The International Student Testing Myth

From: Japan and its standardized test-based education system By Kevin Burns

[At age 12] exam hell starts and from which students never really recover. The standardized test-based education system of Japan that starts in the junior high school years kills any kind of initiative, creativity and especially thinking outside of the box. Unfortunately, these last three are what Japan especially needs in the 21st century; perhaps Japan`s most challenging 100 years yet.…

Let’s just say that America decides to test its 17 year-olds in the areas of math, science and technology and decides to compare its results against other nation’s students taking the same test. It’s fair. It’s objective and it’s a good method for comparisons regarding educational rigor in the classroom and relative student abilities. Right? Well, it might be if the other schools were assessing their 17 year-olds too. But because of the wide range of student ages in other countries, they may very well be using the test scores of students up to age 21. I don’t know about you, but I was a much better thinker and overall student when I was 20-21 than I was at 17-18. And I mean a lot better.

Now let’s just say that a major testing company wants to compare the test scores of random American high school students and compare those scores to the random students in other nations using the same or similar test. It’s fair. It’s objective and it’s a good method for comparisons regarding educational rigor in the classroom and relative student abilities. Right? Well, it might be if the populations of the samples are similarly random. But they aren’t. A random sample from an American high school may include anyone of any ability and interest and motivation level. Not so in other nations in the world.

This international comparison doesn’t work because most nations in the world select students out of the test sample before they ever reach the level that Americans would consider high school–much, much sooner in most countries. In many, if not most asian nations, a test is given typically at 7th-8th grade. Do well, continue on with your schooling. Don’t, and your life options are few. In Germany, decisions are made for children at age 10, where they are divided into one of four tracks. Compulsory education ends at age 14. Japan and Germany are representative of the method most nations have for getting their best and brightest separated from the rest of the students. As a result, by the time international testing companies make their assessments, the top students in those countries are the only students available. Test only the top 10-20% of American students and then see how we stand.

I have given you two examples of why international comparisons of student testing is a false measurement and I haven’t even mentioned poverty yet. Consider the following regarding the Program for International Student Assessment:

From: PISA: It’s Poverty Not Stupid…

NEAToday published remarks from National Association of Secondary School Principals Executive Director, Dr. Gerald N. Tirozzi, that have taken “a closer look at how the U.S. reading scores on PISA compared with the rest of the world’s, overlaying it with the statistics on how many of the tested students are in the government’s free and reduced lunch program for students below the poverty line.” Tirozzi pointed out, “Once again, we’re reminded that students in poverty require intensive supports to break past a condition that formal schooling alone cannot overcome.” Tirozzi demonstrates the correlation between socio-economic status and reading by presenting the PISA scores in terms of individual American schools and poverty.  While the overall PISA rankings ignore such differences in the tested schools, when groupings based on the rate of free and reduced lunch are created, a direct relationship is established.

Tirozzi and others have reviewed the PISA data and rightly concluded that if we only tested kids from schools with less than 10% poverty rate we would score above every other nation in the world. And that is significant because the nations that score above us have already selected out for ability, interest and motivation, as I mentioned above, and they also all have much lower poverty rates. Of all the nations tested by PISA, the United States has the highest student poverty rate. We are testing all students regardless of ability and we are testing more students in poverty than any other nation. (I wonder how many of us know that America has more students in poverty than any other nation in the world. That just doesn’t seem to fit our idea of America, does it?)

So the next time you see an international test report where the U.S. scores 17th in math behind the Czech Republic, Norway and Finland, remember that if we were to test similar populations against other nations, we would rank number one in the world. This matters. It really does because if these are not our problems we shouldn’t be wasting our energy and resources trying to fix them. We should be focused on the real issues not the false ones.

If We Really Want to Fix Our Schools Let’s Be Certain to Get the Correct Picture

I agree that America needs to address some serious deficiencies in the nations schools. But let’s be certain that we are addressing the real issues. If we keep making decisions based on bad information and fallacies that go unchallenged we will find ourselves eliminating the good that our schools do while “fixing” the wrong ills. Consider what you hear about America not producing enough math and science trained graduates and see how that jives with some real information below.

From: Shortage of Math and Science Graduates Is a Myth By Walt Gardner

Critics assert that schools are not producing enough qualified math and science graduates to meet the needs of companies as they attempt to compete in the new global economy.  But the latest data released by the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates call that view into question.

A record 49,562 doctorate degrees were awarded in the 2008-09 academic year, representing a 1.6 percent increase over the 2007-08 year.  According to the foundation, the growth was largely due to increases in the number of degrees in science and engineering.  In 2009, 67.5 percent of all doctorates were in these two fields, a 1.9 percent increase over the previous academic year.

