by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
The “Brown Center Report on American Education,” published annually by the Brookings Institution, always offers interesting tidbits about the state of American education. In this year’s edition, senior fellow Tom Loveless discusses results from a recent Brookings survey of 600 foreign exchange students. The institution conducted a similar survey in 2001, so last year’s effort was a way to determine if outsiders’ view of American education had changed over the last 15 years.
According to Loveless, most foreign exchange students still find that academic coursework in the United States lacks rigor. He writes,
Students from abroad are even more likely today to describe U.S. classes as easier than they were in 2001. The combined “much easier” and “a little easier” responses grew from 85.2% in 2001 to 90.0% in 2016. The change in the “much easier” rating, increasing from 55.9% to 66.4%, is statistically significant.
That is not to say that the United States has not improved its system of public schools. It probably has (in spite of No Child Left Behind, Common Core, and the Every Student Succeeds Act). Rather, as Loveless points out, many other nations have also implemented school reform measures over the last decade and a half. Unfortunately, improvements in American education have not kept pace with more ambitious and successful efforts abroad.