Education in the U.S

U.S. adults lag behind counterparts overseas in skills

Factory town
Tesla workers cheer on the first Tesla Model S cars sold during a rally at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., in 2012. The high-tech electric cars sell for more than $60,000 each. American workers sometimes lag behind their foreign counterparts in certain basic skills such as math and problem-solving.
(Photo: Paul Sakuma, AP)


No surprise here.  The Obama administration has tried to carry out programs like the National Core Standard.  Resistance from the far right has limited the program to most states but Texas and Arkansas are adamantly against the program.   Many other states run by Republican governors have also limited the program dramatically.

The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. 

U.S.A. Today

Americans trail adults in other countries in math, literacy, problem-solving.

Americans have been hearing for years that their kids are lagging behind the rest of the developed world in skills. Now it’s the adults’ turn for a reality check.

A first-ever international comparison of the labor force in 23 industrialized nations shows that Americans ages 16 to 65 fall below international averages in basic problem-solving, reading and math skills, with gaps between the more- and less-educated in the USA larger than those of many other countries.

The findings, out Tuesday from the U.S. Department of Education, could add new urgency to U.S. schools’ efforts to help students compete globally.

The new test was given to about 5,000 Americans between August 2011 and April 2012. The results show that the typical American’s literacy score falls below the international average, with adults in 12 countries scoring higher and only five (Poland, Ireland, France, Spain and Italy) scoring lower. In math, 18 countries scored higher, with only two (Italy and Spain) scoring lower. In both cases, several countries’ scores were statistically even with the USA.

States like Arkansas and Texas have consistently refused government initiatives to improve the education process in the United States.  Far Right-Wing politicians are adamantly opposed to these initiatives.  Hence, we are far below standard when  compared to other nations.  This has to change…

The new test was given to about 5,000 Americans between August 2011 and April 2012. The results show that the typical American’s literacy score falls below the international average, with adults in 12 countries scoring higher and only five (Poland, Ireland, France, Spain and Italy) scoring lower. In math, 18 countries scored higher, with only two (Italy and Spain) scoring lower. In both cases, several countries’ scores were statistically even with the USA.

TEST YOURSELF: Could you solve these problems?

The oldest Americans in the sample turned in a higher-than-average performance in reading, with 9% of test-takers between 55 and 65 years old scoring at the top proficiency level, compared to just 5% worldwide. In math, however, they were even with the 7% international average.

The problem, the new findings suggest, is with younger U.S. workers, who lag in nearly every category.

The results are “quite distressing,” says Harvard University’s Paul Peterson, co-author of Endangering Prosperity, a recent book on education and international competitiveness. “Other countries have been catching up for some time,” he says. “At one time, we had a really significant lead, but those people are disappearing from the workforce.”

“Adults who have trouble reading, doing math, solving problems and using technology will find the doors of the 21st century workforce closed to them,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan says. “We need to find ways to challenge and reach more adults to upgrade their skills.”

Other findings:

• Average literacy scores ranged from 250 in Italy to 296 in Japan. The U.S. average: 270.

• Average math scores ranged from 246 in Spain to 288 in Japan. The U.S. average: 253.

• Only 9% of U.S. adults performed at the highest proficiency level on math. Just three countries — South Korea, Italy and Spain — had a lower average.

• Overall, about one in eight Americans turned in a top performance in reading — seven countries had a higher percentage of top performers. In math, 15 countries had more top performers.

What brought the U.S. average down was a larger-than-average gap in skills between groups, such as those with or without a college degree, and between workers whose jobs do or don’t require advanced math and reading skills.

While those gaps may not show up immediately in productivity totals, Peterson says, in time they’ll have an effect. “There’s a 20-year delay between the quality of the educational system and its impact,” he says. “It’s sort of like watching a car crash in slow motion.”


U.S. Politics

Joe Walsh – Michelle Obama Funeral Flap

Joe Walsh Michelle Obama Funeral

Some people just don’t know when to go home after the party is over.  Joe Walsh is one of them…

The Huffington Post

Making good on his threat promise that he’s not going away, ex-Congressman Joe Walsh reared his head Friday morning to blast the first lady for traveling to her hometown of Chicago to attend slain 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton’s funeral.

In a series of tweets first reported by DNAinfo Chicago, Walsh ripped Michelle Obama’s attendance at the funeral of the teen-aged inaugural performer as “political.”



News of Pendleton’s Jan. 29 shooting death struck a chord nationwide, prompting outrage over the honor student’s senseless slaying, gun control and the epidemic of shooting violence in Chicago.

After the King College Prep student was shot by a still at-large perp while standing under a park canopy to escape the rain, a petition was started urging President Obama to attend the teen’s funeral.

Thursday, a White House official said Michelle Obama would attend the funeral, along with senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn will also attend the funeral.

“As a mother and Chicagoan, the first lady was heartbroken to learn of the tragic lossof Hadiya Pendleton due to senseless gun violence,” Kristina Schake, Michelle Obama communications director, told the Tribune Thursday.

According to WGN, a Friday visitation for Pendleton will be held at Calahan Funeral Home, 7030 S. Halsted St., from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. The wake and funeral follow on Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. at the Greater Harvest Baptist Church at 5141 S. State St.

