Surpassing Shanghai: Part I

Marc Tucker’s 2011 book, Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems, is a response to the many skeptics of the decline of the American education system. Washington Post columnist Jay Matthews deemed the book “unsettling” because of the author’s presentation of evidence that shows why Americans are “running out of excuses” for declining standardized test scores. In his article, Matthews highlighted five of these “excuses” that many are using to justify America’s poor educational performance.

First is the belief that U.S. children score lower because many are from immigrant families who speak languages other than English. Using data from the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, Tucker asserted that Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Hong Kong all have percentages of immigrant students at equal or higher rates than the U.S. Yet, they still outperform American students.

Second is the belief that the U.S. national average PISA scores are brought down by low-income students from urban schools. Tucker believes that this is false because the “U.S. suburban average is only slightly above average for all developed nations” in the OECD.

Third is the belief that the U.S. has a higher percentage of “disadvantaged students” than the top-performing countries. However, twenty-seven countries have a higher percentage of resilient students – students who are have low socio-economic status but still score very well – which suggests that their schools do a better job of “educating the students are who are most difficult to teach.”

Fourth is the belief that the U.S. should spend more on education to get better scores. Tucker responded by saying that where the money is spent matters much more than how much. Only one OECD country, Luxembourg, spends more per student than the U.S.

Fifth is the belief that reducing class sizes will lead to higher performance. There is little causal evidence to show that changing class sizes will affect performance. Instead, PISA data indicates that there is a correlation between higher salaries for teachers and performance.

Posted by: Pokyee Yu

Sources: Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems, The Washington Post

Photo Credit: Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems By Marc S. Tucker. 288 Pages. Harvard Education Press. $29.95.

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One Response to Surpassing Shanghai: Part I

  1. *Shanghai says:

    I totally agree with Jay Mathew’s on one thing; as much as it is important to find out why the U.S education system has been declining on the international level, more effort should be focused on how to improve it.

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