June 3rd, 2009
05:00 PM ET

Too late for American public schools to become competitive?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Our education system is in serious trouble; and it's unclear how American students can continue to compete globally. Consider this: out of 30 industrialized countries in a 2006 study, American 15-year-olds ranked 25th in math. Many of our big city high schools have a graduation rate below 50 percent.

This may be why most states now seem to agree that national education standards are needed, instead of the patchwork system we currently have. 46 states, along with the District of Columbia, have agreed to develop a set of standards for what students should learn every year from kindergarten through high school.

The group is expected to come up with the standards by July - and then each state will have to decide whether to sign on. The coalition says the benchmarks would be internationally competitive. And they better be...

Critics of the current system - where each state sets its own standards - point to places where students score well on state tests, but not on national exams. For example - in Mississippi, 90 percent of fourth graders passed the state reading exam in 2007, but only 51 percent had basic or partial mastery on a national exam.

Many Republicans oppose national standards, saying that Washington shouldn't control schools; but there seems to be more support this time around since the schools and states are leading the charge. Plus the results of the old way of doing it are nothing short of dismal.

Here’s my question to you: Is it too late for American schools to become competitive?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Sandra from Arkansas writes:
No, not if we realize that we have stopped prioritizing education. We prioritize sports programs, computer games, television, movies, etc. and not education… Just as GM sold Hummer to China, we are selling our future to the countries and parents who are educating their children. It is not too late but we have to have a readjustment of priorities and motivations.

Richard writes:
Is it too late? It was too late 20 years ago when we first saw evidence of our failing schools. But if you remember, we had this new social rule: Political correctness. As bad as it was, heaven-forbid you make someone feel bad about it. Well, here we are. 'Dumb and Dumber' are the parents of today's students and those kids are more confused than ever. Good luck with that one.

Don writes:
We can have all the standards we want, but if we continue with social promotions, we will still have functioning third graders reaching for the diplomas.

Dave from Pennsylvania writes:
Jack, The dismal statistics you reported are far more concerning to me than the Dow Jones, quarterly reports, or employment statistics. They are signs of bad things to come for the next several generations, not just the immediate economic future. Even though we can't measure our returns in hard numbers, education of future generations is where we need to invest our resources today.

Ken from North Carolina writes:
It's not too late if you can make parents and teachers take an active part in the education of their children. Parents want a "babysitter" in the schools and teachers want tenure" for longevity and retirement. No one is concerned about anything else as long as we can import Chinese, Japanese and Indians to do the work that places such a heavy burden on the brains of our kids - and takes so much time from their texting.

Filed under: Education
soundoff (305 Responses)
  1. Kevin in Dallas, TX

    The top priority needs to be parent/student accountability. The best schools in the world can't teach anything to someone who doesn't care to learn. We all hear about people graduating from High School who can't read. I'm sorry, but after 12 years of education, that's the student's fault.

    June 3, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  2. Arturo F. Jasso

    Discipline! Discipline! Discipline! Students all over this country do not have any respect for their teachers. And the directors of the educational system do not have the guts to confront them with serious punishment which should include expulsion. The parents of this students are also to blame because they have not installed on them habits of work and respect. Without discipline no serious instruction can be done in eny school.

    A.J. Jasso
    Chino Hills, ca.

    June 3, 2009 at 1:00 pm |
  3. jenny

    There are so many things that need to be fixed. I think that the publics attitude toward education must chnage. Education must be more important than football, baseball, soccer etal. It must be more important that cheerleading, piano lessons and any other extra curricular activity. It must be more important that parttime jobs, boy scouts, girl scouts and 4-H.In the countries that do so well educationg children, education is the most important thing. Kids go to school to learn to play sports and be on the year book staff.

    June 3, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  4. David of Alexandria VA

    Engageing the parents in the process and holding them somewhat accountable for their kids' educational. Too many students drop out of highschool - we'll never get the next generation competative if we can't keep them engaged.

    June 3, 2009 at 1:05 pm |
  5. Conor in Chicago

    Paying teachers a living wage so that they have an incentive to do a good job. I was going to be a teacher but when I figured out all I'd have to deal with from the state, the law, and the classroom itself versus the pay I opted for something different.

    June 3, 2009 at 1:06 pm |
  6. Thom Richer

    Students, teachers, class size,curriculum, funding. In that order.

    Thom Richer
    Negaunee, MI

    June 3, 2009 at 1:06 pm |
  7. Scott - San Diego

    Removing all the illegals from our schools. That would reduce class size and provide a better education for the legal citizens of our country in English.

    June 3, 2009 at 1:07 pm |
  8. Bob in Indiana

    Pay for performance is number 1. Unless we start paying teachers a fair wage, it becomes more and more difficult to get our young people interested in becoming educators. Additionally, we should test teachers more frequently to insure they are qualified to teach.

    Number 2 is fix the decaying infrastructure of schools in poorer areas. Asking our children to learn and expect them to come out of the school systems ready to compete with the rest of the world when we can't offer a descent learning environment, is ludicrous.

    June 3, 2009 at 1:07 pm |
  9. A Granite Stater

    First and foremost, a quality education must be available to every citizen. Higher education, in particular, should not be limited to the wealthy among us. Many other countries offer free tuition to college and, not surprisingly, they are surpassing us in many fields. We're becoming a nation of simple-minded burger flippers and that's very sad.

    June 3, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  10. Rick Medina,OH


    We need a more sensible way to finance education in this country. The system is heavily reliant on property tax levies, which are often voted down by relatively new home owners struggling to make mortgage payments, or by other voters whose kids have long ago graduated. Voters and citizenry pay for public education, but we need a system that is immune to short-term mood changes of the electorate.

    Secondly, we need a better means to 'weed and feed' the the folks who are teaching our kids. There are some great teachers out their - skilled and caring. But there are also some real slugs. We need to find a better way to reward those who are effective with improved compensation and job security, and find a faster way for the remainder to find the EXIT door.

    Rick, OH

    June 3, 2009 at 1:11 pm |
  11. John Webster, Aldergrove BC Canada

    Silly question Jack, everyone should already know the answer. Lets get to educating our youth and not just making them all feel good and equal by passing them up the ladder of ignorance, similar to how executives get promoted to their levels of incompetence. Failure to pass a subject or grade indicates poor teaching and poor learning and we should get back to giving meaningful grades for achievement academically and not socially.

    June 3, 2009 at 1:12 pm |
  12. george

    To make sure that a good education starts where it should start, and that is at home. Educators do not make very good baby sitters, or social skills teachers, so the task of getting your child ready for school should be on the parents. Most parents today think that all they have to do is get the kids to the front door, and then it is up to the educators to teach them, but without out social skill, manners, and a basic understanding what YOU expect from them is very important too.

    June 3, 2009 at 1:13 pm |
  13. Lene, IL

    Well Jack..For one, they need to stop teaching subjects with a political agenda and stick with hard proven facts. Our kids go to school anymore to get brainwashed in the latest trends (junk science). I think what is lacking big time is the knowledge of what their role and "rights" are in a Democracy and what the role of the government is supposed to be. I guess the agenda is to keep them ignorant and stupid so they don't know any better so eventually they can be robots and believe everything they hear or are told without question...Another thing to do is require students to be adept in English before they are put into the public school system so there is enough resources to teach EVERYONE in a quality manner.

    June 3, 2009 at 1:15 pm |
  14. Mark Straub

    Education starts in the home, and unfortunately the rest of the educational systems are not what's adversely effecting the home.
    Mark S
    Alexandria, KY

    June 3, 2009 at 1:24 pm |
  15. Lou from Fayetteville, NC

    My daughter has just been accepted to help children, older children, and adults learn to read. This is a program funded by an Obama program. Helping people to read who are basically illiterate is a really good place to start. Maybe higher priority is paying teachers who are good teachers and know their subject matter a good wage.

    June 3, 2009 at 1:24 pm |
  16. Adam Thousand Oaks, CA

    We need to have a high standard. We need to allow teachers to teach at a pace that is necessary for the majority of the students, not just the slowest kid in the bunch. We need parents to be more involved and stress the importance of education with their children. We need to expect more. Funding, though the usual scapegoat, is not the problem. If your neighbor has burned through all the money he has been given to buy all the fancy new equipment and teaching aides, but he is not doing a good job educating, would you think writing him another fat check solves anything?

    June 3, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  17. Tony Lewis

    There is no need for education reform. What needs to be done is to go back to what we used to actually do......educate the children.
    Too much attention is being paid to preparing students to take standardized academic tests to measure their learning, while little attention is being given to teaching them the rudiments of reading, writing and math.
    As a substitute teacher I saw too many students who simply could not read with comprehension or express themselves in written form which made it almost impossible for them to pass any kind of test of their knowledge.

    June 3, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  18. Cheryl

    Teach them to think – don't teach to the state test. Leave No Child Behind left all children behind. It dumbs down our nation. When Hurricane Ike left Houston without electricity, I found that the average 17-year-old could not make change without a cash register telling them exactly how much to give back.

    June 3, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  19. Dr. Giorgio in Italy

    There are many priorities in education reform! This is a very difficult question! Increase in federal and state subsidies for education that are used efficiently. Improve the quality of teachers, by importing educators from all over the world with guaranteed 5 year contracts. Students need to be channeled in areas of trade or professions in which they find they are the best in or most passionate for. Perks or added incentives to stay in school, with free lunches, free infant or baby care while the parent is in school, and part-time school-jobs for income. Education reform has been highl debated and contested for many centuries-but needed for social evolution! I'm sorry, couldn't do better on this one Jack!

    June 3, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  20. Mark, Bradenton,FL

    Yes it is. If you have classes taught in Spanish and students that do not speak English you have a problem. We should look towards Germany where I went to school for a couple of years. Students actually do better when they are challenged and not be treated like idiots for the FCAT. First of all we have to make English the official language.

    June 3, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  21. Sandra - Temecula

    Yes, with the teachers unions you cannot weed out the bad teachers and the good teachers are treated the same. There are too many illegals in our schools, leading to over crowding and too much time wasted on speaking spanish. Parents throw a fit and blame the school if their little dumpling is failing.