Walsh’s criticism of the first lady attending the Pendleton service is not the first time the Tea Party favorite has lashed out on the topic of Chicago violence following a headline-grabbing tragedy. Last spring, after the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin inspired Walsh’s then-congressional colleague Bobby Rush to don a hoodie on the House floor, Walsh said he hoped Rush would “be as outraged with all of the black on black crime going on in the city of Chicago weekend after weekend” as he was with Martin’s death.

Politico's Top Political Quotes

Week in one liners: Biden, Cain, Carney


The top quotes in politics …

“I’m looking for pies.” —Vice President Joe Biden at Costco.

“He said he wouldn’t play me but I could play on his team.” — Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III on challenging Obama to a basketball game.

“Last week The Onion said I was going to become a male stripper.”  — Education Secretary Arne Duncan responding to questions about his future.

“It’s a cultural icon! Or something.” — Former White House hopeful Herman Cain on his 9-9-9 tax plan.

“I screwed up royally.”— Ex-CIA director David Petraeus in a letter about his affair.

“The only good thing about Grover Norquist is he’s named after a character from ‘Sesame Street.'”  — Former Pres. George W. Bush adviser Matthew Dowd going after the anti-tax activist.

“The notion that you can solve all problems over a cocktail I think is a little overrated.” — WH press secretary Jay Carney on the importance of socialization with lawmakers.

“I got beer!” — Small business owner Deborah Carey discovering bottles of White House home brew in her swag bag.



NEW DATA: 6.6 Million Young Adults Insured Thanks To Obamacare

This is good news for proponents of Obamacare but doesn’t make an iota of difference to its opponents…

Think Progress

Even though much of the Affordable Care Act does not go into effect until 2014, conservatives insist the bill is making things worse for Americans. But a new study shows that one implemented provision of the ACA is already providing millions of young Americans with health insurance.

According to a study by the Commonwealth Fund, 6.6 million young adults have signed up for coverage through their parents’ health insurance plans. Under the ACA provision, young people can now stay on their parents’ plans until the age of 26. About half of the 19-to-25 year-olds interviewed for the study reported opting in to their parents’ plans between November 2010 and November 2011.

Last month, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote college presidents and student organizations urging them to remind students they can stay on their parents’ plans after graduation. “Now, graduating students are free to make career choices based on what they want to do, not where they can get health insurance,” they wrote.

Some of President Obama’s staunchest critics are also beginning to realize the benefit of increased young people in insurance pools. Republican Senators Scott Brown and Roy Bluntbroke ranks to speak approvingly of the provision. Even Tea Party favorite Rep. Allen West  signaled his support of the measure in an interview with ThinkProgress.

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll also showed that about 71 percent of Americans view the provision favorably.

Late last year, the government estimated there would be 2.5 million new young adults covered under the provision. The new estimate is higher, in part, because it also includes young people who were previously covered but were able to obtain better, cheaper coverage under the Obamacare provision

West Wing Week

West Wing Week: “Green Eggs and Governors”

The White House

Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It was a busy week on the 18 acres, with President Obama welcoming the nation’s governors, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and Mexican President Felipe Calderón to the White House. The First Lady and Education Secretary Arne Duncan also helped kick off Education Month at the Library of Congress.

GOP Political Attacks · Gov. Chris Christie · National Education Association · NEA · Teachers · Teachers' Unions

The politics of education upended

I’m not sure I agree with Republican governors and the Obama administration that teachers’ unions are the root of all the fiscal problems in a majority of our states.  

Their argument would have some validity if the GOP weren’t relentlessly going after teachers and unions for years now.  The problem is not fiscal prudence, the problem is that since Reagan, the GOP has tried to get rid of unions period.  Unions are a source of protection from big government and big business which is anathema to GOP ideology.


In Wisconsin, about 1,000 teachers called in sick Wednesday to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to strip their union bargaining rights.

In Washington, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recounted his battle with his state’s teachers unions Wednesday, calling their leaders “greedy” and “selfish.”

And in Nevada, Indiana and Florida, Republican governors are targeting teacher contracts and work rules to fix a system they say is broken. “The status quo has put us at the bottom of the heap,” Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval told POLITICO.

The events point to a convergence that is remaking the politics of education. Teachers unions, historically one of the most powerful interest groups in American politics, are being besieged like never before – under attack from conservative GOP governors with a zeal for budget-cutting even while taking fire from some Democrats, including President Barack Obama, who has suggested he agrees that unions can be an impediment to better schools.

Obama’s education secretary Arne Duncan sounded surprisingly like the Republican governors when he told teachers unions and administrators at a conference Tuesday in Denver, “Clearly, the status quo isn’t working for children.”

The backlash threatens to undercut one of the Democratic Party’s most stalwart backers — and upset a mutually beneficial relationship where the unions provided financial support and foot soldiers for Democratic campaigns, in return for political cover to protect their prerogatives in the U.S.Congress and state capitals across the nation.   More…


Time Magazine

Who Will Be Time Magazine’s Person Of the Year For 2010?

In recent years “Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” picks have been quite controversial at times.  In the past, Joseph Stalin and the Ayatollah Khomeini who overthrew the Shah of Iran in a bloody revolution, have been Time Magazine’s “Person/Man of the Year”.  

Who will be this year’s pick?

Time Magazine

Take a look at this year’s candidates (listed in alphabetical order) and give them your rating — though TIME’s editors who choose the actual Person of the Year reserve the right to disagree. 

Poll Results

TIME’s “The Man of the Year” Past Winners (Complete List)