Friday, May 22, 2009

Right answer, wrong question

E.D. Hirsch's Common Core panel (moderated by Diane Ravitch) has the answer partially right, but the've got the question wrong. Their framing question is:

Why Do American Students DO Poorly on International math and science examinations?

Their answer: "It may be because we aren’t teaching them literature, history, and the arts."

In fact, American students don't do poorly on international math and science exams. Whenever U.S. students are all lumped together by their mean scores on standardized tests, the reality of a two-tiered system of education in this country is blurred over. Our wealthy students, in upper-class suburban communities who attend well-equipped, well-staffed and environmentally sound schools, can compete with students in any country when it comes to math, science scores.

Those students stuck in depressed, under-served communities, who are basically warehoused in large, poorly resourced schools, can't compete on test scores with even the selective-enrollment schools around the block. This is especially the case when they aren't being taught anything except that which is being tested, ie. no arts, history or literature. But it's not really about the never- ending curriculum war between traditionalists and progressives.

The real answer: It's not just about curriculum content. When it comes to educational equity, no excuses please.

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