    June 3, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  22. Dee in sunny (and wet) Florida

    I think the priorities should be:

    1. Every child should read adequately at least by fifth grade, at grade level. I believe a fifth grade level reading capability is sufficient to eliminate functional illiteracy.

    2. Fire a BUNCH of "administrators". Hire more GOOD teachers, pay them good wages. (and it looks like "do you see your students as potential sex partners" should be one of the questions on the interview list!)

    3. Look up America's ranking in education as compared to other industrialized nations. Look at the country in the number one position. See how they got to be number one, and copy their methods.

    June 3, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  23. Cheryl

    It will be difficult to have national standards. I thought Texas had a low standard until Katrina forced many Louisiana children to come here – the Texas system had to further dumb down, which didn't do any favors for Texas children. Our collective national IQ is going down. We have to do more for our best and brightest in order to compete globally. Unfortunantely, we will never be able to do much with our bottom tier of people, which cuts across all races.

    June 3, 2009 at 2:34 pm |
  24. Larry from Georgetown, Texas

    No it's not too late but we need to change and soon. Look at what Japan did after WWII and how they became an industrial giant because they focused on a quality education not just profit, profit and profit. But we will not change until the people of this country suffer a tremendous amount of pain and loss and we're not there yet.

    June 3, 2009 at 2:39 pm |
  25. Alex (CT)

    Jack, it's mainly about society. When we have unsupporting parents and kids looking up to failures in life what would you expect to be the end result? Kids in America these days are put on hold for primetime TV shows and minimal time is given to them when their parents just run through the nearest fast food restaurant's drive-up window for dinner each night instead of sitting down with their kids and talking about school and things like the old days. Countries like China have parents that go out of their way on a daily basis for their kids and even with the population difference considered it's no wonder why their amount of Honors students exceeds our total amount of standard-level students.

    June 3, 2009 at 2:39 pm |
  26. Larry

    You can't lay it all on the schools, Jack.

    When was the last time parents helped their kids with their homework, and encouraged them to learn.

    Cincinnati, OH

    June 3, 2009 at 2:41 pm |
  27. Sandra in Arkansas

    No, not if we realize that we have stopped prioritizing education. We prioritize sports programs, computer games, television, movies, etc. and not education. There needs to be an adjustment in parental attitudes and educational circles. Education is not where the money or the fun is and that is wrong. Why does a ballplayer make more than an educator or a scientist who is looking for cures for diseases or improvements in such things as clean coal technology? Just as GM sold Hummer to China we are selling our future to the countries and parents who are educating their children. It is not too late but we have to have a reeadjustment of priorities and motivations.

    Sandra in Arkansas

    June 3, 2009 at 2:45 pm |
  28. Jim from Chicago

    It's not too late, but it is sure getting there fast. This whole idea of starving the schools for funding and teaching to a national test has made the entire educational system a joke. We need to fully fund our schools, including paying teachers a competitive wage, and get back to a well-rounded ciriculum. Then, we should consider job training as an addendum beyond grade 12.

    June 3, 2009 at 2:54 pm |
  29. Kim - Blair, NE

    Where our kids are concerned, it is never too late. Whether it be education or behavior, we can never give up on our kids future. To stop trying is not an option. As with other problems our president has to contend with, it will take time to fix the mess left to him. However, if given half a chance, children can be pretty impressive with their abilities to learn.

    June 3, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  30. Rick McKinney, Texas

    It is not to late but their needs to be fiscal accountability on where these Federal education dollars go.
    At the present time, the U.S. Department of Education is not required to collect data on what happens to federal education dollars once they reach local school districts. Education is–and should remain–primarily a state and local responsibility; however, when Congress allocates federal tax dollars to education programs, it should know, at the very least, what percentage will be consumed by administration and will not reach the classroom.
    Although the U.S. Department of Education recently reduced its total paperwork burden by 10 percent, it estimates that it still takes approximately 48.6 million paperwork hours–the equivalent of almost 25,000 employees working 40 hours a week for a full year–to complete the total paperwork involved. On average only 5 percent of a schools educational dollars come from the Federal government. That isn't much.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  31. john .... marlton, nj

    It is never too late to save our children. Our public school system is the perfect storm of incompetence and gross dereliction of duty that can only be achieved when you combine civil servants and unions. It seems to me that the only problem Obama and the flaming liberals have with Bush’s No Child Left Behind program was that someone must be held accountable for failure.
    I am outraged that teachers “pass” students to the next level when the student can’t do the work. Frankly, as far as I am concerned, passing a student that really didn’t pass is the equivalent to fraud. Yes defrauding taxpayers of our school taxes. Maybe we should start locking up some administrators and teachers.
    Now that the flaming liberals are finished venting envy and squirting venom at Wall Street maybe it’s time to try something they are less familiar with, protecting our children. I don’t doubt Obama will come up with a national testing system, the problem I have is that he will continually lower the standards to appease unions.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:02 pm |
  32. Frank from Peterborough

    Unless the American thought process changes then yes Jack it far too late for your education system. When Americans keep swallowing the lower taxes smaller government hogwash then have to expect lower quality and less services.

    The other point would be education should be left up to the school system as you can only teach what you have time for and then let religion be practiced in the respective homes and houses of worship.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:04 pm |
  33. Joyce's Voice-Marshall, TX

    By no means. We just need to get started as soon as possible in making education work. We've wasted too much time on political and career issues while leaving a generation of youth uninspired or desirous to learn. We can do it, but we need to start today.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:04 pm |
  34. maria from Europe

    is never to late... but it would be good USA start doing something about the sistem... education is the better tool for a better future...

    June 3, 2009 at 3:04 pm |
  35. bobwhite in Kansas

    No, its not too late. But things must change for the US to be more competitive. We have two fundamental problems that keep our school performance low. First, local control is vested with persons who want to keep teacher's below professional status in both income and educational leadership. Local control means 'keep it all cheap, i.e., low taxes, except the sports.' Don't fund schools as well as other professions but expect them to preform as well as other professions. And, second, in the mean time keep public education performance under the control of state legislatures and local school boards, not professional educators. So long as education is a state and local function, the USA will not perform well compared to national education standards in competing countries. Look at the research.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  36. Rob

    I do not believe it is too late, however, we need to have a shift in deciding what is important for our kids to learn. We spend way too much time teaching to a test filled with items that "someone" "somewhere" ,who probably never stepped into a classroom since graduating, believes to be important. Too many students today can't add, subtract, multiply, and divide without a calculator. We are told they don't need to know how to do this because the technology is now there for them to use. I am sorry but I believe some "BASICS" need to be taught. Now they tell us it is more important that they know "how to find the answer" than actually know what the answer is.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:07 pm |
  37. Jesse J

    Hi Jack,

    It is not too late for schools in the US to become competitive... the US Government just needs to give them as much money as it has the Big Banks and Auto Industry.

    I think investing in our children and the future of the country should take priority over AIG, CITI, GM, Chrysler etc.

    Ps when was the last time a teacher gave themselves a multi million dollar bonous for spending extra time with the kids or making sure that one child in the corner was ok?

    Vancouver Canada

    June 3, 2009 at 3:08 pm |
  38. Pablo in Tejas

    i reckon we could whip the schools into shape in about 15 to 25 years. We should start by creating a Federal Standard emphasizing GRAMMAR, READING and WRITING at all grade levels. Three years of foreign language should be mandatory for graduating high school. Civics from at least the 6th Grade on up. No more "Social Studies". Instead teach History, Economics, and Sociology as separate disciplines from Grades 1-12. Math, Science, and Computers ditto. Restore "F" as a grade, and NO social promotion, period. Any school district that does not want to follow these guidelines would just have to forego ALL Federal Education money. (call it coercive voluntarism)
    If we do it right, the only downside is that this would put the internet conspiracy nuts and radio talk jocks out of business by eliminating the national pool of gullible twits they rely on for their daily bread.

    Arlington Texas

    June 3, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  39. Dominic Wells (Sandusky, Ohio)

    Never too late. There are plenty of well educated young people in this country. We can improve the system with more effective strategies. The idea of No Child Left Behind was not a bad one. However, the money got left behind. We cannot just blame the teachers for the failure in our education system. The problem starts with the parents. Children with parents that play an active role in their child's education perform well in school. We cannot blame public schools, because many test just as well as private or charter schools. It starts at home, Jack.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:13 pm |
  40. Tom, Avon, Maine, The Heart of Democracy

    The first lesson every student should learn is that it is never too late. Here in Maine we just had a Great-grandmother graduate from college along with her daughter and grand-daughter.

    If we promote learning as patriotic and nerds as heroes in our battle for an American future, we can defeat the anti-science, anti-facts enemy within.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  41. Denny from Tacoma, WA

    No, and education can be improved immensely by making it a priority and not one of the first budget-cut items on local govenments' agendas. Good education needs to become a reality instead of a political football.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  42. Jim from Alabama

    Unless we can stem the teen drug problem, teen pregnancy rate and drop out rate, yes it is. There simply has to be more parental involvement in our children's' lives to correct the course of this ship. Tachers cannot discipline children like they once could, nor can they serve as role models, which makes their jobs even harder. Children today are disrespectful, rude, arrognant, defiant and violent in school. This also has to be controlled. Finally, those teachers with tenure who incompetent should be weeded out and replaced with competent teachers and administrators. Unless all this is done, our education system is indeed in dire trouble.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:18 pm |
  43. Stacy from Leesburg, VA

    There should be more nationalization of schools because the current system is such a failure. Look at France, for example. They have a national standard for schools and having spent a lot of time over there, I can safely say that the system works. Republicans are too worried about trying to cram “intelligent design” down kid’s throats and not enough about language, math, and science.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:18 pm |
  44. MaryEllen Benvenuto-Rendine

    I was raised north of Boston and graduated from high school in 1967. I now live in Arizona, as do my four grandsons. If it were not for my daughter's desire and effort; my grandsons would probably not be so well educated. The school system (excepting a few schools) has been a travesty in this state.
    I was able to graduate from high school with an education comparable to that of many college graduates today! I am fearful that our most precious resource (an educated country) will dry up if we don't heed the wake-up call heard from one end of this country to the other!

