The good side is noteworthy. Thirty-six states and jurisdictions scored higher than the international average in math. The scores in 10 states were roughly the same as the international average. Six states had lower scores.
Science was even better. Forty-seven states and jurisdictions scored higher. Two were about the same. Three had lower scores.
As for the bad news, Alabama was in the bottom category in both math and science. The state’s performance in math ranked it right in there with Armenia. In science, Alabama was dead even with Dubai-United Arab Emirates.
Alabama did rank higher than Armenia in science, for what that is worth — which is not much.
Though most of the U.S. areas score higher than the international average, even in America’s best-performing states — Massachusetts and Vermont — students fall well below the scores of countries like Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. If statistics had been available on China, the United States might have come off looking even worse.
Admittedly, there is more to education than math and science; however those two fields are where much of the future lies. American students, especially Alabama students, do not take advanced courses in math and science at the same rate as students in the countries with higher scores. The curricula in American schools are not as focused as tightly on these courses, the teachers are not as well prepared, and the students are not as motivated. The rankings prove that.
Education reformers on the right and the left will seize on this study to push their various agendas, and soon the public could well be pelted with a new version of No Child Left Behind and the Alabama Accountability Act — plans based more on ideology than education.
Well, here’s an idea.
Send politicians and educators to the states that scored the highest — Massachusetts and Vermont — and study their systems. Look at how their teachers (especially math and science teachers) are trained, identify the age at which students are introduced to these subjects and the way their studies are coordinated grade-to-grade, and study how these states support their education systems.
Could it be that help to improve our poor performance can be found within our country? Maybe we should look.
By the way, the only other state to rank at the bottom in both math and science was — drum roll — Mississippi. Maybe we should invite a delegation from that state to join us on the trip.