It is the unparalleled levels of poverty, inequity and violence!

Jonathan Kantrowitz, is a public education advocate, political activist and blogger.  His blog appears on the Connecticut Post website and the sites operated by the Hearst Media Group.  In a post entitled, “U.S. has the world’s most educated workforce—but students face unparalleled levels of poverty, inequity and violence,” Jonathan Kantrowitz has written an extraordinary and profound piece about the real problems that are causing the growing educational achievement gap in the United States.

This article should be mandatory reading for the President of the United States, every member of Congress, every state governor and every state legislator.

At the very least, Connecticut’s Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo should read it and be required to respond  – in writing – as to why they are promoting policies that take our public education policies in exactly the wrong direction.

The following is Jonathan Kantrowitz’s post;

Source: Horace Mann League (HML) and the National Superintendents Roundtable

A new study released today challenges the practice of ranking nations by educational test scores and questions conventional wisdom that the U.S.educational system has fallen badly behind school systems abroad.

In their report, School Performance in Context: The Iceberg Effect, the Horace Mann League (HML) and the National Superintendents Roundtable examined six dimensions related to student performance—equity, social stress, support for families, support for schools, student outcomes, and system outcomes—in the G-7 nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States) plus Finland and China. They then examined 24 “indicators” within those dimensions.

Of the nine nations, the United States remains the wealthiest with the most highly educated workforce, based on the number of years of school completed, and the proportion of adults with high school diplomas and bachelor’s degrees.

“Many policymakers and business leaders fret that America has fallen behind Europe and China, but our research does not bear that out,” said James Harvey, executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable.

Despite high educational levels, the United States also reflects high levels of economic inequity and social stress compared to the other nations. All are related to student performance. Measures included rates of childhood poverty, income inequality and violence. For example, in American public schools today, the rate of childhood poverty is five times greater than it is in Finland. Rates of violent death are 13 times greater than the average for the other nations, with children in some communities reporting they have witnessed shootings, knifings, and beatings as “ordinary, everyday events.”

The study is a unique analysis, which for the first time compares K-12 education internationally on an array of social and economic indicators, not just test scores. The goal was to look at the whole iceberg, not just the tip—and provide a clearer snapshot of each country’s performance, including its wealth, diversity, community safety, and support for families and schools.

Some key findings:

 Economic Equity: The United States and China demonstrate the greatest gaps between rich and poor. The U.S. also contends with remarkably high rates of income inequality and childhood poverty.

 Social Stress: The U.S.reported the highest rates of violent death and teen pregnancy, and came in second for death rates from drug abuse. The U.S.is also one of the most diverse nations with many immigrant students, suggesting English may not be their first language.

 Support for Families: The U.S. performed in the lowest third on public spending for services that benefit children and families, including preschool.

 Support for Schools: Americans seem willing to invest in education: The U.S. leads the nine-nation group in spending per student, but the national estimates may not be truly comparable. U.S. teachers spend about 40 percent more time in the classroom than their peers in the comparison countries.

 Student Outcomes: Performance in American elementary schools is promising, while middle school performance can be improved. U.S. students excel in 4th grade reading and high school graduation rates, but perform less well in reading at age 15. All nations demonstrate an achievement gap based on students’ family income and socio-economic status.

 System Outcomes: The U.S. leads these nations in educational levels of its adult workforce. Measures included years of schooling completed and the proportion of adults with high-school diplomas and bachelor’s degrees. American students also make up 25 percent of the world’s top students in science at age 15, followed by Japan at 13 percent.

“Too often, we narrow our focus to a few things that can be easily tested. To avoid that scoreboard mentality, we need to look at many measures important to shaping our future citizens. Treating education as a horse race doesn’t work,” said HML President Gary Marx.

A call for more nuanced assessments

American policymakers from both political parties have a history of relying on large, international assessments to judge United States’ performance in education. In 2013, the press reported that American students were falling behind when compared to 61 other countries and a few cities including Shanghai. In that comparative assessment—called the Program for International Student Assessment—PISA controversially reported superior scores for Shanghai.

“We don’t oppose using international assessments as one measure of performance. But as educators and policymakers, we need to compare ourselves with similar nations and on a broader set of indicators that put school performance in context—not just a single number in an international ranking,” said Harvey.