    June 3, 2009 at 3:18 pm |
  45. D. in NH

    No, but it's going to be a very long time in trying to bail out this sinking ship. This decline has been going on for decades and it'll be decades before we see a the rewards of a better system. We also shouldn't overlook the fact that we not only need education overhaul but we also need to better educate parents in making good decisions with and for our kids because schools can't do it all. Until both happen, it's going to be a very steep a hill to climb.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:20 pm |
  46. Larry, Ohio

    Jack,if I had school age children in today's world,the one thing that I would have at the top my list to do is to make sure my children were enrolled in some private school.I don't think there is anything worse than so called government education for our children's future.Sadly it will remain so,as long as government worries more about teacher's unions than they do students.No,it's not too late but there needs to be some big, big changes!

    June 3, 2009 at 3:21 pm |
  47. John from Long Island

    There are only two things lacking to make American schools once again the preeminent, free education institutions in the world. MONEY (to hire more teachers for better base pay, purchase better and more modern supplies and tools, and rebuild an overtaxed and often crumbling infrastructure) and the WILL from the highest Federal, State and City levels to make Public Education an ongoing priority; not merely a cynical campaign promise to be trotted out every election cycle. Children will more often than not rise to the level of expectations placed upon them. Give the educators the ability, tools and freedom to raise “the bar” and watch the results.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:21 pm |
  48. Carolyn

    It is “Never” too late! Yes we can become competitive in Education with other Countries. I strongly feel our current Public Education System is broken – Largely due to antiquated & out dated laws.
    Example would be Student Truancy Laws- originally designed to keep children out of working in Sweat Shops – sometimes a Parent can forget to write an absent note & as punishment they receive Truancy Fine.
    I also have 3 grown children who have gone through the PA Public Education System. All 3 were above average intelligence -yet no one actually received gifted ed. I had to explain what “MENSA” is!!! I spent time in the classroom as a volunteer during their elementary years. What I learned is a PA Teaching Certificate DOES NOT mean the individual is suited for teaching!
    Recently some North East PA School Districts were investigated for corruption. A Superintendent & the President of another school district pleaded guilty. ALL school districts should be investigated- no more shenanigans with our taxpayer money!
    My only hope is our Governor wants to consolidate 500 school districts into 100. Great idea! All the Professional Educators seem to want is to work less & get paid more! When I see our district(PMSD) Superintendent earns $150,000 per year & a Senator earns $162,000 I feel something is wrong!
    Carolyn in Tobyhanna, PA

    June 3, 2009 at 3:29 pm |
  49. Alex in Seattle

    It is never too late. We must save our schools. I believe the real problem is in our greater society which celebrates celebrity more than reality. Our country offers a free education for every child, but too many fail to take advantage of it. Look at the Obamas. They had parents who supported study and academic achievement. They went on to college with scholarships and went on to great success.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:30 pm |
  50. David in Raleigh, NC

    Until teachers are held accountable for the quality of the students that they turn out every year, the quality of the schools will continue to decline.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:32 pm |
  51. Tim in Texas

    We will not have a competitive public education system until the wealthy have a stake in insuring that every public school functions well. We need to initially do two things. First, lump all tax dollars for public education together and divide them equally into a per student amount (extra for special needs kids). Second, make it manatory that ALL American children attend public school 40 hours per week, 45 weeks per year. In other words – we have to eliminate private schools.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:32 pm |
  52. Gigi

    If they started today they would be behind by twelve years. The school system here in the states is terrible. Paying teachers more is not the answer. The almighty dollar is not the answer. We need dedicated teachers and trade schools for those who would don't need college prep. for higher education. And a country that offers hope of a job market for them in the future. Where is the job market for the class of 2009 in China?


    June 3, 2009 at 3:33 pm |
  53. Jane (Minnesota)

    It may very well be – I don't think either side (government or Education can (nor wants to fix it). The government already stuck it's nose into education miserably with no child left behind. That needs tobe overhauled badly. The Education system is also at fault – I do not think they are capable of degining a system that can compete with other countries. Theyve strayed so far away from the basic 3R that were stressed much more when I was a child. Kids can't be allowed to rely solely on caluclators & computers to do things – they actually need learn problem solving. There is way too much resources going into sports and extra-ciricular activities too. It thoroughly disgusts me; I'm single & support this crappy system with my tax dollars; I'd really be mad if I had kids in it too.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:36 pm |
  54. RNM from Chicago

    The question isn't whether or not it's too late, but whether anyone is willing to take the time to do it right. A coaltion with varied and probably competing interests is going to invest a few months to cobble together "federal standards"? Wasn't that called "No Child Left Behind"? Education reform is a complex problem that requires careful analysis of complex problems...not more political posturing masquerading as solutions.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:36 pm |
  55. W.H. Tespid, ERT

    Competition and worth is enhanced and fueled by experience.
    I suggest for any student to seek internships both paid and unpaid at anypoint in their career.

    Think of the issue in terms of lifelong learning. We all get trained to do any job. Keep the mind active and receptive by agressively seeking experiencial learning - and never be afraid to make a mistake.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:37 pm |
  56. Paul S. Columbia, SC

    When strict discipline went out the school door; learning, respect, and self-reliance followed. Then government welfare stepped in to feed, clothe, house, and, worse, enable the growing population of the ignorant. Why do you think that re-distribution of wealth is so in demand these days? It's to pay for more socialized stupidity.

    June 3, 2009 at 3:37 pm |
  57. Michael McDowell, from Killeen, Texas

    Jack, it is not too late, but our education horse is still in the starting gate, while other nations are already past the first turn! School districts nationwide are struggling to find the funds to handle all the students that have skyrocketed into their classrooms the past several decades. Addressing illegal immigration and it's strain on budgets has to be mandatory and honest if we are going to save the next generation. It is time to make it a priority that we educate our children, and let the rest of the world deal with theirs.

    June 3, 2009 at 4:54 pm |
  58. ThapCham

    No. I don't think it is too late for US to make the change. Better than nothing. Research the best education from other countries and make the change in the the US education system. Need to raise the bar of quality in teachers/professors. Expand scholaship programs which will surely encourage many students to keep their high score in schools/universities. Highly recommend to research in Montessori method. Research and be ready to change quickly in the US education is better than not doing it.

    June 3, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  59. Jerry: Alpharetta, GA

    I don’t care how you analyze it, the rich suburbs will always have superior schools, and it is the way the system is designed to work. Where there is money, there will be more opportunities. Even if a state budgeted the same amount of money for each student, the rich area will have more through local donations. Poor inner city schools cannot attract talented teachers. Who would want to travel every day into areas where you’re always concerned about your safety? When significant amounts of the student population have parents who can’t read, there is a built in educational hurdle to overcome. Now we have classes in the less fortunate areas that have a significant Latino population. How can you the class time to teach a kid who does not understand English without impacting the instructional quality of the entire classroom? Change is long overdue. States have lost the right to control education. Evaluations should be on leading indicators and not lagging indicators like post class tests. It’s too late to do anything after the class is over.

    June 3, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  60. LDR in Central Texas

    The schools are just reflecting what is occurring in most american homes today. Is it too late to change? Only God knows and I sure hope he hears our desperate, pitiful prayers.

    June 3, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  61. Karen, TN

    My sister is a teacher. On a daily basis she deals with tardy, surly, ill-prepared kids armed with various electronic devices which they prefer to schoolwork, plus a couple of children who are mentally handicapped but are "mainstreamed" and must receive both extra help and protection. She also has the pleasure of listening to angry parents who can't believe that "gifted" children who fail exams and don't do their homework get poor marks. Maybe the schools aren't the problem.

    June 3, 2009 at 4:57 pm |
  62. Pugas-AZ

    Generally not in favor of big government, I do feel, however, that it is time for national standards in schools. I can't say that it is too late but it will take a great effort and many years to improve the educational system nationwide. This means getting rid of all th BS that has cropped up in the schools over the last few decades and return to basics. The quicker we get started the better.

    June 3, 2009 at 4:58 pm |
  63. Jason

    It's never too late, unless you never get started.

    However it is a well documented fact that many other countries simply do not allow students who cannot pass these tests to stay in school. They don't drop out. They are kicked out. Leaving the majority of "smart kids" in the schools to shock the world with their high level of proficiency.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:00 pm |
  64. Will from San Jose, CA

    Children adapt extremely quickly. It's never too late to push them where they need to go, but we have to push them and we have to allow them to occasionally fail and pick themselves up. Our system has been so concerned with maintaining self esteem that it forgot the real purpose of school was to educate.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  65. Ryan from Kansas City, MO

    It's never too late. But it is far past time to fix this.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:04 pm |
  66. Ronald Holst

    Jack Is It too late for a 58 year old man to learn to use a computer I do not think so, It will never be to late. unless we just give up. \
    Ron Holst
    San Antonio

    June 3, 2009 at 5:06 pm |
  67. Brenda of Saginaw,Mich.

    It's never too late,but first they have to get rid of the teachers that are afraid to turn on a computer then we can start to go forward.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:08 pm |
  68. Mitch


    It's never too late to stop trying to solve problems until we destroy the planet.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:10 pm |
  69. Jamal St. Petersburg FL

    Absoultely not Jack. I just graduated today, and I can say that there is much improvement needed, but we aren't too far gone. But we must START NOW. Or America will fall. My school taught pretty well, but you had to pursue it. Hopefully, national standards will focus on getting students up to par on their own levels. Let's not raise the bar so high, that even more students fail to graduate.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:10 pm |
  70. Ken in NC

    It's not to late if you can make parents take an active part in the education of their children and if you can find teachers that want to take an active part in the education of children.

    Parents want a “BABYSITTER” in the schools and teachers want “TENURE” for longevity and retirement. No one is concerned about anything else as long as we can import Chinese and Japanese, Indians from India and other countries to do the work that places such a heavy burden on the brains of our kids and takes so much time from their texting.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  71. Don

    We can have all the standards we want, but if we continue with social promotions, we will still have functioning third graders reaching for the diplomas.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  72. Grant Henry

    What do you mean by too late? I'm pretty sure that we have enough time until whatever it is your not saying or we don't know what it is happens to get kids all ready to fight more competitive schools.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  73. Michael

    As a student in high school and I say it's never too late. Many of my fellow students have the skill they just need to apply themselves. I beleive we should have higher standerds for schools across the country in order to compete with other nations.