Yet despite this growth, companies continue to insist that they need to recruit abroad because of a shortage domestically.  The more likely explanation is that they prefer looking overseas because H1-B visa holders are willing to work for below-market wages.

In light of the available evidence, it’s time to wonder if criticism of America’s education system in this crucial area is justified.  The usual attack is based on tests of international competition, specifically on the Trends in International Math and Science Study. But TIMSS is given to students in their final year of school. [This means that most American students who take this assessment are 17 years of age but are upwards to 21 in many other ntions.]  Clearly, the differences in ages are significant, but curiously not noted in reportage.


From: Bureau of Labor Statistics

High school math courses and college attendance in two generations

Students who graduated from high school in the late 1990s and early 2000s took more rigorous mathematics courses than those who graduated in the mid to late 1970s and early 1980s. Among the more recent graduates (who were born in the years 1980–1984), 11 percent completed high school calculus and 24 percent completed precalculus, trigonometry, or other advanced math. Among the earlier graduates (who were born in the years 1957–1964), just 2 percent completed high school calculus and 8 percent completed precalculus, trigonometry, or other advanced math.

A more rigorous high school math curriculum is associated with a higher probability of attending college. This positive association grew stronger between the 1970s and 2000s. College attendance increased markedly during this period. (College attendance is defined here as having been enrolled in college by age 21.) The college enrollment rate increased from 53 percent among those born in 1957–1964 to 67 percent among those born in 1980–1984.

The bottom line is that someone is feeding us all the wrong line. No matter what you have been hearing, American high schools and universities are producing more and more math and science trained graduates. The problem has more to do with the  economics at the hiring end that it does with education.



A Very Graphic Look at Employment from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

I cannot help but believe that Romney and Obama must be living in two alternate universes that converge like some steroidal Venn diagram that barely touches, much less has any overlapping space. Even where they once agreed on issues like health care and abortion rights, they now have no common ground. At least they won’t admit to it. What I find the most fascinating is the absolute total disagreement in what they have to say about employment and unemployment in America. And the reason I find their disagreements fascinating is that so much of what they say is verifiable or refutable with a visit to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I came across a couple of very interesting and, I thought revealing, charts. Sometimes seeing things in a graphic representation helps us all get the picture, if you can please forgive the pun.

The charts show growth and loss of jobs (in thousands) over the course of the last four years. I found the visual representation to be pretty revealing.



Joe Hits Clean-up

Drove doubles into the gaps all night long.

Drained 3′s from way downtown.

Kick off return untouched coast to coast.

Slam dunked with the defense flatfooted in the paint.

Slammed one deep into the left field bleachers, rounded third, and tipped his hat to the crowd.

Education Fraud Part III, Yong Zhao Interview: Will the Common Core Create World-Class Learners?

Below are some selected quotes from Yong Zhao’s article on Common Core.

The Common Core Standards Initiative is having a great time, much like NCLB in its early days, with lots of money and lots of political power behind it. And of course there are many who would stand to make some money off and perhaps earn some political points from it as well and for these organizations and individuals the Common Core must continue.

…judging from the accomplishment of NCLB and Race-to-the Top, I would say that five years from now, American education will still be said to be broken and obsolete. We will find out that the Common Core Standards, after billions of dollars, millions of hours of teacher time, and numerous PD sessions, alignment task forces, is not the cure to American’s education ill. Worse yet, we will likely have most of nation’s schools teaching to the common tests aligned with the Common Core. As a result, we will see a further narrowing of the curriculum and educational experiences. Whatever innovative teaching that has not been completely lost in the schools may finally be gone. And then we will have a nation of students, teachers, and schools who are compliant with the Common Core Standards, but we may not have much else left.

In fact, I would argue a single bar in itself is discriminatory because it favors one type of ability over others, while other abilities may be as valuable.

Albert Einstein once said: “if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

A true high expectation comes from the students themselves when are allowed autonomy and rewarded for genuine contribution to the society using their talents, passion, time, and efforts.

Yong Zhao is Presidential Chair and Associate Dean for Global Education, College of Education at the University of Oregon, where he is a full professor in the Department of Educational Measurement, Policy and Leadership. You can read his blog here.





You know and I know and everyone else knows that Mitt will say anything at any time for a vote or a buck

The first debate is over and Americans are discussing how Governor Romney looked presidential. We are debating his newfound policies that make him more palatable to the working class. We are wondering who’s plans will help make the economic recovery faster. Comparisons are discussed regarding which health care plan will benefit most people. Numbers are getting crunched, economists are weighing in on which is the better phiolosphy:Trickle Down or Demand Driven? Yet all of these conversations, debates and deliberations only have value if the candidate is to be believed. He is not. Why are Americans even debating Mitt Romney’s ideas when the only debate we should be having is about Mitt Romney himself?

