The Herald Bulletin

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Editorials

December 12, 2013

Editorial: Like it or not, education in America must change

Many Hoosiers gnashed their teeth or protested vehemently the changes in public education wrought by former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett.

We believe, with good reason, that the student testing standards and teacher evaluations that Bennett and his supporters introduced are unfair and fail to recognize that schools are schools, not businesses.

But it’s difficult to argue with the assessment that education in Indiana, and across the United States, must change. Consistently, international testing of children shows the U.S. lags behind world leaders in academic achievement.

The 2012 testing of the Program of International Student Assessment, or PISA, again puts American students well below the world’s best. The PISA tested 15-year-olds in reading, math and science. American students, overall, ranked 24th, 36th and 28th in those respective categories. Results were released in early December.

U.S. kids were above average in each of the subject matters, but that hardly qualifies as acceptable. With our resources and educational infrastructure, we should be near the top of the list in all categories.

Instead, Asian nations dominated the testing, administered by a French organization. Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Vietnam ranked high. Several European countries easily outstripped the U.S., as well.

Now, you might suspect that scores can be skewed by who takes the test in various countries. Indeed, in Shanghai, elite students are allowed into public school and therefore are tested, while migrants are not included in municipal education programs.

But focusing on perceived testing inequities misses the point altogether. American students are not achieving at a level high enough to ensure that our country remains a leader in science and related fields.

Even if you don’t like the measures that Bennett and his supporters took to change education in Indiana, there’s no getting around the fact that we must change — before succeeding generations of students get left farther and farther behind in the worldwide race for academic excellence.

In summary American students are not achieving at a level high enough to ensure that our country remains a leader in science and related fields.

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