Seeing a Glass Half Empty on International Rankings?

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To the Editor:

I was surprised to see your recent headline “Top-Achieving Nations Beat U.S. States in Math and Science” (edweek.org, Nov. 13, 2007). Only the day before, I read a headline in the International Herald Tribune on the same news item, “Study Compares American Students With Other Countries’.”

The lead on your article, published online, was: “Students in the highest-performing U.S. states rank well below their peers in the world’s top-achieving countries in mathematics and science skill, according to a new study that judges American youths on an international scale.” The lead in the Herald Tribune article was: “American students even in low-performing states like Alabama do better on math and science tests than students in most foreign countries, including Italy and Norway, according to a new study released Wednesday.”

One would have thought I was reading about two different studies, but I wasn’t. Instead of selling bad news through shocking headlines, why not present a reasoned discussion that might lead to a useful look at education issues?

Dan Laitsch
Assistant Professor
Faculty of Education
Simon Fraser University
Surrey, British Columbia, Canada

To the Editor:

The United States’ falling behind other nations in science and math scores has been the case for many years. This is because “other nations” do not have to educate every child. In fact, most do not, and those they do educate tend to be the brightest. When these students, the “little shining stars,” are tested, they do well. The United States, on the other hand, educates everyone.

You as a newspaper should know this. Why are you fanning the flames of a situation that your readership is getting the blame for, even though it’s not something we have control over?

Alicia Hicks
Albuquerque, N.M.

Vol. 27, Issue 14, Page 26

Published in Print: December 5, 2007, as Seeing a Glass Half Empty on International Rankings?
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