Time To Go To School On Achievement Disparities

December 4, 2013

School BusAnother day, another report that the U.S. has continued to slip in international education rankings.

The latest blow comes from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which is an exam given to about a half-million students in 65 countries.

Results show America’s 15-years-olds continued to fall behind, this time failing to reach the top 20 in reading, math and science. The top of the rankings were dominated by Asian nations.

This is not insignificant. And it’s pretty simple: Not competitive in education means not competitive on the world stage.

So, what’s the issue?

Asian nations dominate the test, according to National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel, because they invest in education for everyone. Said Van Roekel in a recent interview: “The one thing they all have in common is that they make a real commitment to education for all kids and nothing deters them from that vision, and then they do what’s necessary to make that happen. In the United States, we don’t have the commitment for all kids and it needs to change.”

This insight hits pretty close to home. Here in Minnesota, our very best students test off the charts, but we face an unmatched imbalance in how we prepare our students for success. Consider:

• In Minneapolis, 91 percent of white kids are ready for kindergarten vs. 41 percent of Hispanic kids.

• Minneapolis again: 67 percent of white kids graduate from high school in four years vs. 22 percent of Native Americans.

• In St. Paul: 85 percent of white kids read by 3rd grade vs. 53 percent of African-Americans.

This is unacceptable and embarrassing for a state that prides itself on its commitment to education. And it represents a real threat to businesses in this state, who will continue to depend on a highly educated workforce to stay competitive.

This is a topic near and dear to our hearts here at Fast Horse. We’re proud of the work we’ve been doing to help such organizations as Generation Next and MinnCan, which are toiling in the trenches to help solve these sorts of educational disparities.

Yesterday’s report of further slippage on the world stage is demoralizing. But thanks to Generation Next and MinnCan, we truly see brighter days ahead.