Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Percentage of U.S. High School students studying advanced mathematics trails most industrialized nations

According to the first-ever comprehensive study comparing the percentage of U.S. students in the graduating class of 2009 who have advanced skills in math with the percentages of similar high achievers in 56 other countries, only six percent of U. S. students perform at the advanced level in math, as compared to 28 percent of Taiwanese students and more than 20 percent of students in Finland and Korea. Overall, the United States ranks 31st out of 56 countries, falling behind most industrialized nations. The report is available on the web at www.educationnext.org.

The study, sponsored by the journal Education Next and Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance, was co-authored by Eric A. Hanushek of Stanford University, Paul E. Peterson of Harvard University and Ludger Woessmann of the University of Munich. The authors analyzed state-by-state the percentage of students performing at advanced levels. Most states in the U.S. rank closer to developing countries than to developed countries. Thirteen developed countries have more than twice the percentage of advanced students as does the U.S., including Germany, Canada, the Czech Republic, Japan, Finland and Austria.

The lagging U.S. performance is not just explained by its heterogeneous population. The report also compared to other countries U.S. white students and children of parents with college degrees—two groups against which the case of discrimination cannot be made easily. The analysis found that only 8 percent of white students and 10 percent of students from all races with at least one college-educated parent performed at the advanced level. By comparison, 18 countries saw 10 percent of all their students performing at the advanced level. The percentage of high-performing students in each state, as well as the ranking of each state in comparison to other countries, is provided in the accompanying table and figure.

Other findings from the study include:

• Just 4.5 percent of the students in California are performing at the highly accomplished level, a percentage that trails 32 countries and is comparable to the performance of students in Portugal, Italy, Israel, and Turkey.

• The lowest-ranking states—West Virginia, New Mexico and Mississippi—fall behind Serbia and Uruguay.

• The only OECD countries—out of 30—producing a smaller percentage of advanced math students than the U.S. were Spain, Italy, Israel, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Chile and Mexico.

“Public discourse has tended to focus on the need to address low achievement, particularly among disadvantaged students, and bring everyone up to a minimum level of proficiency,” said Peterson. “As great as this need may be, there is no less need to lift more students, no matter their socio-economic background, to high levels of educational accomplishment.”

Some attribute the comparatively small percentages of students performing at the advanced level to the focus of the 2002 law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), on the needs of very low-performing students. However, in mathematics, the percentage performing at an advanced level rose after the passage of the law, although not to internationally competitive levels.

“The incapacity of American schools to bring students up to the highest level of accomplishment in math is much more deep-seated than anything induced by recent federal legislation,” Hanushek pointed out.

The analysis uses the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2005 advanced standard to compare U.S. state performances with performance in other countries. Since U.S. students took both the NAEP 2005 and the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2006, it was possible to find the score on the PISA that is tantamount to scoring at the advanced level on the NAEP. The PISA is an internationally standardized assessment of student performance in math, science and reading, established by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“Maintaining national productivity depends importantly on developing a highly qualified cadre of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and other professionals,” Woessmann observed.


British tuition fee protest: 18-year-old student arrested

Police have arrested an 18-year-old college student in connection with the throwing of a fire extinguisher at police from the roof of Conservative Party headquarters.

The man, believed to be the long-haired protester pictured in photographs released by police yesterday, was arrested in Southampton by Scotland Yard officers on Monday night. He is expected to be transferred to London on Tuesday for formal questioning.

The canister landed inches away from a group of police officers 70ft below. One officer admitted had it hit him "somebody would have been visiting my wife and children and saying either I was dead, or very, very seriously injured".

The new pictures emerged as the president of the university lecturers union joined more than 20 other senior academics in controversially supporting the demonstrators who rioted at Millbank Tower last week.

Images of the student, who was wearing a black leather jacket and a scarf, were captured by Sky News. He was seen entering the Milbank Tower building, holding a pink and yellow placard. Having accessed the roof, a similar looking long-haired suspect is seen picking up the extinguisher and throwing it over the roof with his right hand.

A protester standing beside him immediately ran away from the edge of the roof, apparently aware of the gravity of the offence.

The wanted man walked away calmly, before looking up to the skies at a television helicopter, and then wrapping a scarf around his face to help disguise himself. He left the roof area via a stairwell and disappearing into the crowds.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said earlier on Monday: "This is a person the police would be interested in speaking to in connection with the incident."

A total of 57 people have been arrested and bailed after violence erupted during the student fees protests in London last week. Several students were seen holding fire extinguishers on the roof of the Tory HQ during the protests. Jackson Potter, a 23-year-old student, believed to be one of them, was arrested in Cambridge on Friday. The Anglia Ruskin University student was later released on police bail.

Meanwhile, Alan Whitaker, the president of the University and College Union (UCU) and National Executive Committee, signed a statement saying they stand by those who were arrested. "We will not side with those who condemn violence against windows and property but will not condemn or even name the long-term violence of cuts that will scar the lives of hundreds of thousands by denying them access to the education of their choice,” the statement said.


Australia's proposed national geography syllabus is under heavy fire

Leftists are even managing to inject propaganda into geography!

THE proposed national geography curriculum lacks clarity and quality. NSW geographers are concerned it contains an inadequate focus on physical geography or the study of "capes and bays", which underpins the study of the discipline.

The NSW Board of Studies argues the proposed curriculum will overemphasise social and economic geography at the expense of the study of the physical world. The sample structure for the course suggests students in Years 7-10 take a "cultural/social constructivist" approach.

The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority said yesterday the geography paper proposed that students become familiar with the various ways geographers approach their study. By year 10 this would include various "locational, spatial, temporal and cultural approaches".

A spokesman said it was not about cultural relativism, "but simply an acknowledgement that in the real world and throughout history, different people might look at problems of geography in different ways".

In its response to the shape paper of the geography curriculum, which curriculum writers use as the basis for the syllabus, the NSW Board of Studies argues the proposed outline is flawed and fails to provide a sound basis for the development of a quality national course.

The board suggests the various approaches be dropped and says the proposed curriculum "will not match the current quality of the NSW geography curriculum and that geography education in NSW will be compromised and diminished". NSW is the only state that has taught geography as a stand-alone subject in high school over the past 20 or 30 years.

Other states and territories teach geography as part of an integrated social studies course with subjects such as history and economics.

The Board of Studies response notes the status of geography in NSW schools, which is compulsory from Years 7 to 10, is not matched in the other states and territories, implying the existing NSW curriculum is superior. "NSW students will have less geographical understanding at the end of their Year 10 education under the proposed curriculum," it says. "The draft shape paper does not yet have a curriculum structure that provides the basis for a high-quality curriculum for geography."

The geography fraternity in NSW is also concerned about the status of geography in the national curriculum, with the time devoted to the course not stated and suggestions that it will be mandatory only until Year 8.

Kevin Dunn, professor of geography and urban studies at the University of Western Sydney, said yesterday the NSW curriculum was a benchmark other states should reach. "Only with the appropriate amount of mandatory hours can we expect the teaching of geography, at the depth necessary, to ensure that students have a satisfactory level of understanding of environmental sustainability, conservation, population, indigenous cultures and land management," he said. "We need citizens who understand their world, and how the world will be in the future."


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