Weigel: American education needs to changePublished 9:14am Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Niles Community Schools Supt. Richard Weigel paints a fairly bleak picture of the state of American education when compared with the rest of the world.
Speaking to the Rotary Club of Niles-Buchanan Monday, Weigel cited several studies that say more or less the same thing: American schools need to do much better at educating their children or the country will suffer.
“I hope to scare you a little bit because there is potential, but that potential is only going to happen if everybody gets behind it,” Weigel said. “This isn’t about Niles or Brandywine or Buchanan, this is about education in general.”
A report released last month by America Achieves called, “Middle Class or Middle of the Pack,” found a large percentage of American middle class high schools have not kept pace with other countries, such as Singapore, Finland, Korea and Germany.
The report is based on new analyses of math and science data disaggregated by economic and social advantage from the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).
The report found when comparing scores across the second-to-top quarter of socio-economic advantage, U.S. students are significantly outperformed by 24 countries in math and 15 countries in science.
American students rank 32nd in the world in math, 21st in science and 17th in reading.
So where does Michigan fit into this picture?
According to student performance on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) — a national test — Michigan ranks 46 out of 50 states.
One of the problems, Weigel said, is the basic structure of education in America has not changed much in the past 50 years.
“Would you go to a doctor that is performing exactly the same way that doctors did 50 or 60 years ago?” Weigel said. “These are the kind of things you have to think about.”
So what can be done?
Weigel said the system has to change.
“Our teachers are wonderful people deeply committed to our children,” he said. “The problem is you have to change the system around them. The system does not help them educate our kids at the level they need to be taught. That’s where the issue is. That’s what has to change.”
Weigel also said it is important for parents to set high expectations for their children and reinforce those expectations every day.
Another change that could help American education, Weigel said, is going to school year round.