May 7th, 2008

Making the Grade


Geoff Davis

Nature this week has an opinion piece about the continued mediocre ranking of the US in standardized tests of mathematics and science. The authors claim that the tests don’t really matter that much because

1) it’s the proportion of very high scorers that matters, not the mean, and
2) a lot of the countries that place ahead of the US are tiny.

Fair enough on the first count. As for the second, a number of the high-scoring but small countries are in Europe – I wonder how the US compares to the EU? Probably not quite well enough to be as sanguine as the authors appear to be.

They do sensibly recommend that “education policy for our highest-performing students needs to meet actual labour-market demand,” and they cite the boom and bust market for scientists of the past few decades.

The article appears to be the highlights of a critique of the Gathering Storm report entitled In the Eye of the Storm: Assessing the Evidence on Science and Engineering Education, Quality, and Workforce Demand. Something to add to the to-read pile.