    Michael Hall
    Mount Pleasant, SC

    June 3, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  74. Ivan Goldberg, NJ

    Jack the problem goes back at least one if not two generations, It's the teachers that no longer have the skills so you have to deal with that issue first.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  75. Richard

    Is it too late?
    It was too late 20 years ago when we first saw evidence of our failing schools. But if you remember, we had this new social rule: Political Correctness.
    As bad as it was, heaven-forbid you make someone feel bad about it.
    Well, here we are. Dumb and Dumber are the parents of today's students and those kids are more confused than ever.
    Good luck with that one.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  76. nathan

    Jack, we're already competetive. When discussing this issue it's important to remember that Japan and EU countries seperate out their "college bound" students from their "vocational bound" students at very early ages and in the case of Japan–do not count their special education students for testing.

    Like it or not we leave no child behind and it hurts our grading curve. Once they get to the college level our kids show much more favorably.

    Monmouth, OR

    June 3, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  77. Weston M.

    Jack, no matter what, you can't ignore the Constitution. I'd love it if the federal government could take a more intensive role in education, but the government only has a few specific reasons to be in government–providing for the common defense and promoting the general welfare. In the past, that's been interpreted as strengthening math and science programs and providing accessibility options for those who have special needs. Don't look for that to change anytime soon.

    Weston M.
    Cleveland, OH

    June 3, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  78. pete in ny

    Education will never improve until you replace "educators " with teachers.

    Educators come up with nice theories which change with each new PhD while good teachers focus on outcomes like can you read and count and do you have the skills needed for success in the world.
    Educators worry about self worth and political correctness while real teachers, teach that the world rewards results and accomplishments.

    I teach Am history and Am Government!

    June 3, 2009 at 5:12 pm |
  79. Chris in Philadelphia

    No. Standards change with time and technology. Parents are forever. Parents need to be involved and active in their kids education. If parents can't be bothered the kids probably won't care either.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:12 pm |
  80. Ron - Oklahoma

    No, it's not too late, but the deadline is quickly approaching. For our country's future, NOTHING is more important that a quality education for all. With that in place, all else is possible. It is a shame that the Feds have to get involved, but the current system is already broken. If the Feds can't fix it, then our future generations are in dire trouble.


    June 3, 2009 at 5:12 pm |
  81. Josh from Chicago

    Only if we want to be competitive in test-taking. I was an english teacher in Japan and their students are good test takers but they could barely speak English. Education should be beyond test taking.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:12 pm |
  82. Roger Wray

    No, it is not too late for American students to compete, but some changes have got to be made in the school systems; remove the politics and teach reading, riting and rithmatic. Teachers no longer educate, they indoctrinate.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:12 pm |
  83. Robert

    American schools can't compete until parents become more involved. In my neighborhood in Manhattan, I hear loud parties even on weeknights going on till midnight and later, and very young children's voices mixed in the noise. How can children study, or arise the next morning and be awake in their 8 or 9 AM classes if they've been up past midnight the night before? Where are the parents?
    Robert, NYC

    June 3, 2009 at 5:12 pm |
  84. Jeff, Atlanta, GA


    Other countries have had a national system of achievement for years and years. America has a patchwork of state and local policy. Back when the US was just a bunch of states trying to compete against each other this was okay. The national government has never stepped in to provide strong national policy for education. We can't compete globally if we're still trying to compete state to state. We're the United States, but we're not united in educating our young people to be competitive in whatever global economy is going to exist once it starts to get better in the years to come.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:12 pm |
  85. Mike Larson

    Comparing US schools to Internationals is a bit misleading. Are we going to set up a system where not every student is allowed a free education compared to many nations that seperate students at the 8th grade?

    June 3, 2009 at 5:12 pm |
  86. Shimannee

    It is never too late. However, that is not to say that it will not take time. The important thing to ensure is that a nationally established curriculum leaves room for creative activities and lab experience. If we simply 'teach to the test' we will never have a chance.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:12 pm |
  87. Angel

    I think our nations schools should be re-structured. I just finished High school and I feel like there main focus was to teach us to pass the Regents. Schools should promote student success instead of teacher salary growth. America elected Change in 2008. I think its time the Education system hops on the train as well....

    June 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  88. Weston M.

    Jack, no matter what, you can’t ignore the Constitution. I’d love it if the federal government could take a more intensive role in education, but the government only has a few specific reasons to be in education–providing for the common defense and promoting the general welfare. In the past, that’s been interpreted as strengthening math and science programs and providing accessibility options for those who have special needs. Don’t look for that to change anytime soon.

    Weston M.
    Cleveland, OH
    (please ignore last comment)

    June 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  89. OBDAG in Appleton, WI

    It is not to late for American schools to become competitive. What we need are parents that honestly work with their children to learn. Many parents think it's the teachers that have the total responsibility for teaching. I believe that a childs education actually begins at home early in life as the parents start to read bedtime stories. While there are a few sorry teachers the vast majority work very hard, care about the development of their students, and do not come near to earning a dollar amount they deserve for the work they do. Somehow we need to get it through to parents that they also have teaching responsibilities just like the teachers do. What happened to the days when parents checked math homework papers and proof read essays before they were turned in to the teacher?

    June 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  90. john

    No, it's not to late but we need to get creative and institute some ability to create charter schools to allow for innovation in addressing different learning styles. Presently we drug kids with drugs ritalin to make them compliant in classrooms where they are bored to tears.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  91. nicole

    I believe it is never to late for schools to strive to be competitive. If only they cared more about the students. I have recently graduated and realize how little the state is doing for our teachers and schools if they aren't getting paid the less we learn and the less we learn the less we will achieve not only as a state but as a nation. Its time to rethink the state budgets and put the most we can into schoolsand affordable programs for students

    San Clemente, CA

    June 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  92. Scott M. Danville VA

    It's never too late but it's high time we started treating education as the priority it needs to be for the continued success of this great country.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  93. Ruthie

    Jack, it's not too late. But until our leaders (including Republicans) at least act like they honor education, why should our kids? Actors and athletes make the most money in this country. Our local papers cover all the sports of the local high schools. Nobody pays any attention to grades. The smart kids and the kids who work hard for their grades get no recognition. It's time to give the kids who are doing the hard work of getting an education some encouragement and special recognition.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  94. Bob from Rochester

    It's never too late to fix education but our view from the back of the pack sure is getting obstructed.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  95. Alisa

    It's not too late I agree some national standards are needed: I went to parent-teacher conferences this year for my 7th grader and was informed that my son had not turned in math home work all quarter (done at home) but he still had an A in his Math class when asked how this was possible I was informed it was district policy that homework can only count 5% of grade. Because most kids don't do it any way. What are we teaching our kids???

    June 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  96. bill stevens

    Yes I believe it is too late, and nationalizing the schools is going in the wrong direction.
    With the concern that we are heading toward more socialism, we need to realize that our state school system is the largest socialist agency in our nation.
    I would submit that if we made education competitive, along with letting parents decide where their educational cost per child could be spent, we would truly see education improve. Unfortunately, our current politics of education will not allow this . . .

    June 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  97. Ethan

    I am a junior in the Florida school system,and as what I have to say for this question. It is why too late for American school system to compete with schools in China,India,and even Canada. Students here are more bent on learning from pop culture then from learning about the classics.
    I do not want my children to be in the American school system. They will receive a Canadian education. And on state and national level tests they do not prove anything to be correct and are invalid. Many of my fellow classmates and myself included have test anxiety. It's not fair for us to have to take these tests over and over,even when we might know the material than the other students.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  98. Adam Mercer

    No, it isn't too late, Jack. Education is the future, and in all honesty a lot of people have to start taking the experts more seriously...teachers spend more time with a lot of kids than their own parents do, and that time provides insights. Teachers know kids are not taking responsibiliy for their actions or their own learning. Standards often get dropped by administrators to make things look good to the public, while in the end the kids get no further ahead. We need to take discipline more seriously and realize that there are times when some kids need to be somewhere other than the school building, in some cases for the good of the kids who actually want to learn.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  99. Melvin

    No it is not. There should be a standard set that all schools have to
    adhere to period.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
  100. Mark in Arkansas

    Unfortunately, yes it is too late. Our education system has become "user-friendly" to the point to where the attitude is, if it's too tough to learn, we won't teach it. Budget cutbacks, an imbalance of focus on sports versus the arts and technical skill classes have taken their toll for too many years. The problem is, the teachers and administrators of the school system are a result of the very process that we have problems with. They don't see the forest because THEY were processed like mushrooms as well.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
  101. Noel in Nashville, TN

    It is never too late. A new group of kids start Kindergarten every year. Nevertheless, the problem with national standards is that they assume each child should learn the same thing. My seven year is encouraged to follow his own interests. As a result, he can tell you about ancient Greek culture, the Peloponnesian War, and can read a bit of ancient Greek. He is curious – though he hates school because it is "boring". He just doesn't give a damn about the stuff they teach; probably, because his teachers don't either. Let the content be determined by student and teacher or students won't want to learn.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
  102. Jarvis

    It is never too late to improve our academic level; we just have to lay aside pride, admit our current mathematical status, and encourage our children to better standards. We can do it! PS...what is the name of the coalition planning these standards?

    June 3, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
  103. mike in ca.

    It's never too late to learn, we wasted too much time fighting off the republicans in their effort to get religion in the school systems. that did a lot of damage and confused our students, Maybe President Obama can fix our school system by taking control of the testing standards.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
  104. Graham

    Good question, Jack. Why don't we just do away with state and local government and simply have the Federal government take care of us all? You and Obama have taken over the free enterprise system so we'll all be on collective farms or factories, are taking over health care system, so why not go ahead and take over the education system as well?

    June 3, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
  105. David

    About these studies. Are we comparing apples and apples? Do these other countries require ALL students be in school and therefore evaluated by the "standards" ? Or do the only evaluate the lucky or wealthy allowed into their schools? And what about their special needs children – are they included? What is the true literacy rate in the "other" countries?

