Endangering Prosperity

Endangering Prosperity: A Global View of the American School

Eric A. Hanushek
Paul E. Peterson
Ludger Woessmann
Foreword by Lawrence H. Summers
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 125
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7864/j.ctt4cg82t
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  • Book Info
    Endangering Prosperity
    Book Description:

    The relative deficiencies of U.S. public schools are a serious concern to parents and policymakers. But they should be of concern to all Americans, as a globalizing world introduces new competition for talent, markets, capital, and opportunity. InEndangering Prosperity, a trio of experts on international education policy compares the performance of American schools against that of other nations. The net result is a mixead but largely disappointing picture that clearly shows where improvement is most needed. The authors' objective is not to explain the deep causes of past failures but to document how dramatically the U.S. school system has failed its students and its citizens. It is a wake-up call for structural reform. To move forward to a different and better future requires that we understand just how serious a situation America faces today.

    For example, the authors consider the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international mathematics examination. America is stuck in the middle of average scores, barely beating out European countries whose national economies are in the red zone. U.S. performance as measured against stronger economies is even weaker-in total, 32 nations outperformed the United States. The authors also delve into comparative reading scores. A mere 31 percent of U.S. students in the class of 2011 could perform at the "proficient" level as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) program, compared with South Korea's result of 47 percent. And while some observers may downplay the significance of cross-globe comparisons, they should note that Canadian students are dramatically outpacing their U.S. counterparts as well.

    Clearly something is wrong with this picture, and this book clearly explicates the costs of inaction. The time for incremental tweaking the system is long past-wider, deeper, and more courageous steps are needed, as this book amply demonstrates with accessible prose, supported with hard data that simply cannot be ignored.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-2271-7
    Subjects: Education, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-x)
    Lawrence H. Summers

    The Duke of Wellington famously remarked that the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. That was in an elitist age. Today, the battle for America’s future will be won or lost in its public schools. Unfortunately, victory is not at hand. Indeed, as this book’s powerful indictment of the status quo points out, the battle is being lost.

    The evidence of international comparison is now clear. American students lag badly and pervasively. Our students lag behind students not just in Asia, but in Europe and other parts of the Americas. It is not just disadvantaged...

  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. CHAPTER ONE AN ECONOMIC FUTURE IMPERILED
    (pp. 1-16)

    Americans like to believe that their youth are truly exceptional. A glow of pride spreads across the land whenever young U.S. athletes win more medals than any other nation in the Olympics, as in Vancouver in the winter of 2010 and in London in the summer of 2012. It is true, as the German author of this book likes to remind his colleagues, that at least in the most recent Winter Olympics, Germany won more gold medals than the United States, but however you count these things, the United States was at or near the top of the heap. So...

  6. CHAPTER TWO HUMAN CAPITAL AND ECONOMIC PROSPERITY
    (pp. 17-32)

    Few doubt that human capital is important to economic prosperity. But how do we measure a nation’s human capital? Is it high school completion and the amount of education attained by the citizens of a country, that is, the number of years of schooling the average person has received? Or is it the accumulated knowledge and skills that have been acquired? And if it is the latter, how do we accurately measure the skills of a young person? The question is more than academic. As the old adage goes, what gets measured gets done. How we measure human capital will...

  7. CHAPTER THREE A GLOBAL VIEW OF U.S. STUDENT PROFICIENCY RATES
    (pp. 33-46)

    If American students are to have successful careers, and if the country as a whole is to prosper in the decades to come, American students must be, at a minimum, proficient in math and reading. There is much more to education than competence in these basic subjects, but it is difficult to imagine high levels of scientific and historical knowledge, artistic production, or cultural awareness if students by the time they have reached the age of fifteen are not proficient in the tools that open the door to these domains of learning.

    In this chapter we show that a significantly...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR U.S. ADVANCED PERFORMANCE IN GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
    (pp. 47-56)

    Public discourse tends to focus on the need, particularly among disadvantaged students, to reach basic levels of achievement. That focus has been evident since the passage of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 1965, when special attention to the needs of low performers was reinforced by concentrating federal funding on schools with high percentages of students who were economically disadvantaged. That focus continued in 2002 when the law, relabeled No Child Left Behind (NCLB), required that all students be brought up to a minimum level of proficiency.

    As welcome as the focus of the federal legislation may...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF HIGHER PERFORMANCE
    (pp. 57-68)

    That the system of education in the United States is lackluster is indicated by the following four facts established in the previous chapters of this volume:

    The acquisition of basic skills in reading and especially in mathematics in elementary and secondary school enhances a student’s long-term economic prospects.

    A country that educates students to higher levels of achievement enjoys higher levels of economic productivity and more rapid rates of economic growth.

    The United States is not providing an educational setting in which as large a percentage of students are reaching proficiency in math as thirty-one other countries in the industrialized...

  10. CHAPTER SIX A GLOBAL VIEW OF GROWTH IN U.S. ACHIEVEMENT
    (pp. 69-84)

    At this point, two questions emerge: Is it possible to boost national levels of student achievement? Are there signs the United States is beginning to do better?

    If one takes a long, historical perspective, the answer to the first query is obviously in the affirmative. Nations across the globe, particularly as they transition to modern industrial societies, have enhanced the human capital of their citizens throughout the past two centuries. But perhaps long strides forward in human capital accumulation can no longer be made. Perhaps advanced societies have reached the point at which no additional gains in the performance of...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN SUBSTANTIVE CONCERNS AND POLITICAL OBSTACLES
    (pp. 85-104)

    U.S. schools are not helping the next generation reach its full potential. Compared to what is being accomplished by other industrialized countries, the performance of the United States, once the world’s education leader, is now, especially in mathematics, below average. Nor is there much sign that the United States is gaining ground. The failure to address the country’s educational malaise is extremely costly both for the next generation and for the country as a whole. Fortunately, the situation is not intractable. In some parts of the United States and some parts of the world, rapid student achievement gains are being...

  12. APPENDIX A METHODOLOGY FOR COMPARING U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE
    (pp. 105-116)
  13. APPENDIX B TWO MEASURES OF READING PROFICIENCY
    (pp. 117-120)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 121-132)
  15. REFERENCES
    (pp. 133-140)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 141-147)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 148-148)