Focus on Success Here, Not Abroad

October 28, 2008 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Here’s another rebuttal of the notion that U.S. schools and students are being outperformed by other nations. Veteran Washington Post education reporter and columnist Jay Mathews in an Op/Ed piece in the Boston Globe takes issue with the claims that American students have fallen far behind their counterparts in India and China and elsewhere.

“The widespread feeling that our schools are losing out to the rest of the world, that we are not producing enough scientists and engineers, is a misunderstanding fueled by misleading statistics,” he writes. “Reports regularly conclude that the United States is falling behind other countries—in the number of engineers it produces, in the performance of its students in reading or in mathematics. But closer examinations of these reports are showing that they do not always compare comparable students, skewing the results.”

But the picture he paints of American schools is not glowing. Too many of the nation’s urban and rural schools are “simply bad.”

“Not only are we denying the children who attend them the equal education that is their right, but we are squandering almost a third of our intellectual capital,” Mathews writes. “We are beating the world economically, but with one hand tied behind our back.”

There are a couple of initiatives under way in the United States to set standards that align with international benchmarks, meaning the expectations that other countries hold for their students at various grade levels. But while proponents say this strategy will bring world-class schooling to America, critics argue that such expectations will leave more students in the dust.

Mathews (who is a board member for Editorial Projects in Education, which publishes Education Week) suggests focusing not on what other countries are doing, but on success stories among urban schools in U.S. cities for examples of the real potential for raising student achievement in the most unlikely places.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.


Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Boosting Student and Staff Mental Health: What Schools Can Do
Join this free virtual event based on recent reporting on student and staff mental health challenges and how schools have responded.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
Practical Methods for Integrating Computer Science into Core Curriculum
Dive into insights on integrating computer science into core curricula with expert tips and practical strategies to empower students at every grade level.
Content provided by

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: October 11, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: September 27, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: September 20, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education From Our Research Center What's on the Minds of Educators, in Charts
Politics, gender equity, and technology—how teachers and administrators say these issues are affecting the field.
1 min read
Stylized illustration of a pie chart
Traci Daberko for Education Week