    June 3, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
  106. Virginia Camfield

    It's never too late. It's time to stop using the tests just to identify those who pass and start using them to identify where students are not learning and figure out why. It has to start in 1st grade and with the understanding that most students (and not necessarily all) are capable of learning, and then expect them to do that. Teach the topic, not to the test. Use old-fashioned regular testing to figure out who's learning and then help them where they need help.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
  107. Rupa

    Better late than never. Irrespective of how well kids do in their own states, the only time it matters is when they take national level exams to enter college. If they don't receive adequate skills in K-12, how can they compete nationally? That's why, many of us take our children to extra Math/Science classes outside of school. This will hopefully help them when they compete with kids that may come from states with higher standards. I totally support a national standard that is in par with international standards. That's what we need to do so that our kids don't have to compete for jobs with kids from India and China.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  108. Susan

    Of course US students are below other industrial countries...a good example is the San Diego Unified School district....they are eliminating the GATE program for gifted students, but they are keeping the sports programs. Our children are too busy trying to be superstars instead of studying and becoming scientists and doctors. And parents encourage this instead of focusing on academics.

    San Diego CA

    June 3, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  109. Mike in Guatemala

    YES!! This is based on my experience as a high school teacher in South Florida. I also want to add that national standards would only produce lower passing scores as evidenced by Mississippi. The lowest performers would be immigrants in the ESOL/ESL Programs (English for Speakers of Other Languages) and other minorities. I understand if you don't read this on the air becasue it can be interpreted of smacking of racism, but it is based on my first- hand experience in the classroom. By the way, my wife of 28 years is a minority.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  110. Jerry in California

    It's never to late to start fixing the problems in America. We need to start bringing up the standard of education to the highest level possible, and stop lowering the standards so that we can allow students to continue to move through the system without a proper education.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  111. Connie

    As a teacher I see very capable students with tremendous potential who CHOSE not to learn on a daily basis. The majority of students, because of their generation, are interested in instant gratification and are not willing to put effort forth into studying, practicing, reading, or anything else that takes work. It is not too late for the U.S. to become competitive but the following needs to happen:
    1. Parents need to be held responsilbe, along with teachers.
    2. Student need to have a vested interest in education (not an out like welfare, food stamps, and medicaid)
    3. Disruptive behavior in the class should not be tolerated at any level and courts should become involved in situation where students are repeat offenders for disruption or truancy.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  112. Matt

    No its not too late, but society has to change so that we place a value on education. As a teacher, I'm tired of being blamed for problems that I didn't create: lack of attention span, lack of discipline, lack of involved parents, and the idea that school is just a place to socialize with my friends. We don't need more tests, or more standards, we need more students who want to compete with the rest of the world like the rest of the world wants to compete with us.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  113. Ruthie

    Jack, it's not too late. But until our leaders (including Republicans) at least act like they honor education, why should our kids? Actors and athletes make the most money in this country. Our local papers cover all the sports of the local high schools. Nobody pays any attention to grades. The smart kids and the kids who work hard for their grades get no recognition. It's time to give the kids who are doing the hard work of getting an education some encouragement and special recognition. Wichita, KS

    June 3, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  114. Chad

    Let's see...the Feds created the DOE in the 70's. Since that time test scores in math and English have increased a whopping two points. Coincidence? (If you can read this, thank your parents.)

    June 3, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  115. Lee Pulliam

    I take exception with the word competitive–competitive with whom? If you are talking about schools in other countries–you are comparing apples and oranges. The United States is one of the extremely few countries that attempts to educate all children. Most countries do tracking after elementary school Then only the best test takers are sent forward on a college or equivalent track.

    In this country, we have made the decision to provide the basic minimum education to all students. Therefore, programs for the brightest students are eliminated because of funding.

    We all agree that all children are entitled to an education. But, nothing is going to change the fact that some children are brighter than others and this has nothing to do with their race.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  116. Ty


    Take it from someone who is graduating high school, the system needs reform by the national government where every student should take calculus based mathematics and physics by their senior year and they should also take high level english classes as well, the smarter the next generation is the more able to they will be to compete in the world.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  117. James In Anaheim California

    None of the teachers that we have in america care about the well-being of the student and until that changes;there is no hope

    June 3, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  118. scott

    Jack, im 16 and i attend high school in miami, and i have to say my school and others schools in florida have some of the worst education in the country. In fact the requirements to become a teacher are soo low, anyone could teach here. Our state standard tests are nothing more than a ruse just to make it seem that we are learning. I know my education has been wasted, but i sure do hope that future generations will be able to compete in this global community.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  119. Laurance Cosper

    It is never too late to begin and continue a fervent push to make American schools and American students competitive globally and domestically. So long as there are schools in this country, that struggle should always persist and teachers all over are well aware, or at least it is my hope that they are aware, of the unspeakable opportunity they have to really change things. So, it is never too late. But, the problems are too large and crippling for there to not be a great renaissance in education now.

    Laurance Cosper
    Southern California

    June 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  120. costas

    It is not too late if we sanction on TV watching and playing video games and lift ban on family dinner.



    June 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  121. Jim in Arlington

    Look at those data closely and you'll see that the countries with the highest scores have the lowest number of children per household, lowest church attendance, and lowest variance in their generally high socio-economic status. Lots of factors outside the school influence our education system successes.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  122. Chris

    Its not too late for American Schools, but this is just another example of how the Baby Boomer Generation refused to deal with important American issues for decades. I hope we've left the the "Why do we care because we're going to retire soon?" mentality behind.

    San Diego, CA

    June 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  123. Tyler, Age 10 South Abington, PA, USA

    I'm currently at a blue ribbon school. The problem is some kids aren't getting a good education at elementary school. So when they get to the middle and high schools, they don't know the basics. If a class does 5990 divided by 797, they will not know what to do. So if kids learn the basics at elementary school, they will be able to do more advanced things in later grades.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  124. Jonathan

    What is your school district's truancy rate? National, state and district efforts to improve achievement are in place and are considerable. But we need to change individual families – and they need to parent effectively. You cannot improve achievement when the truancy rate in underachieving districts is so high – and that is a family matter.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  125. Andrea Allio

    It is not too late for the US to improve education in our public schools. Our schools have excellent teachers, who are well meaning and often called to their work. However, it WILL require a significant financial commitment to improve the physical condition of our schools and to adequately equip our classrooms and science laboratories, reduce teacher:student ratios, and begin holding school administrators responsible rather than only the teachers.

    I think a national curriculum would be helpful. However, even in states that have admirable standards, those standards, especially those related to mathematics, natural science, engineering, and technology education, need to be critically reviewed and improved. I believe these are the fields that are essential to the future economic, health, and political stability for our country and for our citizens.

    Smyrna, GA

    June 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  126. Terry from Austin

    Well it seems that the all american family isn't what it used to be and I guess not with 40% of the children being born to single moms and the divorce rate at over 50%. Considering those stats I'm amazed that the kids are doing as well as they are. Go right ahead and make the standards the same across the board on a national level but it will do little good if we the people continue to turn our backs to the much larger problem of the american family or the lack thereof.
    Terry from Austin

    June 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  127. jim tait

    I don' t know why people are upset about our school system. We turn out the best football , basketball and baseball players in the world. That's what the schools are there for isn't it?

    June 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  128. Mike

    Fix of schools is simple. Use entrance exams, like Stuyvesant!. You would have great schools tomorrow! Problem: What to do with all those students who failed to make muster. Vocational training???

    June 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  129. Aaron R

    No, it's not too late, but there needs to be a national forum to address the lack of progress in all areas, in all states. There is no excuse for what is supposed to be the most advanced country on the planet to be so dismal when it comes to education. We treat our schools as afterthoughts, then wonder why our students are so far behind those in other countries (including those in the so-called second and third world). Money will only do so much; those who have the power to change things need to move past politics and come up with viable policies that will give the current generation of students a reason to care about their education. Right now, the adults don't seem to, so why should they?

    June 3, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  130. Mathew, CA

    Remeber not too long ago jack, you asked why dont many people read books anymore? its because we got better things to entertain us such as ipods and cellphones were we can watch movies. It would take government control to help us become competitive.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  131. Brian

    No, of course it's never too late Jack. But that's not the real question, is it?

    The real question is whether somebody's really going to DO something to improve the quality of our schools – or is this just all a lot of talk, that nobody will ever follow through on.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  132. Juvette Hawkins-Williams

    Jack, for the past 8 years, I've been contacting Congress to put in place a true "No Child Left Behind" Bill. Children begin learning in the womb not at 5 years old. Its Too Late!!! We need to implement an early childhood educational national program for ALL CHILDREN not just for the "low income" or "at risk" . This- in my opinion would be the only way our children will be able to compete on a global level. China, Japan, India and others have been teaching their INFANTS for CENTURIES NOW. What is our Nation's Problem? We are decades behind our competitors!

