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BOX 5-1

Another Point of View: K–12 Education

Some of those who provided comments to the committee questioned the ability of K–12 reform based on the existing US educational model to produce effective, long-lasting improvements in the way our children learn. The United States currently spends more per student than all but one other country (Switzerland),a but it is losing ground in educational performance. Its relatively low student achievement through high school clearly shows that the system is inefficient, and dedicating additional funding to this system is not a guarantee of success. In fact, the biggest concerns involve disparate quality among K–12 institutions and the difficulty of measuring success.

Some question whether K–12 education in the United States really suffers from low student achievement. International comparisons might serve merely to highlight the huge funding inequities among US school districts.b American scholastic achievement, unlike that in most other Western nations, varies widely from school to school and even from state to state. Eighth graders in high-achieving states score even in mathematics with students in the highest-achieving foreign countries. Some in other states score, on the average, about even with schoolchildren in scarcely developed nations. In the United States, many more suburban school districts can provide smaller classes, better-paid teachers, and more computers than can the schools for most urban and rural children. The underprivileged groups struggle with gross overcrowding, decayed buildings, and inadequate funding even for basic instruction. Standardized test scores generally reflect the disparate distribution of resources.

The committee has examined a number of educational programs that have been demonstrated to work, identified core program components—strong content knowledge, practical pedagogical training, ongoing mentoring and education, and incentives—and recommended that programs be implemented as one would implement a research program: with built-in benchmarks, evaluations, and ongoing education—with the expectation that no one program will fit every situation.

Thorough education in science, mathematics, and technology will start students on the path to high-technology jobs in our knowledge economy. To develop an innovative workforce, we must begin now to improve public education in science and mathematics.51


For another point of view on K–12 education reform, see Box 5-1.

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