Just suppose that my neighbor has a dog that comes into my yard and bites my daughter. Nothing too serious, but I did witness it and my daughter is crying and I don’t want it to happen again. I go over to the neighbor’s house and knock on the door and he comes out and we talk about his dog biting my daughter. Immediately he says, “What dog. I don’t have a dog.” I point out to him that I have seen him walking this particular dog, the one that bit my daughter, every evening before dinner for the past two years. I tell him that I’m not looking to sue him or anything but would appreciate it if he kept the dog on a leash. Again he looks me right in the eye and declares, “I don’t own a dog.” I walk away a bit baffled but decide that this was the best I could get from him.

Two days later I see the same dog in my yard leaving a large pile of dog crap. I walk over to the neighbor’s house and mention this to my neighbor and he says, “My dog doesn’t poop in the neighbor’s yards.” I tell him that this was the same dog that bit my daughter, the same dog that just walked in his house and is, as we speak, licking his hand, and that I saw this dog leave his droppings in my yard. “Yes,” he says, “this is my dog. He has never bitten anyone and he doesn’t poop in your yard.” Avoiding any further confrontation I go home.

Later in the week the dog gets a hold of my boots I left on my back porch and takes them back to his house where he chews both boots into small pieces of leather that end up scattered around the yard. I make my way back over to the neighbor’s house and point out the shredded boots in the yard. My neighbor gets very upset with me and says, “I don’t even own a dog. Why are you telling me about this?” I remind him that this week alone he has told me he doesn’t own a dog, he does own a dog, and he doesn’t own a dog. He nods. I start to really get steamed.

Finally, the neighbors, who have been having similar issues, hold a neighborhood meeting to discuss what to do about the dog and the neighbor. As it turns out these problems have been going on for well over a year with various claims and denials of dog ownership by the neighbor. But the most interesting turn happens when the neighbor himself shows up. “Yes,” he fesses up, “I do own this wonderful dog. But I just got him yesterday. He was a shelter dog and I rescued him. Can’t we give him a break?”

Chuck, from down the street, chimes in, “I saw you beating that dog with a hose just yesterday.”

What dog?”

This is what President Obama faced off against in the debate.  Does it seem a bit surreal to you? Me too. How do you debate with a guy who would lie about owning a dog? My point is this: Why are we discussing the merits of Mitt Romney’s words on any given day? You know and I know and everyone esle knows that he will say anything at any time for a vote or a buck–and not necessarily in that order. Shouldn’t we all be putting the candidate through the honesty filter? I don’t mean his words. I mean the candidate himself.

Amnesia. What?

Posted by: WodeJr21

First off, let me start by saying that I am disgusted with people saying Governor Romney won the debate with President Obama because he “looked” Presidential. How materialistic. Did you listen to what each candidate had to say?

Now, I forgot what I was going to say. Right, amnesia.

Over the last four years, conservatives and liberals alike have been accusing Obama of saying one thing and not doing it. Case in point, his promises while running for President in 2008. But what about a PRESIDENTIAL candidate saying where he stands on an issue one day and the next he’s on the complete opposite side of the fence. Worse yet, he denies that he was ever on the other side of that fence. Facts: Wait, will we allow fact checkers to dictate us? Yes, Mitt, we will and should. Always.

Let’s go for gold, shall we? Governor Romney has a tax plan. This tax plan is on his website for all to see. In a nut shell, pardon the pun,  Governor Romney’s tax plan will lower taxes for all Americans by 20%, cut taxes for corporations, repeal the estate tax, repeal high-income payroll taxes, eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)—These are things Romney will cut. Costing America $5 trillion. This is on his website. Governor Romney denied all of this during the debate. First off, why deny this? Second, how Presidential does that look when you lie? This is America, Mitt, where we hack phones to get the scoop. You think you can hide your real plan from us?

Governor Romney also wants to do away with Obamacare. He’s not denying this and never has. But, if you repeal Obamacare you get rid of the NEW law that says insurance companies cannot deny someone coverage because they have a pre-existing condition. Example: born with a heart condition. Romney wants to do away with this. In an Arizona debate Romney is quoted saying, “Pre-existing conditions are covered in my health plan.” Later in his campaign, on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Romney forgot Americans by saying that pre-existing conditions should not be covered.  Which side of the fence do you stand on?

More? Teachers. In an Iowa speech Governor Romney is criticizing President Obama for saying we need more teachers. In the Presidential debate he swears he never once said he was against hiring more teachers, and is, in fact, for the idea of more teachers. All this said while looking at Americans straight faced, even with a little bit of a sly smile poking out…how PRESIDENTIAL is it to flip-flop? What side of the fence are you on, Mitt? Do his actions “sound” Presidential?