    June 3, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  133. Paulette,Dallas,PA

    Well Jack,they better do something fast because this is even affecting our national security. Today in Harrisburgh,PA a group of retired military leaders and state legistators met to get increased funding for early childhood education. According to an article in The Times Leader today,75% of young people ages 17 to 24 are unable to enlist in ourt military because they lack a high school diploma. Physically they are completely out of shape. Quoting this article,"The future strength of America's military may rest with our pre-school children." We better get back on the ball and fast or we will all be learning Chinese,not as a second language,but out of necessity.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  134. Debbie Murzyn

    Of course it isn't too late for U.S. schools to become competitive; many American children graduating right now and in the future can compete with their peers anywhere in the world. The challenge is to make sure schools across our nation are equitable for all. Education does not occur in a vacuum, so raising standards and nationalizing testing is not going to "fix" all the problems. We need to get realistic and make sure the standards we wish to attain have real value in real life. I fear adding more politics will only make worse the problems our schools face.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  135. Morgan in Bray, Oklahoma

    The scores of homeschool and private school students continue to rise, while those of public school students are dropping. Government involvement in education is what caused this problem, why in the world would someone suggest further government intervention in order to fix it? As Albert Einstein said: insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  136. Miguel

    I am graduating from high school this week and am going on to college in the fall.
    It has always seemed to me that students around me who did not achieve didn't do so because they weren't pushed to excell in the home. I myself didn't feel pressure from my parents but nonetheless made myself driven and motivated.
    Also, I have seen that many (but not all of my classes) were sometimes remedial and never very challeging in their material and its presentation. Perhaps this served well the remedial students but it did no good for the regular and above-average students–it just allowed many of us to get lazy and slack.
    There is, however, plenty that can be done and plenty of time to fix the problem that we are in and federal leadership would be one good way to guide reform across the country.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  137. Bob

    Education in America has always been placed on the back burner. Like the man says: You can pay me now or you can pay me later. We will pay in the future for our youngsters' failure to be educationally competitive with the rest of the world. We are generations behind others.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  138. Jane, NY

    People have been saying to go a national education system for years. I mean it is a no brainer. I think it is going to take America a long time to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of education because a huge majority of worldwide countries have national education systems and their curriculums are realy broad. Even some third world countries have better education systems especially the former British colonies. So by comparison we are seriously retarded in this country when it comes to education.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  139. Ethan

    I am a junior in the Florida school system,and as what I have to say for this question. It is why too late for American school system to compete with schools in China,India,and even Canada. Students here are more bent on learning from pop culture then from learning about the classics.
    I do not want my children to be in the American school system. They will receive a Canadian education. And on state and national level tests they do not prove anything to be correct and are invalid. Many of my fellow classmates and myself included have test anxiety. It’s not fair for us to have to take these tests over and over,even when we might know the material than the other students.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  140. Michael

    I'm a 15 year old in high school. I can tell it's the government control of the school systems partialy to blame for the poor education of students. The main thing they teach us in school is how to take a test. You'd be surprised how many students are just plain stupid. Out of curiosity, I once asked several people who the chancelor of Germany was during WWII and maybe one out of ten knew. But it also has to do with the fact that being smart is considered "un-cool". In the current direction of things, I'd say if we want to be competative, some SERIOUS changes need to be made.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  141. Jean Beveaux (Baton Rouge)

    It is not too late, as an 8th grade teacher in South Louisiana 80% of my students scored at least a Mastery on the state-mandated LEAP exam. However, a Mastery translates into an average score on the national level. There must be a national Grade Level Expectation standard and each state should strictly adhere to it. My students are below the national average and American students are getting the short end of the stick! Its time to make a drastic change!

    Jean Beveaux (Baton Rouge)

    June 3, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  142. Patricia

    Yes, Jack it's too late. My son had only one teacher in his 13 years of schooling who was as good as many of those I had in the 50's and early 60's. Tha teacher's unions inhibit the best teachers competing with the worst for their jobs. The motives for hiring the bad teachers is questionable. Patricia , Michigan

    June 3, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  143. Gary Hunt

    Jack, the only time it's too late for change is when you quit breathing.
    When government control makes things better it's not a bad thing.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  144. Cindy, in 20th century Pennsylvania

    Yes, It is too late for the current public schools system to change to focus on student academic success rather than teacher perks and personal agendas. Just like GM, public education has been derailed by ineffectual management and the teachers using the power of their unions.

    In Pennsylvania, the teachers union just crushed a major reform effort (graduation competency exams) because they want control of what they teach and what gets tested. This was in the face of a study that showed only 18 of 500 schools districts were graduating students who were prepared for today's challenging workplace.

    But it is NOT too late for the kids. Charter schools, private schools, and cyber schools are stepping into the chasm building a bridge to 21st century competence for our students.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  145. Gerry Cates

    American schools cannot be competitive if there is no competition in the "School Market Place". Real competition from the private school sector with the use of vouchers will increase the quality of Public Education. Poor students deserve the same quality education as President Obama’s two precious daughters.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  146. reg


    It's never too late to improve our educational system. The solution is really pretty simple. We neeed to set goals, standards, and bring back accountability. Educators need to return to teaching fundamentals and they need to bring bring back discipline. We the parents need to get more involved and hold our schools and teachers accountable.for results. Being twenty fifth in the world in mathematics is just unacceptable!

    Vero Beach, Fl

    June 3, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  147. Kooky in CA

    School needs to be more than just that time of day between breakfast and going to the mall when kids can't talk on their cell phones but can still text their friends.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  148. Dewey Fish

    Yes Jack It is To late... America is the most Fluoridated Country in the word... Fluoridation is KNOWN to reduce the I.Q. of Children... Fluoridation is not going to stop anytime soon because there is BIG MONEY in This Poison and feeding it to people as a Filteration system is the easiest way to get rid of it as the EPA will throw you under the jail if you put it into the water directly...
    So Yes America's Children will soon be the STUPIDEST Kids in the world!

    June 3, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  149. Tom Taylor in Indiana

    While American elementary and secondary education continues to rank low, American higher education remains the finest in the world. The reason? Higher education is free-market with private, public, and religious institutions competing openly for students. If they do not attract students, they fail. Meanwhile, elementary and secondary education continues to follow a socialist model where the buyer has few options and teachers are paid based on experience and training rather than performance. National standards would be good, but the schools then need to be allowed freedom to compete among themselves on best to attain those goals.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  150. felicia

    Our school system has been failed. Not because we have teachers who don't care, but because our government doesn't care. We are spending soo much money on a war ,that we are never going to win, and no money on our children and their future. Our government has forgotten about our future generation and the tools and education they will need to pull us out of the mess we are currently in.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  151. Kate Worley

    As a current student in one of America's off track school systems, I think that it is not too late for American schools to become competitive. Stronger laws regulating enrollment for students, nationally regulated lesson plans, and more focus inside the education system on achieving goals, including college, would be highly effective if enacted now. I speak for the upcoming generation, we're not all just mindless drones who obsess over pop stars, most of us want to create a better future for America, you just have to give us the right tools. – Smithfield, North Carolina

    June 3, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  152. Joe

    As a teacher (and not a politician on a state board who has never taught), it won't make a damn bit of difference with out parental evolvement, which is what we are lacking.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  153. Steve from Michigan

    Great question Jack.
    Yes, public schools can compete and many do. This standardized test that everyone seems to be the almighty tell about a student's performance, truly doesn't tell the whole picture. It's ONLY ONE TEST. What if a student is not a good test taker? What if he or she does not get enough sleep the night before? What if he or she does not have something to eat for breakfast? And so on... As an educated professional, "we" assess students on many levels in our classrooms. Where does this show up on a standardized test? Remember, the entire school year can be from 170 days to year round, and we want to judge a school based on one test? It's time to wake up folks and give credit to thousands of schools across the country, because GOOD TEACHING and LEARNING IS GOING ON.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  154. Randy - Raleigh, NC

    U.S. education will become competitive when students come to school prepared to learn. It is the family's responsibility to hold the students accountable for their attitudes about learning and their conduct while there. The schools can only provide the structure and the tools.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  155. Adra B Hooks

    While unclear regarding public school competitiveness within the world market, I believe the only chance is through the establishment and US-wide acceptance of appropriate national standards. Also, adopting these federal standards should not be state-optional. Else, I fear that states like mine, Texas, along with others, will reject federal standards.

    Students can learn when presented with challenging curriculum.

    Also, teacher qualifications should be increased along with appropriate pay.

    Educating people cannot be an option. Success of the US in the world market depends upon it.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  156. Mary Roman Gunther

    Never too late to help our kids. National standards will help but big city schools have too many students. I am a teacher and can tell you it is impossible to give each child what they need when you have more than thirty students in your classroom. Making schools smaller gives the faculty the opportunity to get to know the students and work together to help individuals. The private schools have known this for years. We need to upgrade our public schools infrastrucure and build schools with smaller populations so we can educate each child.

    Mary R. Gunther, Berlin, MD

    June 3, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  157. Jason

    It's the parents fault Jack. We need parent accountability. If a student is not performing up to the standars then maybe we need to start fining or puting parents in Jail. Teachers have enough with dicipline which is why they are not able to really teach. This is true for both good and bad teachers. If the parents backed the teachers with their rudely behaved child maybe we would not have fallen behind all these years.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  158. Sue

    We need to get back to the ole school 3 Rs. Let's go back to teaching actual English and grammar and structuring sentences.

    We also need to houseclean and weed out the horrible teachers who simply do not cut it any longer. That boogey man called "tenure" should be a thing of the past, asap.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  159. Ed Grey

    It is never too late to compete.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  160. Ryan

    Of course we need to develop a national standard. What does one's locality in the U.S. have to do with the education one would need in order to compete not only with other Americans, but increasingly, with others around the world. If don't, we'll have to resort to a more open border policy in the hope of attracting bright minds elsewhere in order to keep America competitive.

    There is nothing wrong with "teaching to the test" as long as the test is modified substantially on a yearly basis so that either teacher or student do not know what to expect for a potential national annual standards exam.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  161. Ayanna

    America should have become more involved in the educational system years ago. Many foreign countries have high ratings in math, reading, and science and they then come to the US and retain better jobs than most Americans. Since our states have their own tests and so forth then we are just having designated education and there is not enough national education, we are America. We should learn more about our country and math and reading should be a high priority. Look at Canada, China, and other countries that are doing very well in science, math, and even the language departments, maybe we should take a queue from them.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  162. Danny from Alabama

    My wife is a teacher. You cannot teach kids that do not want to learn. They are too lazy and all they want to do is play. Parent must get involved and encourage their kids. Teachers cannot take parents place. There must be more discipline in the class room. Teachers hands are tied.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  163. Nigel

    It is not too late to revamp the nation's education system. As long as they make it truly competitive on a worldwide forum and make necessary changes as time progresses because it is does not one any good if the school administration allows the syllabus to become outdated and deny the children will serves. They could even take a look at the English and Asia education system.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  164. Jack Laakso

    It's not too late. The first thing that needs to be done is to get rid of the tenure system & to reward teachers for performance, not for length of service. Too many incompetent teachers remain on the job just because they have been there for a long time. The second thing that needs to be done is to get rid of the teachers' unions. It's almost impossible to fire an incompetent teacher that belongs to the NEA. The NEA is the main reason we are falling behind other countries.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  165. Andrea Allio

