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Competition at the Ed. Olympics


It's hard not to get drawn in to the record-breaking heats in the Olympic swimming competition, or the excitement of the early matchups in soccer and basketball. But before you get all patriotic about the dozen or so medals the United States has already won in Beijing this month, you might temper your enthusiasm with two different takes on international competition.

Here Bob Wise of the Alliance for Excellent Education weighs in with his second broadcast of the "Education Olympics," as he shares disappointing data on where the U.S. stands against other nations on literacy measures. And Fordham's Mike Petrilli has a competing broadcast, one that's more theatrical, and complete with rankings, medal counts, and reports from "news" correspondents.

In Fordham's Education Olympics, Norway gets gold for what we think of as high school graduation, while Germany earns silver, and Korea gets bronze, while the U.S. lags in 18th place.

Using PISA data, Petrilli also ranks countries based on specific skills, such as the percentage of 15 year olds who excel at explaining phenomena scientifically or how boys and girls do on problem-solving tasks.

You can go to Fordham's homepage for today's and future broadcasts.

Unlike the Olympic Games, I think we all can figure out how the Ed. Olympics will turn out, based on previous reports about international comparison tests. And I don't think we'll be celebrating our feats. That is unless some of the critics of those comparisons—who generally believe that they are apples to oranges comparisons and that the U.S. is still a grand success story, academically and otherwise—come up with their own Olympic-like event.


The U.S. is a very individual-oriented country, and I suspect that if you compared the individual students with the highest academic achievement the U.S. would compete quite well.

It's only fairly recently we've made across-the-board achievement a priority.

How many times does it need to be said? Averages don't mean a thing when it comes to inventiveness, innovation, business risk, and plain guts. By the way the US just finished third or fourth in the international math Olympiad and one of our students had one of three perfect scores. We'll be the best and worst, its who we are.

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