Public Schools

Commentary by Pete du Pont

Host intro: A just-released survey reports that American students rank 28th out of 41 nations in math skills and 17th in science. The results are consistent with other major studies. Pete du Pont f the National Center for Policy Analysis fingers the culprits.

The third international mathematics and science study flunks American public schools in science and math.

Education Secretary Richard Riley admits our students' performance is average, and that average is much too low. What do we learn from the study?

Well, compared to Japanese math and science teachers ours are uniformly worse trained and prepared, and don't teach as well .

U.S. math and science teaching lacks focus and coherence.

American teachers get no high grades for lesson content. Eighty-seven percent got low grades. Japanese teachers got 30 percent high grades, and just 13 percent low grades.

Why?

There are countless problems; I'll take one, as outlined in The Weekly Standard. Many teachers view testing differently from parents and students. Teachers want tests to be infrequent and want results divorced from their pay and tenure. They don't even want student promotion tied to results.

Parents want testing linked to specific standards, and used routinely for decisions about the fate of staff and students.

One of the oldest admonitions in public policy is, if you're riding a dead horse, dismount. The inefficient, inflexible and unresponsive public school system is dead. Let's saddle a winner instead.

Well, those are my ideas. And at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont, and I'll see you tomorrow.

Host outro: Coming up Monday, Pete du Pont has the results of a congressional scorecard.