Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Clock offically cleaned.

A stunning day today. In DC, pretty much on any given day, there is a panel discussion about some study with the usual suspects doing the discussing with alarming regularity. The results of the myriad of panel discussions is not startling and usually have enough error that both sides can still argue their case. And the day after these weekly panel discussion - nothing ever really happens. You could seriously get discussion panel poisoning in this city.

But today was different. The Alliance for Excellent Education sponsored a panel discussion of the 2006 PISA Results. It was sad as it was fascinating and OECD is offering some actual action items based upon observing the nations that are getting results. I strongly encourage people to read this – and act.

The Problem: the United States has slipped further down the ladder of expertise – we are now 25th in math and 21st in science. They were quick to point out that we didn’t really get all that worse, just the rest of the world continues to improve while we stagnate.

When looking at the successful countries and their teachers, Andreas Schleicher from OECD said we need to have clear expectations of our teachers and schools, we need to have teachers that understand the expectations and work towards the goal and we need to have teachers who are motivated to perform at a higher level. Also, the performing nations had a much higher level of selectivity in their teaching profession which elevated the profession.

To recap what we keep saying: you cannot be selective unless you have a group to select from. Using a certification program that screens out over 50% of the candidates BEFORE they get to the classroom sure is a vast improvement over many of the education schools who accept all that apply. Principals cannot be selective in their math and science teachers when they only have one applicant.

We have a long way to go and while we sit around having numerous panel discussions with no activity, the rest of the world is collectively cleaning our clock. If their 15 year olds continue to be that much smarter than ours now, their 25 year olds will be dominating the economic world ten years from now.

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