American Education “Just Isn’t Working” –
Or It It?
by Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D. December 6, 2019
America is in a “student achievement crisis”, continuing a decades-long downward slide. Progressive education clearly isn’t working. The latest test results confirm that America is becoming an illiterate nation, outflanked by Communist China.
OECD released the test results for the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) which showed the performance of American teenagers in reading and math continuing its stagnant trend since 2000. In math, American students significantly underperformed the OECD average. In reading, American 15-year-olds can read only at a basic level, with reading proficiency in two out of six levels. The achievement gap between low and high performers is widening with about one-fifth of American 15-year-olds failing to master the reading skills expected of 10-year-olds.
Blaming low economic circumstances for low performance is a popular excuse for poor academic achievement in the U.S., yet we were soundly beaten by poor students in four provinces of China – Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Although they are far from representing the entire country of China, each compares in size to a typical OECD country with a combined population total of 180 million. Their income levels are well below the OECD average of $30,500 with Shanghai’s $8900 the highest in the country. The 10% of their most disadvantaged students performed better in reading than the average student in OECD countries. Across the countries in OECD, one in ten disadvantaged students score in the top quarter of reading performance in his/her country.
In addition to China, we were outranked in reading by Estonia, Canada, Finland, Ireland, Korea, Poland, Sweden, and New Zealand.
This report comes on the heels of the 2019 scores on NAEP which showed that only 35 percent of 4th graders are proficient readers. In the 2017 PIRLS, the U.S. slid in reading comprehension from 5th to 13th. ACT math scores from 2018 saw a new low, with no progress since 1998.
“Daniel Koretz, an expert on testing and a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, said recent test results showed it’s really time to rethink the entire drift of policy reform because it just isn’t working.’” In typical liberal thinking, Koretz believes the problem is not the Progressive education Common Core, but that it hasn’t been implemented correctly.
Still, he hit the nail on the head. American education “isn’t working” and it never will until we abandon Progressivism and return to classical learning.
Instead of abandoning Progressivism, so-called experts are going back to the drawing board to figure out new fixes for the problem.
“We recognize the urgency of improving outcomes for all students. Therefore, CCSSO will lead a summit of state chiefs joined by national experts, educators and other partners to examine what we know works and what must be done to improve literacy for all kids.”
Let’s be clear: these are the “experts” who gave us Common Core so we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for them to solve the problem. Based upon the past, we can safely predict they will muck it up even worse.
Why do two-thirds of students fail to read proficiently? Why is the gap between the highest and lowest performing students widening, despite “$1 trillion in Federal spending over 40 years designated specifically to help close it?”
The answer lies in progressive education and Teacher Colleges where progressive education methodology is taught. Decades of cognitive science clearly show that “teaching systematic phonics is the most reliable way to make sure students learn how to read words.” Still, most K-2 teachers and education professors are using reading methods that run counter, according to two national surveys by the Education Week Research Center.
Further complicating the reading problem is the widespread use of computers – personalized learning – in American classrooms. Numerous U.S. studies have found that reading comprehension is reduced in computerized learning. A 2015 OECD study found lower scores on reading and math tests for students with classroom computer access.
Common Core is supposed to teach students to think critically. Since critical thinking requires higher levels of reading proficiency and comprehension, that's an unrealistic goal for most students.
Yet critical thinking is an important skill in the world of the web, according to OECD’s Andreas Schleicher. Readers must be able to evaluate the quality and veracity of the vast amounts of information through inferences and cues but the PISA test results show that 90% can’t. Onlyone in 10 students could "distinguish between fact and opinion, based on implicit cues pertaining to the content or source of the information."
Public schools are leftwing change agents with Common Core as the Trojan horse. The 21st century soft skills of social and emotional learning, deemed the primary purpose of education by federal lawmakers,are being implemented through Common Core, the “glue that ties everything together.”
As Koretz said, American education “just isn’t working.” Well, not for academic learning. But it is working as taxpayer funded indoctrination centers. And it’s highly successful as a cash cow for Silicon Valley companies and for thousands making fat salaries at education foundations, education resources companies, education media, U.S. Department of Education, state education agencies, and teacher colleges.