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Education United States News

US Educational Scores Not So Abysmal 412

Posted by Soulskill
from the hooray-we-are-slightly-less-dumb-than-we-thought dept.
DavidHumus writes "The much-publicized international rankings of student test scores — PISA — rank the U.S. lower than it ought to be for two reasons: a sampling bias that includes a higher proportion of lower socio-economic classes from the U.S. than are in the general population and a higher proportion of of U.S. students than non-U.S. who are in the lower socio-economic classes. If one were to rank comparable classes between the U.S. and the rest of the world, U.S. scores would rise to 4th from 14th in reading (PDF) and to 10th from 25th in math."
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US Educational Scores Not So Abysmal

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  • by cpm99352 (939350) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @05:43PM (#42610065)
    FA says "Based on their analysis, the co-authors found that average U.S. scores in reading and math on the PISA are low partly because a disproportionately greater share of U.S. students comes from disadvantaged social class groups, whose performance is relatively low in every country."

    Hmm, is the study arguing then that these students should be excluded? If so, what is the basis? Are they not really in the country?

    Or are they sidestepping the issue of the massive difference in standards of living in the United States?

    Granted, the source material may have handled this better than the summary article...

    FA says: "As part of the study, Carnoy and Rothstein calculated how international rankings on the most recent PISA might change if the United States had a social class composition similar to that of top-ranking nations"

    And the point is???
  • Re:Wait a second!1 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fnordulicious (85996) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @06:16PM (#42610603) Homepage

    This has nothing to do with math, actually. It’s instead a conceptual and linguistic problem because of two different metaphors we use in English. One is that the increase in value of numbers from zero to infinity is modelled as a vertical scale. Thus zero is at the bottom, one is above zero, two is above one, and so forth. The other is that the *decrease* in value of numbers from infinity to zero is *also* a vertical scale. Thus zero is at the top, one is below zero, two is below one, and so forth. So we have two metaphors:

    1. Numbers are vertical. Zero is the top.
    2. Numbers are vertical. Zero is the bottom.

    Note that neither of these is actually valid in any physical sense. Numbers have no physical relationship with vertical alignment in a space. We use these sorts of metaphors because they map abstract concepts to our perceptions of the physical world, thus making it easier for us to visualize them – to “see” them mentally. Unfortunately for us, metaphors may conflict between people, and then our communication about these abstract concepts becomes confused.

    A similar situation arises with time, which is another abstract concept that we can’t perceive (we have no perceptual apparatus for time itself, only for physical changes over time). Suppose I have a party scheduled on Tuesday. A friend can’t make it, so he wants to reschedule it. He says to me “Can we move the party ahead?” Does this mean the party should be moved to Monday, or to Wednesday? It turns out there are two competing metaphors involved.

    1. Time moves forward.
    2. Events in the future move toward us.

    If you apply the metaphor in 1 then the party should be moved to Wednesday. This is because, since time moves forward, “ahead” means a point in the future in the direction of time’s movement. But if you apply the metaphor in 2 then the party should be moved to Monday. This is because, from where we “stand” in this vision of time, if an event moves “ahead” of its position then it will move toward us. In effect the events “face” us. The party then occurs *earlier* in time, hence on the day before Tuesday. Now that you’re aware of this difference, you may discover that it depends on some physical properties of our experience. In fact, people who are moving – say walking or riding a bike – are more likely to use metaphor 2 above. People who are sitting still are more likely to use metaphor number 1. So if you walk into someone’s office, you’re primed for 2 and the seated person is primed for 1. You agree together to move a meeting “ahead” and then later discover the misunderstanding.

    These sorts of metaphors are typical across the world’s languages because they handle perceptual limitations common to all humans. The need for these metaphors is universal, but the precise metaphors are not necessarily the same. For example, there is evidence that Aymara – a language indigenous to the northern Andes of South America – has a metaphor for time quite unlike what English speakers are used to. In Aymara, people have a metaphor that amounts to “Time is visible”. Events that occurred in the past are visible, and thus lie ahead of the speaker. Events that occur in the future are not visible, and hence lie behind the speaker. Time then moves backward in conceptual space, exactly the opposite of what we’re accustomed to in English. This isn’t the same as “Events in time move toward us”, but it’s similar.

