September 2003

IN DEFENSE OF AMERICA’S GRADES

The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a study in which they tested students of several countries and attempted to show a correlation between monies spent per pupil and subsequent ranking. Let us be cautious on the assumptions made based on this data. In order to view this data realistically, it should be divided into two separate issues:

Spending and its relation to results
Disparities from country to country
Part I. There is no relationship between dollars spent and test scores. If I charge you one cent to teach your child that 2 + 2 = 4, he will know that knowledge as surely as he would if I charged you twenty dollars for the same lesson. In the same year that Washington D.C. spent $8,393 dollars per student, Utah spent less than half that amount — $3,969. If money spent translated to success, you would expect D.C. to out-perform Utah at every level. But the truth is Utah scored near the top in all standardized tests and D.C. scored dead last. The discrepancy in funds allocated towards education in this example most likely can be attributed to a top-heavy administration.

Part II. To better understand why disparity exists from country to country, I will attempt to draw a simple analogy. Let’s say you have a gallon of white paint, add two ounces of navy blue paint, and stir. You should now have a little over one gallon of baby blue paint. This mixture is an average of the constituent colors. The United States is much like a big paint can; it is filled with colors of all countries. Since the U.S. is an amalgamation, it is an average of all it various constituents. No matter how you slice it, when looking at any national statistic from education level to mortality, crime, and unwed birth rates, you will find that our great country will be reflect a weighted average of the various cultures from which it is created.

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