Education reform in the United States over the past few months has been hitting a fever pitch with state education departments working overtime to improve student achievements in order to receive federal aide from the government.
However, in spite of these efforts, a new Harvard study has shown that the United States still lags behind other industrialized countries in education.
“Noticeable gains in math, science and reading have been achieved by American students in fourth and eighth grade on the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP,” said Paul E. Peterson, Harvard professor and Program on Education Policy and Governance director.
However, Peterson explains that these gains are mediocre at best with other countries routinely outpacing the United States.
“But students in the other countries are, on average, making the same rate of gain,” Peterson continued. “Indeed, the rate of improvement in the US is no better than the median rate for 49 industrialized and developing countries.”
According to the study students in three countries—Latvia, Chile, and Brazil—are improving at a rate of 4 percent annually, which is nearly three times as much as the United States.
Eight other countries—Portugal, Hong Kong, Germany, Poland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Colombia and Lithuania—are increasing at a rate twice that of the United States. The study ranks the United States in the middle of 49 countries with the 24 countries doing better and 24 countries doing worse.
“Progress within the United States is middling, not stellar,” Peterson said in a release.
The authors of the study explained that the slow progress of American students in math and science could potentially have adverse effects on the economy threatening its growth.
The authors write in the study, “because rates of economic growth have a huge impact of the future well-being of the nation, there is a simple message: a country ignores the quality of its schools at its economic peril.”
“Some would excuse the mediocre U.S. performance by claiming that it provides a more equal education to a much more diverse population than other countries do. It is claimed that test scores in the United States are lower than those in many other countries because they are not providing an education to all their students.”
This study comes at a time when the Obama Administration has been ramping up efforts to compete internationally in education. Recently President Obama announced initiatives to bring more technology into the classroom in order to increase teaching innovation and student achievement.
Additional findings in the study examined individual states within the United States:
• No significant correlation was found between increased spending on education and test score gains. For example, in 2009, the U.S. spent more than $10,000 per student, ranging from $6,356 in Utah to $18,126 in New York. However in spite of this spending, Utah’s high school graduation rate was higher than New York’s.
• States where students improved the most overall were also the states that had the largest percentage of reduction in students with very low achievement.
• Southern states outpaced Midwestern states. Five of the top 10 states were in the South, and no Southern states were in the bottom 18.
Nancy Swanson is a writer for 360 Education Solutions