U.S. Schools and Colleges are the Same, and not in a Good Way

New York Times: “Americans have a split vision of education. Conventional wisdom has long held that our K-12 schools are mediocre or worse, while our colleges and universities are world class.”

“Yet a recent multinational study of adult literacy and numeracy skills suggests that this view is wrong. America’s schools and colleges are actually far more alike than people believe — and not in a good way.”

“International university rankings … have little to do with education. Instead, they focus on universities as research institutions, using metrics such as the number of Nobel Prize winners on staff and journal articles published. A university could stop enrolling undergraduates with no effect on its score.”

The fair way to assess the quality of higher education is to look at the academic performance of the entire population. One study, the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, did just that.

“In 2011 and 2012, 166,000 adults ages 16 to 65 were tested in the O.E.C.D. countries (most of Europe along with the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan and South Korea) and Cyprus and Russia.

“Piaac suggests that the wide disparities of knowledge and skill present among American schoolchildren are not ameliorated by higher education. If anything, they are magnified.”

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