America has the best and worse education system in the world.
On one hand, we are endowed with a college education that produces the best scientists, engineers, writers, artists, and entrepreneurs in the world. I should have said there is only a few Gates and Zuckerbergs. The colleges that fulfill our American dreams are also leading us enroute for broader social equality. They balance the demographics and socioeconomics with academics among their applicants.
On the other hand, our K-12 education has been struggling for at least 40 years as we’ve known it, since A Nation At Risk was published by the Reagan administration. The standardized tests that let us see the problem are now demonized as something not designed to tell what kids are taught in classrooms, but what money is about. These tests, which originated from America, are only able to assess Finnish, Japanese, Singaporean, and even Chinese students.
Putting both pictures together, it is clear that our education system is out of synch.
The results? America is running short of engineers and scientists around its workplaces. According to Smithsonian, there are 2 and half million STEM jobs left unfilled yearly. In every college, contrarily, 1 to 2 thirds of students who enter as engineering majors drop out simply because they are unable to maintain the required academics.
We are also missing out STEM teachers in K-12 classrooms. In U.S. public schools, demands for new teachers, especially in math and science, outpace the supply by more than 100,000. Schools simply cannot find willing and qualified American candidates, but merely 3,500 foreign teachers are hired to teach in America each year. This’s because visa is another big issue to get foreign teachers quickly on board. It’s not only Trump who has not made this problem easier.
So, American students are under-taught in STEM subjects. The famine on math and science teachers is even growing at a growing rate. That is the fundamental cause of supply deficiency in engineers in our economy.
Many highly ranked colleges in America denote their education as the inequality solvers. Admissions have been increasingly tilted towards equality measures for well beyond a decade. Top students are often guided to pour their extra-curricular hours into Rwanda, Myanmar, and Nepal on funded philanthropic projects. Holistic evaluations take into account of candidates’ local and racial backgrounds. It seems the Harvards and Princetons alike have been socially more equal than anywhere else.
Along with inequity in colleges appearing to soften, the lack of teachers and student deficiencies in math and science are still widened. American education is still suffering inequity. But it seems more obvious that we have lowered our education quality while making it more socially equal. It is now both a quality and an equality problem that is troubling us all.
Our eyeballs and respects, both as citizens and parents, have made up the ranks of elite colleges so that they attract more and more our talented sons and daughters even in this pandemic. As colleges expand their fame, wealth and applications in decades, our kids suffer more in schools on things they are supposed to learn and enjoy. Did any of these colleges tell us that the leadership, the altruism and the creativity they touted through admission won’t help slow, stop or reverse the American K-12 deteriorating?
One thing always correlates with students’ math and science performances, and predicts their potentials in STEM fields is the standardized tests. To those education professionals who doubt the integrity of tests, here is a question for you. Why are these tests measuring students in all other countries well, but not on the American students as you deemed? Are you surely able to teach American students into Martians that shouldn’t be evaluated by an Earthly assessment?