United States public schools were regarded as some of the best public schools in the world up to the 1970’s. Compared to the educational development of Asian and European students, American students and the education system are ranked embarrassingly low. “In a 2003 study conducted by UNICEF that took the averages from five different international education studies, the researchers ranked the United States number 18 out of 24 nations in terms of the relative effectiveness of its educational system” (Wu 2). Some students are graduating from high school with little or no knowledge about the core classes, while other students are dropping out and not graduating at all due to lack of discipline.
Recently, colleges and universities have stopped using diplomas and grade point averages as a basis of admission because American high school curriculums have consistently simplified over the years and do not come close to compare to other schools around the world. The structure of American public schools compared to European and Asian schools are greatly disorganized, and many American teachers hold no credential and are extremely unqualified. Another major issue facing students today is the number of students per classroom, which differs greatly between competing countries. The American students are floundering in comparison with their counterparts around the world educationally due to lack of educational preparation, simpler curriculums, and unqualified teachers.
When it comes to international education rankings, recent studies show that other nations in the developed world have a higher caliber of student success than that of the United States. In 2003, the United Nations Children’s Fund conducted an educational study that took the averages of five different tests and ranked the 24 participating nations; the United States was ranked 18. In that same year a similar study, the Tends in International Mathematics and Science Study, showed that the United States students tended to decline in performance from grades 4 to 12 more than any other nation. In both studies, South Korea, Japan, and Singapore ranked the highest respectively, followed by the United Kingdom, Finland, Australia, and Netherlands. The United States preceded all of these. “In fourth grade, American kids do above average internationally. By eighth grade, they slip a bit, and by 12th-grade, they’ve slipped a lot, we’re the only country that slides down that much from fourth to 12th grade” (Marsh).
Because of this recent slip in rank, the educators of the United States have somewhat resorted to teaching the material that will only be on the test rather than material that actually needs to be learned by the students. The United States teachers focus more on procedure, and try to teach multiple topics quickly while other countries tend to break up the topics and go more in-depth. Other countries’ teachers work on the concept and the background of the material instead of just teaching the procedure.
For example, teachers in the United States tend to teach mathematics in whole numbers, while other countries use rulers to teach mathematics to show that there are numbers between whole numbers, implying infinite many numbers. Students are then taught the concept behind mathematics at an early age, making progression more productive. When students are taught the procedure and not the concept behind the procedure, there is a higher chance of forgetting the subject all together. It’s not just the international education rankings that American students are lagging in, but also the high school’s curriculum for their students, which differs greatly from other developed nations.
American students are graduating from high school with little or no knowledge about the core classes. In other nations, the curriculum and requirements for progression are extremely strict, and if the requirements aren’t fulfilled by the student within a certain time period, the student will not continue on the educational ladder. In America, this idea is altered greatly by letting unqualified students consistently progress towards the next level in their education without any repercussions. “Between 1995 and 2004, the percentage of youth ages 16-19 who had ever been retained decreased; high school dropouts were more likely than high school completers to have been retained in a grade at some point in their school career” (Indicator 1). This decrease in the grade retention rate is physical evidence that school systems are letting students that do not fulfill the curriculum for a certain grade continue onto the next grade without any repercussions.
The decrease is also evidence that the school systems concentrate more on other issues than education. In America, it has basically become custom to put education behind everything; school administrators believe that self-esteem and even religion are more important than the education of the children. In other countries, this isn’t so, and almost nothing comes prior to education. When comparing the mission statements from that of an American public school to one of a European public school, one can see how the educational goals differ. For example, the mission statement for City High School in Tucson, Arizona is as follows:City High School strives to be a community of learners in which all members use their minds well and care about one another. We engage with challenging academics and the unique resources of our city and region in order to become active citizens and responsible stewards of our world.
City High School’s mission statement doesn’t differ greatly from those of other American public schools. The schools want their students to “care about one another” and “become active citizens and responsible stewards”. Only a few words have anything to do with education, which proves the point that American public schools believe that good citizenship should come before good scholarship, also providing evidence that the curriculum is not as competitive as other nations’.
Another major setback for the students in America compared to students around the world is the increasing amount of unqualified instructors. “One out of every seven teachers holds no credential and has little or no training in how to teach or manage a classroom” (SF Gate 1). The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning conducted a report on unqualified instructors and found that the number of teachers holding no credential rose 11% between 2005 and 2006 and rose 13% between 2006 and 2007. Each year, more than 40,000 teachers work under an “emergency permit”, allowing them to instruct classrooms for the school year.
This is a major flaw in the United State’s educational system because these “teachers” know just about as much of a subject as their students do, thus creating a stagnation in educational progression. In 2001, the “No Child Left Behind” act was passed and forced teachers to demonstrate that they are qualified in the subject(s) that they are instructing by passing certification exams and completing graduate coursework. This act obviously did no good to the education system, for it allowed even more teachers to teach without credentials. American student’s poorer educational rankings cannot entirely be blamed upon American students, but upon American instructors.