    Ken and Don,
    Well said. Of course, not all classroom teachers are devoted to their work, and those who are tend to commit 10 to 12 hours per day. I would like to think that by improving the conditions for the teachers, the education of our students will improve. We also need to make teaching the natural sciences and technology in our schools a truly respected, and financially rewarding, profession.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  166. Richard

    As an High School student i can tell you that very few of the students at Crown Point High School do not understand the material of which they are being taught. Most students are just lazy and refuse to do homework, or they just dont pay attention in class because they just don't care. The core 40 of Indiana is a perfect place to start for national standards.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  167. Todd, in Philadelphia

    It's not too late for US schools to become competitive, but "national standards" are not the key. These merely end up being a list of what bureaucrats think every kid should know. We need to re-think the entire way we do education. Do we need 12 years of general education? Is the fantasy that every student is "college material" working out? Do we have a plan for the future of students at all ability levels? Is it a plan that THEY understand? Since what we're doing isn't working, we shouldn't be ashamed to look at best practices around the world to find out what IS working. We need to hit the reset button and start afresh. "National standards" merely specify arbitrary outcomes. If it were that easy, you wouldn't be doing this poll.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:21 pm |
  168. Matthew Schmitz Oxnard,CA

    Yes and theres no one to blame but the teachers, Im a 17 year old Junior and in everyone of my classes students sleep,Talk,eat, and don't do there work, and the teachers don't care as long as they are recieving there $60,000 a year salary and Healthcare paid for them...O and did i mention they only work 180 days out of the 365 calender year and only from 8am to 3pm and still can't do there jobs. My mothers a teacher so I hope shes not watching.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:22 pm |
  169. David

    Jack, I am a 22 year-old 2009 college graduate and with this economy the way it is it is essential for me to develop more skills as well as honing the skills I currently have.
    If it's necessary for me to do this now then why can't we invest the time and the money and energy into making sure that schools are more competitive?
    By investing in this now, we ensure that our children will have more than just a fighting chance in the world. We need to create true Global Citizens who know more than just the English language flunently, who don't look at math as a burden, and who appreciate reading as a tool to understanding the world and becoming as articulate as our current president.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:22 pm |
  170. Heidi Broderson

    It's never too late to improve our children's education. Although, I'm not convinced improvement will come through our public schools. Just to be safe, every day is a "school day" at our house.
    Parker, CO

    June 3, 2009 at 5:22 pm |
  171. Nathan

    Jack, as a graduate from high school in 2003, I can personally attest to the sheer mess which culminates our public school system. The underlying problem doesn't lie in government regulation, but in values instilled by parents onto the student. In Europe and other places around the world, most students have to learn English (most Americans only know one, barely) thus opening the chasm of learning of other cultures apart from their own. Also, rowdy students in the classroom who don't want to learn make the education environment a disaster along with giving teachers a hard time. Plus, they bring in drug dealers and God knows what else. I know, I've seen this personally. Those students don't wish to learn? Expel them. Education is a right, not a privilege. That way only the students who wish to get an education occupy our schools. Plus, we can never run out of janitors and people to flip our burgers. That way, those jobs can be for Americans and not illegal aliens.


    June 3, 2009 at 5:22 pm |
  172. Kai

    It is not to late for American Schools to be competitive. The government should improve the national testing program with essay and problem solving features not only multiple choice set-up which most schools trained their students . This will help develop the problem solving and spatial skills of the students. Teachers should also explained the application of the knowledge to daily life to motivate learning. For example, why we study math? What is its use? Asian countries are using this approach, that is why the students develop analytical skills needed in jobs.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:22 pm |
  173. Rich from Toronto

    As a Canadian, and an avid traveller to America, I have first hand experience in meeting some of the most ignorant people on the planet. We Canadian's just laugh it off, and still uphold the greatest respect for our closest friends to the south. (No, we do not live in igloo's.) To answer the question, no, it's never too late to become educated. It is a must that you do, if you as a people want to compete on a global scale. I fully support national or federal standards. But... wasn't the No Child Left Behind Act a Federal initiative? I'm not sure if you'll ever get this right.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:22 pm |
  174. Roeland Beers, Netherlands

    It's not too late, but it's well on it's way.
    In the economy the republican ideology of self regulation in stead of strong government from Washington, has proven not to work to say the least. And unfortunately that also goes for education.
    The world needs a strong American economy, and that strong economy can not do without proper schools and education: so get working on it!

    June 3, 2009 at 5:22 pm |
  175. jeff, bryant, arkansas

    Is it too late? The real question is "do enough people care?' There have been complaints from education specialists and politicians that education in the U.S. is not doing enough. We spend more per student that just about any country in the world. The real problem is that many students (but certainly not all) lack sufficient motivation to excel in the classroom. I have been in the classroom and I can tell you that many kids just are not that concerned. One possible reason is that the Boomer generation (of which I am one) and subsequent generations with school age kids have done a less than stellar job of raising kids to take their education seriously. Too many times parents fail to attend parent-teacher conferences, fail to take the time to help their child with school work, and set poor examples by indirectly teaching the students that there are more interesting things to do than study.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:22 pm |
  176. David

    Standardization is part of the problem. Schools only teach the test as opposed to developing a child's thrist for knowledge.

    Government standardization test are merely a way to brainwash kids in learning mainly what the government wants them to know.

    We need to eliminate the Administrators and pay the teachers more.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  177. Lucille Marsh

    It is never too late to learn. As soon as school districts that testing 1/4 or more of the year is not going to make students smarter in anything but testing!
    Having National Standards could be fine as long as children have the same foundation to build on. I have taught many places and I can tell you that the background and experiences of the children in each state, each city, and each home is unique and there are many factors that contribute to what is in our children. In trying to make one size fit all children my fear would be that are we not only setting standards that are too high for some children, but also setting some that are way too low. We have a reputation for being a creative nation and over the last 20-30 years we have gone out of our way to contribute to putting restraints on these students who are unique and often do not fit the mold we provide for them.

    I think that we are way behind in totally restructuring our schools to provide for the needs of the children rather than the needs of appearance of tending to the needs. When we do provide for the needs, then the creativity will follow, we need to find a way to provide that fertile atmosphere for it to grow in!

    June 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  178. Pepe Santos

    It is very difficult to legislate ambition. Our culture is such that many of the kids simply have so much, by virtue of their parents' hard work in school, that they are not hungry. This is coupled with the massive influx of wealth into emerging nations such as India and China, where rote memorization and emphasis on very difficult subject matter is the norm. Their nations are now able to dedicate even more resources to an already superior educational system.

    How can we fix this? I think unfortunately there is a great purge coming, in the form of diminished standard of living. Until this works through the system, through two or three generations of Americans, we will be stuck. This purge seems to be a necessary part of the larger cycle that our world is undergoing. It was initiated by the US and now is essentially a race to the bottom.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  179. Susan Grey

    I live in Columbia, South Carolina, where there has been debate as to whether or not to raise the standard from "minimally adequate education," where the governor has been trying not to accept the stimulus money , much of which would go to education, and helping teachers keep their jobs.

    Unless we as a country commit to high quality education, and to raising the expectations of our youths and ourselves, then it WILL be too late. True Life Movies such as Stand and Deliver and The Great Debaters showed how, long ago, good teachers who expected greatness from their students, got their students to deliver greatness.

    We need to start telling our ourselves and our kids that our best is good enough, and expecting good performance, instead of that nothing we or they ever do is good enough, and expecting failure. Remember what the proclamation, Yes, We Can, can do in the world.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  180. Leo in CA

    If one has traveled around the world, this is no surprise. This did not happen overnight either.

    Recently, I am traveling to Asia often, and students in China will not only run circles around 99% of US students, but most surprisingly, they do so with a work ethic that is long gone in this country.

    So what I mean to say here, is that yes, the schools are in trouble in this country, but a deeper problem is that our youth itself has lost its interest in knowledge.

    Our society needs to reboot. And as Nietzche once wrote, to be able to be reborn, one must be willing to die...

    June 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  181. Trevor in Denver

    Our school system is another example of why the government handling any part of our lives makes for a mediocre existance. Schools should be handled by private enterprises, with government either taxing us less, or offering us subsidy checks to pay for the private schools. In this manner, parents can choose what schools they can send their kids to and schools that do not perform well will simply "go out of business".

    June 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  182. Jen

    Well drafted national standards may help, but the first problem is funding. Most states fund their schools through local property tax revenues, with the logical result that schools with a poor tax base have limited funding (and often many more students than schools in rich tax base areas). Federal standards without federal funding will only strain schools more, but increased funding could potentially allow the states' individual standarts to be properly implemented. Whether the standards are state or federal, more funding is needed across the board so that we can hire more teachers, attract the best and brightest educators, implement programs, and put arts education and balance back into the schools. Perhaps federal standarts on how schools should be FUNDED are what we really need.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  183. Andrew

    It's not too late, but with the economy, older teachers who have seniority are sticking around and the younger teachers, who want to make a difference and can relate to today's youth, are getting laid off. Class sizes are rising which makes the classroom more like a lecture hall and children cannot get the attention that they require at a critical age.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  184. Dustin Nelson

    The U.S. Educational system is not beyond saving. The issue that we teachers see in the classroom is a general lack of respect for education and the educational process. This change has mirrored the reduction of the nuclear family in our country. Children are being taught through modeling that education is not important in their homes, it's not a priority. Ask any teacher and they will tell you the same. Teachers are not supported by the families that they work for, they are not supported by the government. We are being asked to teach to the test, differeniate learning, and are doing so with less resources and more students per classroom with students that are less disciplined and less interested in the learning process than ever before. If education is an issue in this country and needs to be addresssed then we need to follow through from top to bottom!

