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September 14, 2005 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-09-14

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 14, 2005


U.S. slipping
in education,
study finds
WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States is losing ground in edu-
cation, as peers across the globe zoom by with bigger gains in student
achievement and school graduations, a study shows.
Among adults age 25 to 34, the United States is ninth among indus-
trialized nations in the share of its population that has at least a high
school degree. In the same age group, the United States ranks seventh,
with Belgium, in the share of people who hold a college degree.
By both measures, the United States was first in the world as
recently as 20 years ago, said Barry McGaw, director of education
for the Paris-based Organization for Cooperation and Develop-
ment. The 30-nation organization develops the yearly rankings as
a way for countries to evaluate their education systems and deter-
mine whether to change their policies.
McGaw said that the United States remains atop the "knowledge
economy," one that uses information to produce economic benefits. But,
he said, "education's contribution to that economy is weakening, and
you ought to be worrying."
The report bases its conclusions about achievement mainly on inter-
national test scores released last December. They show that compared
with their peers in Europe, Asia and elsewhere, 15-year olds in the Unit-
ed States are below average in applying math skills to real-life tasks.
Top performers included Finland, Korea, the Netherlands, Japan,
Canada and Belgium.
Given what the United States spends on education, its relatively low
student achievement through high school shows its school system is
"clearly inefficient," McGaw said.
In all levels of education, the United States spends $11,152 per stu-
dent. That's the second highest amount, behind the $11,334 spent by
"The very, best schools in the U.S. are extraordinary," McGaw said.
"But the big concern in the U.S. is the diversity of quality of institutions
- and the fact that expectations haven't been set high enough."
The Bush administration says the 2002 federal law known as the
No Child Left Behind Act is fueling higher achievement among all
students - particularly poor and minority kids - by holding schools
accountable for progress. But the international data, mostly gathered
in 2003, are not recent enough to confirm that the law is producing
results, McGaw said.

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