SIMMONS: Education now global, schoolyard fight on tap

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It’s time.

It’s time to look again at how the United States stacks against other countries in education now that Education Secretary Arne Duncan blew it on Monday.

Suffice it to say, no matter who’s doing the measuring and regardless of which yardstick is used, we’re not doing as well as we should be as a world superpower.

Switzerland, Finland and tiny Singapore grab first, second and third place, respectively, on the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Human Capital Index, which ranks training, educating and protecting the world’s most precious resource.

In North America, Canada sits in last place among the top 10; the United States is 16th and Mexico comes in at No. 58.

The U.S. has been lagging for quite some time in math and science. Our disjointed teaching-and-learning policies and practices mean our fourth-graders failed to claim a top 10 spot in math in 1995, 2003, 2007 and 2011, according to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.

TIMSS, as it is called, said American eighth-graders fared better in 2007 and 2011, but still didn’t rise above Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore, which consistently make the top 10.

In science, American fourth-graders cracked the top 10 list all four years, while their eighth-grade peers fell from ninth place in 2003 to 10th place in 2011.

Believe it or not, right now there are considerable discussions on Capitol Hill and in the White House about how best to infuse our children with the right knowledge and learning skills to push America up the list.

Unfortunately, the push is focusing on the status quo, whose No. 1 request is for more federal funding and whose No. 1 blunder is increased federal intervention.

Mr. Duncan had the opportunity Monday to be a game-changer for American families and businesses, but he blundered.

In the hours leading up to the shutdown of the federal government, America’s education chief sounded like a partisan politician trying to punch his way out of the Beltway bubble, the ultimate sustainer of the status quo.

His speech at a National Press Club event was, interestingly enough, titled “Beyond the Beltway Bubble,” and his inbred intent was to spend an inordinate amount time trying to out-bicker Republicans.

For sure, he led us on a cross-country trek, reminding us that some school districts are trying to lift American schoolchildren from the rungs of the academic ladder labeled mediocre.

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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