Sent to Time Magazine, January 27, 2011
"The Roar of the Tiger Mom" (Jan 31) reports that the US was "mired in the middle" in on the PISA examination, given to high school students in 60 countries, and that China will soon overcome the US in patent applications. Both statements deserve more comment.
Middle-class American children attending well-funded schools outscore nearly all other countries on international tests. American children attending schools with less than 10% of students living in poverty averaged 551 on the PISA reading test, second in the world.
Our overall scores are unspectacular (tied for 10th out of 60 on the PISA) because we have a high percentage of children living in poverty, over 20%. This is the highest among all industrialized countries. In contrast, child poverty in high-scoring Finland is less than 4%.
Poverty means poor nutrition, substandard health care, environmental toxins, and little access to books; all of these factors have a strong negative impact on school success. The problem is poverty, not the quality of our schools.
The US ranks third in the world in the number of patents for new inventions per capita, slightly behind Taiwan and Japan. In contrast, China ranks 50th.