  • by NatasRevol (731260) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @06:33PM (#42610827) Journal

    See the American South(East) for failures of both.

    And why I left there.

  • by AK Marc (707885) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @07:30PM (#42611361)
    Again, it's blaming the poor for the problems caused by the rich. The rich sabotage the school system to get vounchers and such out, harming the children. Just like the "subprime" crisis was named by the old rich white male bankers who caused the problem, to blame the poor for the problem they made.

    If the poor just got jobs and paid taxes, we'd have a balanced budget. It's all the poor's fault.
  • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @08:12PM (#42611721) Homepage

    It's what happens at home that makes the difference, namely greater expectations from parents and a greater range of activities and experiences outside the school.

    Better nutrition. Safer neighborhoods. Likely more stable homes. Being able to afford extra-curricular activities. Educated parents to help with homework.

    I'm not disagreeing with you ... all of the benefits of being rich/better off translate into many things. We sure as hell couldn't afford to play team sports when we were kids ... people used to spend thousands of dollars each year, probably more. Not an option in my family.

    If you go to school hungry, or have to worry about avoiding gangs, junkies and all of the things that rich kids don't ... there's a lot more distractions and a lot fewer opportunities. Other Shit gets in the way.

    Which is why people ignorantly say "they're just wasting their opportunity for an education". They're mostly just trying to get by with many more problems than advantaged kids, but people act like it's an equal playing field to start with.

    But people don't want to fix the underlying socio-economic problems, they want higher test scores. They just say that "education in America is fine, it's the poor kids who are dragging down our test scores, the private schools are thriving. Who cares is the public schools might have developing-nation literacy rates?"

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @10:14PM (#42612799)

    The article doesn't break it down by race, but by class.

    TFA does not break it down by race, but it is broken down by race in plenty of other places. Blacks do about one standard deviation worse than whites. If you correct for socio-economic status, some, but not all, of the disparity will go away. But blacks do worse even when compared with white classmates of the same family income.

    So we've got more lower class, and our upper class is worse. We have relatively uneducated children.

    This is because the USA has more racial minorities in all socio-economic groups. When you break it down by demographic group (both race and income), America does just as well as other countries.

    Of course, we should not consider any of this as justification for complacency. Race is not destiny, and blacks today do better than whites did a few generations ago. But we need to make sure we learn the right lessons. Looking at other countries as examples of the "right" way to educate children is misguided, because they actually do no better than us.

  • by tragedy (27079) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @10:35PM (#42612945)

    Only some 6% of the wealthy inherited their money, with another 25% gaining wealth with a combination of work and inheritance.

    I'm interested how that statistic is actually calculated. Take Bill Gates. Certainly born to wealth, privilege, influence and opportunity, but went from a mere millionaire to a billionaire. In those statistics, is he a member of the 6%, the 25%, or the remaining 69%? What about rich people who were born rich but lost most of their money, but are still rich? What about people who technically didn't inherit their wealth, but got one form of nepotistic appointment or another?

  • by afidel (530433) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @11:33PM (#42613333)

    Primary school is only an education if you're a pre-industrial farmer, secondary education is the bare minimum to really participate in the international economy and do better than living paycheck to paycheck. In much of Europe the lower class are locked out of effective secondary education at a young age, the US may do so de facto but the European model does it de jure, I think the US model has more chance of eventually fixing the problem than the European model.

  • by T.E.D. (34228) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @10:41AM (#42616807)

    One advantage many people either don't realise or don't think about is expectations. I knew from an early age I was going to attend and graduate from college, perhaps even graduate school. My parents did, and that was just what comes next after grade school, middle school, and high school. I remember being suprised at many of my friends my senior year not knowing what they were going to do next. How could someone not know? College is next!

    So when troubles came (as they eventually do for everyone), I knew any path forward was going to include me sticking it out and graduating. I had a girlfriend whose mother had dropped out out college. She was having a rough time with a paper she needed to get a good grade on, and just decided that was it. She was quitting college. I remember my utter shock at this, as that had simply never occurred to me as an option.

    A person's expectations for themselves are very powerful, and that is strongly affected by their background.

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