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[Susan notes: Education Week op ed gets EVERYTHING wrong, and Steve Krashen provides the info people, particularly reporters, need.]

Submitted to Education Week but not published

To the editor

I list here Christopher Cross' claims in his column, How to Confront America's International Skills Gap, (June 24, 2015) and my responses to each.

1. Claim: American students score lower than many other countries on tests of literacy.

Response: Study after study has shown that when we control for poverty, American students do quite well on international tests.

2. Claim: According to a study done by OECD, Americans with graduate degrees do worse on international tests than those with graduate degrees in other countries.

Response: The report showed that Americans with MA's and research degrees do not do as well as some others on the PIAAC numeracy scale. The report did not indicate what field that MA was in. Even so, only MA holders in three countries (out of 17) did significantly better than American MA degree holders.

3. Claim: Companies are unable to find qualified employees, especially in high-tech fields.

Response: Several studies have reported that there is a surplus of scientifically trained job candidates, not a shortage.

4. Claim: The solution to these problems is to not abandon higher standards and accountability.

Response: Even if these problems were real, there is no evidence that higher standards and more tests lead to greater achievement.


Control for poverty: Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13;

Bracey, G. 2009. The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit.

Berliner, D. 2011. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism, Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G., & Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers.

Tienken, C. 2010. Common core state standards: I wonder? Kappa Delta Phi Record 47 (1): 14-17.

Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012.

Surplus: Salzman, H. & Lowell, B. L. 2007. Into the Eye of the Storm: Assessing the Evidence on Science and Engineering Education, Quality, and Workforce Demand.

Salzman, H. and Lowell, L. 2008. Making the grade. Nature 453 (1): 28-30.Salzman, H. 2012. No Shortage of Qualified American STEM Grads (5/25/12)

Teitelbaum, M. Is the US Losing the Tech Race, Los Angeles Times, April 20, 2014

Weismann, J. 2013. More Ph.D's than the market can absorb:The Ph.D Bust: America's Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts. The Atlantic, Feb 20, 2013.

Higher standards and tests: Nichols, S., Glass, G., and Berliner, D. 2006. High-stakes testing and student achievement: Does accountability increase student learning? Education Policy Archives 14(1) OECD.

Amrein, A.L. & Berliner, D.C. (2002, March 28).

High-stakes testing, uncertainty, and student learning, Education Policy Analysis Archives, 10(18).

Note: The OECD reported that American students did not do well even when scores were controlled for parental education. Berliner, however, has argued that income, not parental education is an appropriate measure of SES.

Berliner, D. 2014. Criticism via Sleight of Hand.

Krashen, S. 2014. Do American rich kids do worse on international tests than rich kids from other countries?

Stephen Krashen

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