Tech trade associations and others often raise the specter of an American educational system that is failing to keep up with counterparts in countries like India and China.
But is it lagging behind and, if so, by how much? A new report from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) may shed some light on the matter, reports the Christian Science Monitor. It links 8th-grade state scores in math and science on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), indicating where each state ranks on a scale with 45 industrialized and developing countries.
The good news, notes the AIR's chief scientist, is that most states perform better than the majority of countries on the list. Yet the best states are behind the best countries.
... so even though we're in the race, we're not winning the race.
India and China are not yet included in these comparisons, says the article, although they are often mentioned as competitors because of their sheer size and their determination to narrow their educational gaps.
Recent political and economic shifts in some countries are creating "a kind of seismic shift" akin to the one that occurred in the U.S. following World War II when the nation invested heavily in public education, says the VP for education for the nonprofit Asia Society in New York.
In China, says an Ohio education official, the country's top high schools forge partnerships with businesses, universities and the K-12 system. Though there is no large-scale organized effort to do so in the U.S., companies like Microsoft and Google are providing funding and other support for educational initiatives in Philadelphia and other school districts, as detailed in this Fast Company article.
There are also an increasing number of programs like the one in which the Memphis, Tenn., chapter of the Society for Information Management (SIM) partnered with the local library system to present a series of technology camps for 12-to-15-year-olds. According to Computerworld, the teens get a chance to experiment with gadgets and talk to tech pros about the role of technology in business. SIM hopes to duplicate the program in other cities.
The Christian Science Monitor story notes that 30 states have joined the American Diploma Project Network, organized by the nonprofit Achieve Inc. Says Achieve president Michael Cohen:
Governors and chief state school officers ... basically have said, "Well, it's great that you want us to align our expectations with the real world kids will face domestically ... but that's not enough; we need to know what our expectations ought to be in order for our kids to succeed (globally)."