I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Friday, December 31, 2010

International Test Score Comparison Fail - Part I

We now have a "reform" movement in education that is predicated on proving that American schools are failing miserably. Moaning abut the horrible test scores of America kids compared to the rest of the world's students has become a necessary requirement for the 'former who wants to look "serious".

The problem is that the 'formers are either knowingly misrepresenting these test results, or don't know how to read them correctly. And the media, which has shown over and over again that it can't do even the most basic analysis, is playing along.

Tino Sanandaji takes the 'formers to task:
So similar to my comparison of GDP levels, let us compare Americans with European ancestry (about 65% of the U.S population, and not some sort of elite) with Europeans in Europe. We remove Asians, Mexicans, African-Americans and other countries that are best compared to their home nations. In Europe, we remove immigrants. 

The results are astonishing at least to me. Rather than being at the bottom of the class, United States students are 7th best out of 28, and far better than the average of Western European nations where they largely originate from. 

The mean score of Americans with European ancestry is 524, compared to 506 in Europe, when first and second generation immigrants are excluded. So much for the bigoted notions that Americans are dumb and Europeans are smart. This is also opposed to everything I have been taught about the American public school system.
Read the entire thing - it's well worth it. I do, however, have to respond to this:
Similarly, the left claims that the American education system is horrible, because Americans don’t invest enough in education. The left has no answer when you point out that the United States spends insanely more than Europe and East Asia on education. According to the OECD, the United States spends about 50% more per pupil than the average for Western Europe, and 40% more than Japan.
I have an answer: a large part of that expenditure in the US includes providing health care and retirement benefits to teachers and other public school workers. But in every other OECD country, those expenses are provided to all citizens nationally. So the US has to report those expenses on human welfare as part of its education spending, while other countries do not. That makes a huge difference.

I am still waiting for some academic to do a comparison on spending that takes this into account. Tino, have you started on you dissertation yet?


Anonymous said...

Henry Levin at Teachers College (Columbia U.) is working on the corrected spending comparisons. I've been in touch with him throughout the process. He should have a paper out this spring on the topic.

Duke said...

In an ideal world, it would come out before NJ school elections, and influence the debate on school funding.

As if...

Still, we need this data for the long-term. Looking forward to reading it and begging you to interpret the math!