“Our study suggests the U.S. has the most educated workforce, yet students confront shockingly high rates of poverty and violence. Research shows that those larger issues, outside the classroom, are serious threats to student learning,” noted HML Executive Director Jack McKay.

For more of his posts, go to; http://blog.ctnews.com/kantrowitz/

  • JMC

    Jon, the conscious creation of a permanent underclass which votes Dem in return for benefits is never a pretty thing to watch, but we are seeing it happening and becoming institutionalized in CT, and not only in CT. The middle class will be destroyed in the process. I just wish more folks would trust the evidence of their own eyes and ears and not see this only through the prism of their political preconceptions.

    • jonpelto

      So true!

  • Robert

    The meaning and implication of the term “equity” needs a
    clarification. “Equity” is not synonymous with “equality.” Equity
    refers to “fairness” – whatever that means. Equity is a leveling of playing field. For example, if you have a salary of $100,000 per year and I am unemployed, you give $50,000 to me. Or, as it was
    more eloquently expressed by Karl Marx, “From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need.” We, therefore, have a government policy of wealth redistribution.

    Article: “Of the nine nations, the United States remains the wealthiest with the most highly educated workforce, based on the number of years of school completed, and the proportion of adults with high school diplomas and bachelor’s degrees.”

    Comment: As many readers much realize, “the number of
    years of school completed, and the proportion of adults with high school diplomas and bachelor’s degrees” are not good measures of education. For example, “Nearly 80 percent of New York
    City high school graduates need to relearn basic skills before they can enter the City University’s community college system.” http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/03/07/officials-most-nyc-high-school-grads-need-remedial-help-before-entering-cuny-community-colleges/

    Article: “Despite high educational levels, the United States also reflects high levels of economic inequity and social stress compared to the other nations. All are related to student performance. Measures included rates of childhood poverty, income inequality and violence. For example, in American public schools today, the rate of childhood poverty is five times greater than it is in Finland. Rates of violent death are 13 times
    greater than the average for the other nations….”

    Comments:
    · The article quotes Jonathan Kantrowitz who then identifies a whole slew of “key finding.” Summarizing them, we have: economic
    inequality, violence, little government support of families and children, high cost of education, students lack academic skills and an educated adult workforce. I commented on a couple of
    these.
    · Assuming that the United States wants to make improvements on its weak areas, a reasonable approach is to identify those areas of the country that have the most problems. Let’s take at the 10 most violent cities in America (in reverse order) are Birmingham, Ala., Milwaukee, Rockford, Ill., Baltimore, Little Rock, Ark., Cleveland, St. Louis, Memphis, Tenn., Oakland, Calif. and Detroit. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-10-most-dangerous-cities-in-america-2014-11-20 What makes these cities so violent? All of these cities have large numbers of blacks. It is not exactly a secret that American blacks have the highest crime rate.

    · Let’s also take a look at income inequality in the United States.
    Large American cities with high income inequality include Atlanta, San Francisco, Boston, Miami, Washington, D.C., New York, Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles and Minnesota. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-03-24/which-american-cities-have-biggest-income-inequality My suspicion is that the political leanings of these cities have an impact on their income inequality. Miami was the only one of these 10 cities that did not have a Democratic mayor. (The political party of the Mayor
    of Minnesota is the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, which is affiliated with the Democratic Party. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betsy_Hodges )

    I kind of agree that we should question the “conventional wisdom that the U.S.educational system has fallen badly behind school systems abroad.” Perhaps a better conclusion might be that American students are not attaining the academic levels of
    students in other countries. This could either mean that the teaching is inadequate or that the students are not learning (or some combination).

    The article states that the United States has the “most highly
    educated workforce, based on the number of years of school completed, and the proportion of adults with high school diplomas and bachelor’s degrees.” However, these students do poorly when
    compared to the students of other countries. A possible conclusion is that it is easier to the graduate in the U.S. than it is in other countries.

    Much of this is predicable. America has a large percentage of educated citizens yet its students do poorly when compared to other nations. How can this be? The most reasonable explanation is that it is easy to graduate from America’s high school but the students are not learning much.