The U.S. Needs a Different Path to Improve Our Unimpressive Math Scores

Sometimes it’s good to step back and take a look at the big picture. That’s as true in the discussions about education reform as it is anywhere. A brand-new, 6-minute video does just that, but in a clever and lighthearted manner:

Don’t forget the number 32! And not because it was worn on the jerseys of great athletes like Magic Johnson, Sandy Koufax, and Jim Brown. How about the fact that American students rank #32 in the world in math proficiency? Yeah, that’s not so much to get excited about.

That sounds very similar to a new website that’s pushing Colorado to think about raising expectations for education, rather than raising taxes. Kids Are First points out right off the top that the U.S. is 1st in the world in education spending, but 31st in math achievement. (The painful news doesn’t get much better from there.) Rather than focus on the discrepancy between 31st and 32nd that may be due to — well, American education’s sub-par record in math — we ought to focus on the serious long-term implications of this meager academic record.

The book touted by the video, Endangering Prosperity by Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann, notes that if we simply caught up with Canada on math achievement, our nation’s economic future would be much brighter. Dr. Peterson’s recent podcast discussion with my Education Policy Center friend really brings the point home clearly.

And the United States’ low ranking is not just a result of the gap that hurts the most disadvantaged students either. As I told you a few months ago, the struggles of our middle-income kids present a strong rationale for Douglas County’s efforts to raise the bar on academic standards.

On a final note, no matter what rumors you may have heard, the kid in that video is NOT my older brother. First of all, I’m not sure who would name their offspring Dashton, but my parents certainly don’t fit in that category. But also, any geeky resemblance of interests in education policy are purely coincidental. I assure you!