Summary of How Well Are American Students Learning?

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  • Innovative

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The Brookings Institution’s 2014 Brown Center Report on American Education explores three topics: whether China’s household-registration system skews its results on an important international test; whether American students’ homework load has spun out of control and whether the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) boosted student achievement in math in the US. Tom Loveless, a Brown senior fellow, describes the way China’s hukou system culls migrant children out of Shanghai’s schools, thus clouding the validity of tests that show its students outscoring their peers around the world. As for homework, Brown’s researchers found little change in average US student workloads in the past 30 years, despite popular contentions to the contrary. Regarding Common Core, the center found that US states with a stronger implementation of these standards improved their math scores more than other states – but only slightly. Lay readers may find the Common Core methodology descriptions become a bit dense, but the Brown Center provides a service by bringing research rigor to these emotional issues in education. getAbstract recommends the report to education policy makers, administrators, teachers, parents and anyone seeking insight into these crucial educational questions.

About the Author

Tom Loveless is a senior fellow with The Brooking Center’s Brown Center on Education Policy. Mike Gallaher, Katharine Lindquist and Sarah Whitfield provided research assistance.

 

Summary

Shanghai and the PISA Test

Students in Shanghai, China, posted the highest scores on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test in 2009 and 2012, beating more than 60 nations or regions. The test, given every three years, assesses 15-year-olds in math, reading and science.

How valid were the results? Although PISA officials praise Shanghai’s program, much of the discussion around PISA overlooks the effect of hukou, China’s “household-registration system.” All Chinese must possess a hukou document, a regional passport issued by their family’s ancestral native province, no matter where they now live. Mao Zedong started hukou in 1958 to control migration from rural areas to cities. Now, it limits rural hukou holders’ access to urban education and social services. Students lacking a Shanghai hukou face daunting obstacles to enter an academic high school and must take the national college entrance exam in their hukou region.

Culling Migrant Children

Due to these restrictions, tens of thousands of Shanghai families send their children back to their native villages as the students approach age 15. Other parents move to cities for employment...


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