December 19th, 2013

Interaction of Teaching-to-the-Test and Socioeconomic Status

Here’s an excerpt of an essay by University of California at Davis Professor Norman Matloff, titled “Let’s Not Panic Over U.S. Students’ Global Rankings“:

“Even former Premier Wen Jiabao has complained about China’s rote-memory approach to education. Chen Lixin, an engineering professor at Northwestern Polytechnic University in Xian, has warned that China produces students who can’t think independently or creatively, and have trouble solving practical problems. He wrote in 1999 that the Chinese education system “results in the phenomenon of high scores and low ability,” an observation germane to PISA results. In the 2009 tests, “students scored low in independent reading strategies, meaning they rely on teachers’ instruction on what to read,” according to the Shanghai Daily.

My hat is off to those 15-year-olds and Jiaoda contestants in Shanghai. But this isn’t the direction the U.S. should take. Yes, we need to bring up the proficiency of our weakest students — a social challenge that goes far deeper than the harrumphing about “fixing our schools” would indicate. Yet we shouldn’t bring down the level of the stronger students just to win international contests.”

The complete article is here.

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