In the case of (self-described) educational "experts" and their corporate-centric "reforms", nothing could be worse than any data indicating our schools are doing fine. And the media seems to be right along for the ride. Case in point:
International test scores expose U.S. educational problems
Now, to their credit over at Huffingtonpost, the headline was changed sometime between this morning and this afternoon to the less-antagonistic International Tests Show East Asian Students Outperform World As U.S. Holds Steady. The problem is that this still leaves the (false) impression our schools suck compared to the rest of the world. The article itself states:
Overall, the U.S. ranked sixth in fourth-grade reading, ninth in fourth-grade math, 12th in eighth-grade math, seventh in fourth-grade science and 13th in eighth-grade science.
This is out of 60 countries taking the TIMSS. This is, considering the challenges we face that other smaller, culturally-homogenous countries do not face, is amazing.* How did Secretary of Education Arne Duncan handle this fabulous news that we're (far above) average in many categories?
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the U.S. scores encouraging, but described older students' performance as "unacceptable."
Encouraging? Really? Yes, we need to address the falling-off in later grades (which is, I'm betting, a cultural problem, not a schooling problem) but that's it? Not even a "This shows we're on the right track" or "Congratulations to our teachers for making us competitive"? Does education "reform" have ANYTHING to do with, well, actually educating people or is it just a money-making (and union-busting) scheme? (Or, to paraphrase the late Dr. Gerald Bracey, "It is important to remember that to 'reform' does not necessarily mean improve, just to reshape.")
* And let's not forget our horrible funding of schools, which presents all sorts of challenges as this (5+ year old data) shows:
But in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, American kids in low poverty schools stomped the top-ranked Swedes. Even kids in schools with up to 50% of the students in poverty attained an average score that, had they constituted a nation, would have ranked 4th. Only American students attending schools with 75%+ poverty scored below the international average of the 35 participating countries.