countries, which showed this year that American students' already-poor math performance dropped further, and their reading and science performance stayed stagnant in the middle of the pack. What does that mean for the economic future of American students?
"Math, a subject that reliably predicts children’s future earnings, continues to be the United States’ weakest area at every income level. Nearly a third of American 15-year-olds are not meeting a baseline level of ability — the lowest level the O.E.C.D. believes children must reach in order to thrive as adults in the modern world."
A quality education is a key predictor of numerous life outcomes, such as income, likelihood of going to prison, and even health, but it also has a gigantic effect on a society's wellbeing. Education, then, should be a top priority for U.S. lawmakers and citizens alike. It's why Stand for Children exists, and it's why we fight so hard for improved policies on things like high standards, access to pre-K, college and career readiness, equitable funding, and teacher quality...all of which are things that make those other countries perform much better than we do.