Department of Education?
The US Department of Education, the $25 Billion per year albatross which spearheaded the nation's 77 point decline in SAT scores in the last 3 decades, leaving us in 27th place out of 31 nations in the IAEP test, is "confused", reporting that "No single factor can be considered to influence student performance in isolation from other factors. There are no single answers to complex questions." This is after "a team of twelve bilingual researchers each spent three months in German, Japanese, or US schools, observing and interviewing teachers, principals, and students" (see http://www.ed.gov/NCES/timss/97198-7.hytml), which is supposed to make us believe that education is so complex that we can't figure out why we spend 3 times as much as a percent of GDP than two countries who score even higher than the 26 nations ahead of us on the IAEP test.
But it didn't work. The problem is as clear as a bell, once you sort through their politically correct hogwash. These "bilingual experts" sat right in the midst of education excellence, stared the US education nightmare right in the face, and decided the problem was far too complex for us to grasp. Well, it is not. We CAN decipher their report--they would have had more credibility if they had stood at the top of Mount Rushmore and screamed "we are so stupid that we can't find our own noses with our own hands".
After noting that "US teachers report that they have spent more years in college than teachers on all but a few of the 41 TIMSS countries. Nearly half of the teachers of US eighth-graders had a masters' degree, a proportion which was exceeded by only four other TIMSS countries", these "twelve bilingual researchers" proclaimed that "the quickest way to improve students' learning opportunities is to improve instruction provided by existing teachers". This is kind of like saying "if a government program fails really miserably, proclaim that it would have been a massive success if the budget had been twice as large", while ignoring the fact that every government program which takes this tack makes its own problems as well as things outside of the original problem even worse. If there is a relationship between education quality and educating "existing teachers", it is an inverse one, which means that we should reduce the education of these teachers, and instead find the ones who can teach in the first place.
Noting that "policy makers consider it important for mathematics and science teachers to have a strong college background in those subjects", this team of alleged "bilingual experts" forgot English and expect us to believe that it "was unable to collect information on this topic due to the great variety of ways in which university training in mathematics and science is organized in the participating countries". This group does not want us to note that, if our graduating students score 37% lower than Korea's (who score correspondingly lower than Japan's and Germany's--the subjects of their study), then the qualifications of our educators who were educated by this failed system would in turn have correspondingly lower mathematics and science skills themselves. Why did they not at least use that data, if indeed none other could be collected? Because it wants to continue to keep its collective head buried in the sand?
It noted that "Japanese and German teachers enjoy the security of the benefits and tenure which come from their status as civil servants", implying that their tenure and benefits are responsible for their superior outcome of education, while ignoring that US tenure and benefits are even more comprehensive, and costly, than theirs. If this is a factor, it too is an inverse factor. Drop pay and benefits in the US to the level of Germany and Japan, whose teachers outperform us by lightyears, and education just might improve for a change.
It noted that German and US teachers spent about the same amount of time teaching classes, eliminating this as a serious factor.
It noted that additional duties "in Japan [are] balanced between student counseling, administrative duties, and lesson planning" and are roughly equivalent to US teachers' duties, eliminating this as a serious factor.
It noted that "Eighth-grade math and science class sizes in the US and Germany were about the same, averaging to 25 students per class. Japanese math and science classes were much larger, averaging 37 students", suggesting that education quality might be an inverse function of class size, and that decreasing class sizes in the US might further decrease education quality. In any event, if Japanese class sizes are 48% larger than ours, and if Japanese schools can produce students who score this much higher than US students, and do so at a cost which is one third of our cost as a percent of GDP, then serious consideration should be given to the KEY factor this report obscured, plus an increase, not a decrease, in class size.
It noted that "76 percent of the teachers of the Japanese TIMSS students ... compared to 60 percent of the US and 44 percent of the German teachers" met at least once a month to discuss curriculum, eliminating this as a serious factor.
It noted that the procedures for teaching Japanese and German teachers are more formal than US procedures, but failed to mention the very important aspect of how a teacher's knowledge and skills are assessed, which is a key part of both Germany's and Japan's educators. This is a key factor, which they attempted to bury, and failed.
German and US schools have a similar problem with social, economic, and ethnic differences in students' backgrounds, suggesting this is not a key factor. What is not mentioned under "diversity" is that Japanese students and many German students are separated by gender through most of their education, and this IS a key factor.
The report noted that "Seventy-six percent of the US and 65 percent of German teachers reported that threats their own or students' safety did not limit their effectiveness at all", while failing to note what percentage it is in Japan, and that both Japanese and German schools practice corporal punishment very liberally, while it is virtually outlawed in the US. Failure to report on this considerable difference in the schools' approaches to discipline is serious and discredits the entire report, if it had not already been so. This is a key factor which is interrelated to the next almost ignored factor.
The true nature of this report is revealed by the following aside comment, which is unaccompanied by any solid data regarding the gender of the teachers in the US, Germany, or Japan:
"The typical teacher of US eighth-grade math and science students was a woman in her forties, about 15 years of prior teaching experience. Forties was the norm for most of the other countries. The typical teacher of German students was a man nearly fifty, who had been teaching for about 19 years; and the typical teacher of Japanese students was a man in his late thirties, who had been teaching for 14 years.
In other words, words which the feminized US Department of Education does not want us to utter, it is men, not women, who perform well as teachers. It is men, not women, who discipline children well enough to educate rather than baby-sit them, yet corporal punishment was ignored in this report. It is men, not women, who produce students who score higher than 37% higher than US students on the IAEP math tests. It is men, not women, who inspire students through the education system to become qualified employees and business owners and presidents and competitive spirits. It is men, not women, who teach calculus to high school students, (96% of Japan's students, 70% of Germany's students, and only 4% of US students take calculus in high school, another key factor conveniently overlooked in this report).
The seriousness of these omissions is exceeded only by its self-serving and destructive suggestion that "the quickest way to improve students' learning opportunities is to improve the instruction provided by existing teachers". Affirmative action and the equal pay act have attracted truly unqualified educators, and and it is now clear that the best way out of this mess is to test "existing teachers" with an objective criteria, fire the lowest 75% of them, disband the organization which published this trashy report, hire a new crop with the goal of increasing SAT scores 140 points, and propel the US to the top 5 schools worldwide.
Clearly we cannot do this with "existing teachers" and "bilingual experts" who can't or refuse to teach or speak plain English.