Mitt, your amnesia is going to do some serious damage to this country.

Tax Cuts Hurt Economies

Posted by: WodeJr21

The Republican Idea

  • A company makes a product that gets an order of 10,000 units.
  • The CEO makes $1 million with a 35% income tax equaling a $650,000 paycheck.
  • Suddenly Bush tax cuts come and you go from 35% income tax to 20% income tax equaling an $850,000 paycheck.
  • The CEO won’t hire more people because his company’s product is only getting an order of 10,000 units.
  • No jobs have been created.

The Liberal Idea

  • Instead of tax cuts, the government should save that 15% tax cut and invest it into alphabet programs like the CWA, AAA, CCC, etc.
  • Use the money to open 1,000 new schools creating 100,000 new jobs.


This is where the republican tax cuts idea is pure fallacy. The tax cuts cannot create jobs if the demand is not there. Demand is what creates jobs. Giving money to the middle class, the working class is what creates demand.

Jeb Bush Speech In Iowa Cannot Be Recorded By Media, Organizers Say

Of course it can’t be recorded, Republican fat cat donors get one message and the voters get another.

In This Campaign One Issue rises to the Top Tier.

Taxes. Unemployment rate. Energy policy. Obamacare. Is it 47% or 30% or 100%? Vouchers for students and vouchers for seniors. The war on women. War with Iran. And occasionally we talk about Afghanistan. All issues worthy of our time and our discussion. President Obama and Governor Romney have each weighed in countless times on all of these issues. They generally disagree on everything. Even in one area where they do agree–the need for more jobs–they disagree completely on how to get there. So they debate and hold rallies, create photo ops and run ads about themselves and about their opponents. Other very wealthy interest groups run ads for them about themselves and about their opponents. The coverage is constant. What a sideshow. What a distraction from the really important stuff!  But I submit to you that each and every one of these things listed above, though all very important, are Second Tier issues getting the Top Tier coverage. It is time in this campaign for the voters to demand a reversal.

There is only one Top Tier issue in this campaign. Nothing else the candidates try to sell to us or try to convince us of is remotely close in importance to the kind of people they are themselves. I care about their tax policy but I care more about their character.   What they say about health care matters a great deal to me but I weigh that against my assessment of their genuine compassion. I am concerned about war and I am concerned about the security of our nation and I expect my president’s policies to reflect a conviction about human rights. Both candidates tout their love for seniors and the disabled and the less fortunate, so which has the most honesty? Does he have a passion for the message he brings or is he more of a spokesperson for the message developed by his advisers and deep pocketed friends?

Below are some character-defining questions that I am asking in order to clarify which presidential candidate I can trust with my vote.

Does my candidate follow the Golden Rule? Believing it is one thing and following it is another entirely.

Does my candidate believe he is his brother’s keeper? Not his boss or his Lord. “Responsible for”…that’s what I’m talking about.

Is my candidate more Peacemaker or more Warmonger? ‘Nuff said.

Is my candidate more Poor in Spirit or Rich in Pocketbook. I know they aren’t exactly opposites but they seem to fit together.

Does my candidate live his life more for himself or more for his country? Anyone who profits from war or from sending domestic jobs overseas, is no patriot.

If my candidate had two coats would he give one to a stranger? Or would he wait until he had 50 coats before giving one to a stranger?

Does my candidate care as much about the 12 year old girl in a group home as he does about the unborn?

Does my candidate believe that nobody should have THAT much when so many have nothing?

Is my candidate willing to be honest enough with the American people to admit that everything Congress does and doesn’t do is about wealth redistribution in one direction or another? Except maybe treaties. Oh yeah, they do too.

Would my candidate lie to get us into any war? Or just really, really stretch the truth?

Does my candidate believe that the lives of people from Mexico, Iraq, North Korea and yes even Iran–I mean their LIFE, is as valuable as anyone else’s?

Does my candidate change his mind with the wind? I do not mean the deliberate, thoughtful changing of mind that shows growth and even wisdom. I mean, does my candidate change his mind to get campaign donations?

Does my candidate believe that we need fair and honest elections where the voice of every voter cannot be smothered by the millionaire’s and billionaire’s money?

There you go. Each of these questions goes directly to character, honesty, compassion, and a conviction about human rights. That’s Human Rights.  No candidate is perfect, but if you go through this list you might try seeing where Obama and Romney come out on these things. To me, if a candidate falls short with respect to many of these questions, why would I believe anything he might say thereafter? How would you score the two candidates?