to the NYT articles and letters above…. I respond thusly:
I tend to agree more with the Letters, than with the nyt article and even less so with the report.
I think we have to be very careful about accounting for the cultural institutionalization of learning in China and the U.S. We need to be much more careful than the 29 page report. The report does not do that very well at all, it basically assumes a ‘most similar systems’ model of society and culture to make its comparison. This model is not justified in my mind. The U.S. and China are involved in fundamentally different projects in their educational systems though they have similar goals. Time on task type training, which is ‘efficient’ in China, might not be ‘efficient’ in the U.S. where we likely focus on a different sense of freedom, creativity and progress in learning.
I think it would be far more productive, policy-wise, to actually address the issues within the u.s. in regards to graduation and retention rates. Achievement measurement is grossly affected when there are an overwhelming percentage of people who are being ‘left behind’ or ‘unaddressed’ by the school systems in the u.s. In fact, i think we can probably fairly easily show that the single norm distribution basis for ‘science and math education measurements’ is actually multi-modal and the arguments based on the covering norm are actually hiding very serious social and educational issues. If the needs of the people represented in the lower achieving modes of the population were addressed and they were taught and graduated, I think you would see the measured norm of science and math education change dramatically in the u.s.
What then is the real politics and policy behind the report? It seeks to legitimize national standards and national testing, taking away a power that has been relegated to local democracies and replacing it with national bureaucracies. It seeks to remove teacher control of the curriculum. It seems better teaching of teachers (ok, i agree with this one, give us educated and inspired teachers). It seeks to replace the open system of education and admissions with examination based access to education, (given what we know about cultural biases in the sat and act … ), etc. etc. In short, I think what we have is just a document that seeks to expand the currently promoted educational regime, which in the last 7 years or so has demonstrated significant problems addressing the needs of all students in the U.S.