This will be my last newsletter of
the year. Thank you for making it
- The Cartel, an award-winning
documentary about corruption in public education, will be screened in at the
Galaxy Theater (770 Cary Towne Blvd) in Cary, North Carolina, at 7:30 pm on
Monday December 27, 2010. The
event is a collaboration between Bowdon Media and the North Carolina Alliance
for Public Charter Schools. Sponsors have made the one-night-only event
free to all who RSVP (http://thecartelmovie.eventbrite.com/)
in advance. The Cartel’s Director
Bob Bowdon and NC Alliance for Public Charter Schools President Eddie Goodall
will both appear after the screening to answer questions and hold an education
reform town hall meeting.
all school board members! On
January 14, 2011, the Civitas Institute and the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County
Schools will be sponsoring a half-day seminar on state and local education
budgets. Content is designed to enhance an understanding of the
budget process and help members develop strategies to minimize the impacts of
expected budget reductions on the classroom. Speakers include John Dornan, former President of Public
School Forum, Inc.; Kerry Crutchfield, former chief finance officer of the
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools and Dr. Terry Stoops, Director of
Education Studies with the John Locke Foundation. The seminar is
scheduled from 10 am to 2 pm at the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Education
Building (4801 Bethania Station Road, Winston-Salem, NC). Cost of the
event is $30.00 and includes lunch. After January 7, the cost is $40.00. Register online at: http://nccivitas.org/events/. For additional information call Bob at:
919-834-2099. School board members
who attend can count four hours toward professional training requirements.
- The E.A. Morris Fellowship for Emerging Leaders continues
to accept applications for the 2010-2011 class. Applicants must be between the ages of 25 and 40, reside in
North Carolina, and commit to a yearlong program of activities designed to
examine, develop, and enhance their leadership skills. There is no cost to individuals
accepted into the program. For
additional information, please visit the E.A. Morris website at http://www.eamorrisfellows.org/.
- The North Carolina History Project would like educators and
homeschool parents to submit lesson plans suitable for middle and high school
courses in North Carolina history. Please provide links to NC History Project encyclopedia articles and
other primary and secondary source material, if possible. Go to http://www.northcarolinahistory.org/edu_corner/
for further information.
- Become a member of JLF’s Freedom Clubs! We have seven regional clubs covering
every part of North Carolina, so there is one near you and your like-minded
conservative friends. For more
information, visit https://www.johnlocke.org/support/.
- Check out our new research newsletter archive.
three years, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
conducts reading, math, and science tests under the Program for International
Student Assessment (PISA). Fifteen-year-old
students from over sixty nations participated
in the 2009 PISA testing.
results were similar to previous testing cycles. Students from the United States met the international
average scores on reading and science assessments. They scored lower than the international average on the math
assessment. The usual suspects
occupied the top spots – South Korea, Finland, Japan, Netherlands, and
Canada. Non-OECD countries like
Singapore and China easily outscored everyone. The U.S. hung with economic powerhouses like Hungary,
Poland, and Iceland in the middle of the pack.
Most commentators and politicians responded in one of
four ways. They 1) lamented the
performance of U.S. students on the PISA test; 2) complained about test
questions, methodology, or other aspects of the tests; 3) discounted testing as
an indicator of mastery and critical thinking; or 4) ignored the results. Those who identified limitations in the
development, administration, data collection, and interpretation of the tests
probably overstate their case. There is simply no evidence that PISA officials are perpetuating a
fraudulent testing program. Yet,
there is something to be said for those who pointed out that tests supply a
limited amount of information about knowledge and ability. Even when one adds contextual factors,
however, the results are still discouraging.
And then there is Fawn Johnson of the National
Journal. She has no problem with
mediocrity. Shortly after the
release of the test scores, Johnson wrote,
The OECD results are in, and teenagers in the United
States are (drum roll, please) absolutely average.
Survey results released last week from
the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Program for
International Student Assessment, or PISA, found that 15-year-old students in
the U.S. rank 14th in reading and 17th in science compared to other OECD
countries. They fall far behind in math, where they rank 25th…
…At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, what’s so awful about being
average? In every graduating
class, there can be only one valedictorian.
In response to her comments, Checker Finn, president of
Thomas B. Fordham Institute, took Ms. Johnson to task. He wrote,
Yikes. Why shouldn’t National
Journal settle for being average, too,
maybe like People, Road
& Track, or Teen Star
Hairstyles? Why shouldn’t American athletes
settle for the middle of the pack in the summer and winter Olympics? Who really
cares about gold medals? Oscars? Nobel Prizes? Three Michelin stars? Yet
you want us seriously to ponder the possibility that average is fine for the
United States when it comes to education?
I would add that average is unacceptable for a nation that
spends more on elementary and secondary education than any other nation, with
the exception of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
State results are not available because the PISA
researchers draw samples from entire nations. We cannot use North Carolina’s state test results to compare
our students with their counterparts in South Carolina, let alone South
Korea. (This is ironic for a state
to cultivate a globally competitive public school system.) Techniques like statistical linking,
though imperfect, may allow us to estimate how North Carolina and other states
would perform on an international assessment like PISA. Last year, researchers from the American Institutes of Research standardized
Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores and compared them to
another international test, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science
Study (TIMSS). The good news was
that North Carolina scored slightly higher than the
international average in reading and math. The bad news was that the highest achieving states
within the United States are still significantly below the highest achieving
It is gut-check time for members of the NC General
Assembly. As U.S. Secretary of
Education Arne Duncan pointed
out, states can improve educational productivity if they are "smart,
innovative, and courageous in rethinking the status quo." Perhaps even the NC State Board of
Education will spend some time talking about the PISA results and smart,
innovative, and courageous reforms that upend the status quo…unless they don’t
have a problem with average.
Facts and Stats
Percentage of 16 year olds enrolled in secondary
education, by country (2006)
103% — Belgium
102% — Greece*
100% — Czech Republic
99% — Sweden
98% — Japan
98% — Netherlands
97% — Poland
97% — Slovenia
96% — Finland
96% — France
96% — Germany
96% — Hungary
96% — Estonia
95% — Ireland
95% — Slovak
94% — Australia
94% — Iceland
94% — Korea,
94% — Norway
94% — Chile
94% — Israel
93% — Austria
93% — Spain
93% — United
91% — Denmark
91% — Switzerland
89% — Italy
87% — New
86% — United
86% — Brazil
84% — Luxembourg
81% — Portugal
57% — Turkey
54% — Mexico
Source: Snyder, T.D., and Dillow, S.A. (2010). Digest
of Education Statistics 2009 (NCES 2010-013).
National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S.
Department of Education. Washington, DC, p. 586.
*Note: Differences in reference dates between enrollment
and population data can result in enrollment rates that exceed 100 percent.
I would like to invite all readers
to submit announcements, as well as their personal insights, anecdotes,
concerns, and observations about the state of education in North Carolina. I will publish selected submissions in
future editions of the newsletter. Anonymity will be honored. For additional information or to send a submission, email Terry at [email protected].
Education Acronym of the
IAP – International
Activities Program, National Center for Education Statistics
Quote of the Week
exception of some improvement in science from 2006 to 2009, U.S. performance on
the PISA has been largely stagnant. The U.S. is not among the top performing OECD nations in any subject
tested by PISA–though U.S. students express more self-confidence in their
academic skills than students in virtually all OECD nations. This stunning finding may be explained
because students here are being commended for work that would not be acceptable
in high-performing education systems.
hard truth is that other high-performing nations have passed us by during the
last two decades."
— U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Remarks
at OECD’s Release of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)
2009 Results, December 7, 2010.