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Wealthy Suburban Schools: Only Mediocre by International Standards

xiggixiggi Registered User Posts: 25,441 Senior Member
edited October 2011 in Parents Forum
Wealthy Suburban School Districts Are Only Mediocre by International Standards
Sixty-eight percent of all U.S. districts have average math achievement below the 50th percentile when compared to achievement in 25 developed nations
The first ever comparison of math performance in virtually every school district in the United States finds that even the most elite suburban school districts produce results that are mediocre when compared to those of international peers. According to the study, entitled “When the Best is Mediocre,” the math achievement of the average student in Beverly Hills, California, is at the 53rd percentile relative to the international comparison group. White Plains, New York, is at the 39th percentile; Evanston, Illinois is at the 48th percentile; Montgomery County, Maryland is at the 50th percentile; and Fairfax, Virginia is at the 49th percentile.

Study Shows That Wealthy Suburban School Districts Are Only Mediocre by International Standards : Education Next
Post edited by xiggi on

Replies to: Wealthy Suburban Schools: Only Mediocre by International Standards

  • chaosakitachaosakita Registered User Posts: 1,439 Senior Member
    Not surprising. Most American students, even wealthy ones, really suck at math.
  • Wildwood11Wildwood11 Registered User Posts: 831 Member
    The way I read this article is that the average wealthy suburban student is comparable to the average student overall in all the countries combined, if average is considered to be around the 50th percentile. Higher achieving students are then probably comparable to international high math achievers. This study, of course, ignores a huge swath of U.S. school systems, but if talking about just wealthier suburbs, it would indicate that students are on par in math internationally.
  • OhioMom3000OhioMom3000 Registered User Posts: 2,063 Senior Member
    It would not strike me that Beverly Hills would have particularly high achieving math students, despite the wealth. My prejudice, I suppose.
  • xiggixiggi Registered User Posts: 25,441 Senior Member

    Nope, what the study reveals is that our best public-school districts are mediocre when compared with the achievement of students in a set of countries with developed economies.
    American education has problems, almost everyone is willing to concede, but many think those problems are mostly concentrated in our large urban school districts. In the elite suburbs, where wealthy and politically influential people tend to live, the schools are assumed to be world-class.

    Unfortunately, what everyone knows is wrong. Even the most elite suburban school districts often produce results that are mediocre when compared with those of our international peers. Our best school districts may look excellent alongside large urban districts, the comparison state accountability systems encourage, but that measure provides false comfort.

    This type of study serves a rebuttal to the typical series of excuses offered to "justify" the dismal results of the US education system in surveys such as TIMMS or PISA. The usual (and misleading) excuse is that the sample of students is composed of poorer and more diverse students. In contrast, this study looks at our wealthiest districts and compares them to national systems that are well-below ours in SES status. Think Slovenia and Greece! On other words, it is their average against our best.

    The results are not different from the previous analyses. The US compares mostly with advanced THIRD WORLD systems of education and trails most industrialized nations in every aspect.

    We simply believe that this is not the case! And we can count on a vocal army of apologists to convince us that all is well. And this in spite of massive dropouts, unabated economic segregation, and lowered standards.

    On the other hand, the self-esteem of our K-12 students must be zenith-high!
  • Wildwood11Wildwood11 Registered User Posts: 831 Member
    Xiggi, please explain how I am misreading this? The average students in this U.S. subset are about at the median-50th percentile of all international students from these countries. If we suppose median and mean are about equivalent in this case, then those districts cited are right in line with their international peers as a whole.
  • bovertinebovertine Registered User Posts: 3,303 Senior Member
    My local district (reasonably wealthy although I'm not sure I am) came in around 70 math and 76 reading. I'm going to check out the Silicon Valley schools. There seem to be a lot of good districts in the northeast.

    I will point out the authors have a page and a half of anticipated criticisms and admit there are likely more. But I haven't read the whole thing.

    Hey, I checked out the Fremont Union High School District, which I believe should be highly performing in Math, and it said "No data" for math. I cry foul. Add another criticism to the author's self created list.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,912 Senior Member
    Wildwood11 wrote:
    The average students in this U.S. subset are about at the median-50th percentile of all international students from these countries.

    It appears that students in wealthy areas of the US perform about as well in math as students overall (rich, middle class, or poor) in other developed countries, while students in non-wealthy areas of the US do worse.

    In other words, US school systems overall are not doing well in math by developed country norms, and what may be considered "good" in math in the US may be "average" in other developed countries (and "elite" in the US would cover the entire range from merely "good" to actually "elite" in other developed countries).

    The article is here:

    When the Best is Mediocre : Education Next
  • smorgasbordsmorgasbord Registered User Posts: 1,803 Senior Member
    For what it's worth, parents abroad are saying that their education systems are degrading as well...
  • Wildwood11Wildwood11 Registered User Posts: 831 Member
    Yes, ucbalumnus, that's how I understood it. But I don't see how the article can suggest that the perfomance in this particular suburban subset (not all pure rich, btw, Evanston? why not Winnetka?) is substandard internationally.

    I'm certainly not defending U.S. performance, in general, which I know is abysmal relative to its resources, just the conclusions of this particular article.
  • OhioMom3000OhioMom3000 Registered User Posts: 2,063 Senior Member
    Our district was 78% math and 89% reading District vs. International. Not bad. This is for 2007.

    "The score represents the percentage of students in the international group who would have a lower level of achievement. For example, a percentile of 60 means the average student in a school district would perform better than 60% of the students in the international group."

    The average student in our district did better than 78% of the international students in math. I don't have a problem with that.
  • QuantMechQuantMech Registered User Posts: 7,854 Senior Member
    I looked up my old high school, spouse's high school, and QMP's high school. The percentile performances by the average student in these schools were:
    compared with students in the other countries of the study: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom

    I can't think of any reason to expect the average student's performance to be higher than it actually is.

    I do wonder how the "reading" tests can be truly comparable, in different languages.
  • emilybeeemilybee Registered User Posts: 13,006 Senior Member
    White Plains is far from a wealthy school district. Neighboring Scarsdale, OTOH is a wealthy district and their math score was 72% and their reading was 87%.

    My district was 61% and 75% respectively.
  • barronsbarrons Registered User Posts: 24,862 Senior Member
    Evanston while it has some wealth also has a large poor minority component. Try New Trier instead. There are a number of better schools in the Chicago area when it comes to average testing. Odd selection of schools really--there are far better--many. I think somebody had an agenda picking schools that sound good--but are not.
  • tk21769tk21769 Registered User Posts: 10,491 Senior Member
    Yes, there is quite a lot of diversity in Montgomery County, MD or Fairfax, VA. Maybe Evanston, too. So (depending on how this study was constructed) I'm not sure they are really comparing "wealthy suburban schools".

    No matter. It's pretty appalling regardless. It's just a matter of degree as to which small subset of the US population you have to compare before the US results start to look competitive.
  • Wildwood11Wildwood11 Registered User Posts: 831 Member
    From the article:
    All of these communities are among the wealthiest in the United States. All are overwhelmingly white in their population. All of them are thought of as refuges from the dysfunction of our public school system

    As this seems to be a distortion, I think you are right about the agenda, barrons.
This discussion has been closed.