Many people believe that there is a crisis in the educational system in America right now. People are especially worried about the low scores that high school seniors recently received after taking an international placement test. The U.S. was ranked very low in comparison to forty other industrialized nations. Because of this, a large group of politicians and educators want to increase the standards expected by high schools for their students. However, there are several reasons why this sort of change would be difficult for schools to accomplish. There is some question about whether or not these test scores truly reflect the mathematical abilities of today's students. Two of the bigger problems expected originate from the issues of public school funding and child poverty, although there are several other factors contributing to the problem.
The tests are taken by fourth graders, eighth graders, and twelfth graders. The children in the lower grades scored higher nationally within their respective test levels than the high school students, but the scores were still fairly low. Students were tested in four subjects: general mathematics, general science, advanced mathematics, and physics. In general mathematics, "American 12th graders did better than those in only two countries, Cyprus and South Africa" (Times 1998:2). In physics and advanced mathematics, "no country performed more poorly" (Times 1998: 2). Because the fourth and eighth graders did better on the tests, "experts argued that American pupils start out ahead of their foreign peers in elementary school but as they move through middle and high school are challenged less and less because the curriculum tends to be repetitive" (Times 1998: 3). In an attempt to raise the overall average math and science scores of U.S. seniors, certain authorities want to initiate a new set of higher standards in these subject areas. They believe that the trouble stems from poorly trained teachers who do not...
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