Why We're Behind: What Top Nations Teach Their Students But We Don't
This study asked a simple question: what can we learn from the content standards of our international neighbors? The U.S. appears to be the only economically-advanced nation whose education system's primary focus is a set of basic skills. By contrast, other countries concentrate on content, like Archimedes and Shakespeare, and trust that math and reading skills will be taught through exposure to this material. And their trust is not misplaced. A host of international assessments reveal that students in countries that emphasize a broad liberal-arts-style education over mastery of basic skills tend to learn those basic skills better than their skills-focused American counterparts. The bulk of this report consists of case studies of the top scoring nations on PISA. Particularly revealing are the excerpts from various tests and standards, including reading samples, images, and graphics. Their common theme is a focus on knowledge, like historical chronology, famous passages from literature, and important scientific discoveries. Amongst the profiles are informative chapters on curriculum narrowing (or, rather, the absence of it abroad), content specificity, and what "comprehensive" education means outside the U.S. Ultimately, explains Common Core President Lynne Munson, these countries could serve as models for state-level (or, for that matter, national) overhauls of academic standards. Read it here.
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