    June 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  185. robert Stevens

    I'm afraid the apathy toward learning reflects the moral of our once great nation, We are a power to contend with but our leadership is failing. We must be a country worshiping the Almighty, praying for the strength to remove our critics from office and replace them with those that truly care.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm |

    No it is not to late. The teachers need to come up with a plan to get all the childrens attention and not just the smart ones. When you got a classroom of 25 and five of those children are getting A's, B's and C's but the other 20 are getting D's and F's, they need to find a way to make sure that the other 20 are getting A's B's and C's and not just sending them home to the parents to do their job. We teach our children the morals and values at home and send them to school to learn reading, writing and math. Call it a low blow if you like, but to me teachers care only about themselves an what benefits they get out of being a teacher and not what they get out of teaching the children. I once was told by someone that a teacher told a student, "I don't care if you get your lesson or not, I got mine and I am getting paid." I believe the majority of them feel that way and this is why America schools are failing.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  187. Lauren Koster

    If one examines the most economically prosperous European countries, the national government sponsors the public education system and provides students with the chance to focus on the skill areas of their choice after basic proficiency is identified in all subjects. Not only would we have a more engaged and talented
    workforce, but perhaps the funding disparities between states would lessen as well. In our hyper-mobile society, a student should be able to move from Alabama to Wyoming with minimal disruption to his or her educational process.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  188. Lisa Butler

    As a 13 1/2 year secondary mathematics teacher, I believe our public education system could be repaired by a 3-track system - general education, vocational, and college bound. The system would allow us to create three different educational tracks that would be specific to the abilities and motivation of the students, affording opportunities to offer a more rigorous track that would produce more competitive students.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  189. Enid Brown

    We will not improve education in the US unless we provide better teaching. Many of the teachers in our schools are uneducated and unfit to teach.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  190. Diane

    I have been teaching high school English for 34 years, and the problem is that schools reflect and often cater to a polular culture that is anti-intellectual and that uses entertainment as the standard for evaluating the worth of almost everything. We have been raising and educating our children in a cultural environment that no longer fosters a serious approach to academic endeavors. We will continue to fall behind because no one knows how to shift the emphasis away from our obsession with "having fun" and consuming!

    June 3, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  191. Jack - Lancaster, OH


    No it is not too late but the path suggested, more government involvement and "national standards" will prove futile. The problem is disruption of the family by the destruction of our manufacturing base combined with too much state and local government involved in schools. Local standards failed because the sytem was corrupted by "teaching for the test" rather than valid instructional objectives. Good grief, it will raise the blind leading the corrupt to an art form.
    No thanks.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  192. Dr. W. Kenneth Bull

    As a retired school administrator, following the constitution in many states, I believe that each school district should set their own K-12 curriculum in each subject area, however, I believe that state legislatures should require that every school district have one. With this requirement and open communication, very shortly there would be very similar requirements from district to district throughout the country. But, there would be slight differences, and there are differences between states and between districts within states, and most people understand where these differences exist. I have been through it. I have been a district testing director and a state testing director, and school districts are not going to be out done by their neighbor. It works better than forcing something down somes throats.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  193. mark

    Not at all – I think US primary schools can compete with any Latin American school...but is that going to be our standard?

    June 3, 2009 at 5:25 pm |
  194. chad

    It's not too late but you have a problem on both sides In some states they have unqualified teachers (No degree, but some college hours) fulltime substitutes teaching our children and then you have the uninterested parents who treat school as a form of daycare. this concept fall more closely in the inner cities. I say put those that don't want to learn out. Make them join the service and teach those bright minds that are left behind. Then we will be able to compete. As long as education is saggin like some those kids pants it will never happen

    June 3, 2009 at 5:25 pm |
  195. Chris Henke

    I came to this country with a teenage daughter 12 years ago from a "Third World" country, only to find the education system here to be 2 years behind!! The experiment to not disclose class test/exam results, not to stream, but rather let the pace be dictated by the lower percentile of the class has been a disaster. Since when in the adult world do you not have to compete for everything!! This is a nation that has become so dumbed down – very sad to see.
    S Carolina

    June 3, 2009 at 5:25 pm |
  196. David Elliott

    The problem is that "Standards" are too simplistic because "understanding" can't be "compressed" into simple dot-points or "measured" by standardized tests. The standards movement has dumbed-down our thinking about what counts as "an education." And, many of the best education systems in the world don't use "standards," as we use the term.
    Also, it's the quality of the teachers that counts most.
    We pay our teachers poorly, which is not the case in those countries with superior educational systems, and the quality of teacher education varies widely across the USA.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:25 pm |
  197. Dakota M. NC

    No sir it is not late.

    I my self am a student in high school, other students and I fill we are getting tested to much to the point of death. The reasons students trop out so much are becuase of the test and eams, I mean here we have teacher made exams, state exams, local exams, it never ends.

    My history teacher made a statement "If the state of NC will end the EOC'S for two years it will save money" and I agree.

    If you stop testing us some and helping out by putting that money into new books and other school gear than things will run better.

    The Gov. needs to ask the everyday student and not the well paid no it all. Also a government test will be taking away a state right.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:26 pm |
  198. Andrew

    It's always interesting to hear about attempts at adopting national education standards when states like Kansas are still trying to decide whether or not evolution is a valid theory.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:26 pm |
  199. Sally from Ithaca NY

    No it is not too late for American schools to become competitive. I am a retired teacher of 35 years, and one of the biggest problems with our system is a lack of really well-trained new teachers. Many student teachers coming from the colleges and universities had brilliant math or science skills but were clueless how to teach, and couldn't put a grammatically correct sentence together. Many of them coulnd't pass student teaching requirements. Standards need to be raised at the college level so that the caliber of teachers coming into the field is much, much better. Also, any standards being set at either the state or national level should be done only by those who know best – TEACHERS.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:26 pm |
  200. Mark - San Francisco

    I'm afraid the answer is, "yes." As long as republicans continue to be the party of "no," the generation they seem so concerned about doesn't have a chance. President Obama's recognition of how bad our education system is in need of repair should be a wake up call to all Americans. But, instead of working together on his budget proposal addressing the issue, precious time is spent arguing ideology and not moving forward to give future generations a true future.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:26 pm |
  201. Donovan Drake

    National Testing amounts to filling in the dots of a multiple choice test. Our kids will be very good at this by the time they leave college. What once made America great was the idea of ingenuity, independence and creativity. We are losing our greatness as we become a nation that will only be able to color in the dot and fill in the blank.

    The big problems of our world do not come on a paper that say fill in the dot.

    We need to think outside the dot!


    June 3, 2009 at 5:26 pm |
  202. Manuel H. Diaz

    Do not give up on our kids. U.S. education is truly universal. We educate everyone. The rest of the world educates only those who are found able. The rest are tracked back into the street as soon as they complete a minimal primary education. Be fair. Compare our ablest kids to the rest. We are competitive. Our system is troubled because we have a broader burden and limited resources. We have committed ourselves to the goal of equality in education.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:27 pm |
  203. Jan Terry


    It is not too late but what we must do is to get all three legs of the education stool. i.e., the teachers, the students, and the parents to set high standards and expectations. Then, if all three groups work together to achieve (and maybe even surpass) those expectations, our youngsters will be able to compete in the global society in which they live...not someday, but now.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:27 pm |
  204. Ryan Lee

    America needs to look beyond its shores to other education systems around the world and see what works there and make it work here. Only after we have a system that rivals the best in the world can we push to make ours the best in the world again.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:27 pm |
  205. David Marcello


    Sometimes I wish I could be interviewed. Iam just a teacher with 20 years of experience in "AT-Risk" schools. I can promise you it is not the quality of our teachers that cause the problem but it is the "OLD Business Model" that is used to run schools. Year after year, research shows that classrooms are over loaded and that smaller ratios help the achievement gap but it seems that States do nothing but patch work the issue by saying they are reducing class size but still classrooms are full, and central office staff is over abundant with staff. Money needs to quit being put in reform models, staffing administration, etc. and be used to put 1 teacher assistant with every public school teacher, reduce all class sizes to no more than 15 students in a class and lets see what happens then. Just in my short 20 years, school systems scrambel to spend money on testing, reform models, administration but do you know I have never seen this common sense approach ever tried.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:27 pm |
  206. John Carlson

    Whatever happened to parents? Today's parents need to turn off the television, take away the cell phone, text messaging, the Twitter, the Wii, the Game Boy and sit the child down and have them study. Try a book instead of some reruns that are ten years old. If the kid comes home with lousy grade then take away the car keys. Put the responsibility where it belongs: on the parents. The schools, teachers and standards are just fine but they can't make youngsters do the work that's required to excel. That's the parents' job.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:27 pm |
  207. Joan in Philadelphia

    I've been teaching for over 25 years. When parents support the teachers the child succeeds. Notice I did not say when parents support the child. Too many times the parent sides with the student against the teacher. The child quickly learns how to work the system instead of hitting the books and meeting the challenge.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:27 pm |
  208. Roseland Hupp

    Dear Mr. Cafferty,

    I am a parent and I am appalled at the current rate in which Americans are not graduating from highschool. Some of those who do graduate are not at the level needed to be successful in college. I have witnessed teenagers who have graduated and they cannot read very well. I remember being in Sunday School and havng to read outloud and me and my friends would laugh at those who could not read well.

    This problem is not funny nor should it be ignored. I believe the government should intervene when it comes to education. As it was highlighted states have different standards, which I believe allows students to percieve they are on the right track, but are really at sub-standard levels.

    At the current rate, the United States is going , I am afraid for this country. People are scared of what Al Quaeda will do to us , when we need to focus on educating our children. If not, our children will do us in, who will we have to run the country at this rate.

    I do not believe it is too late, but we have a lot of catching up to do.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:27 pm |
  209. kebba ps (atlanta

    it is never too late...American school can b become competitve if they want to. But i dnt put the burden on parents i put it on the school teachers and how they comply wit student...this is america everythin is possible

    June 3, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  210. Charles in Lawrence, NJ

    Reading is basic to all learning and newspapers are tanking, let’s fix one with the other. Bored kids fail and misinformed voters fail their nations. The news is “in your face”, “keeping it real”, not boring and not easily fluffed lies. From junior high and up, kids should read a newspaper everyday, what is the system afraid of? An informed population? It’s not too late if kids are intensified about their world.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  211. Noel in Nashville, TN

    Let us value creativity on the part of students and teachers. National standards will lead to an even more boring curriculum. Students only learn when they want to learn. We will improve standards if we focus on why students want to learn.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  212. Mitch from Canada

    Jack, Education reform is needed in America, but more government intervention is not the way. We need competitive schools that push each other to be better as to attract students to atttend their school over the next. One way of doing this is through the voucher system which has proven in some states and in Sweden to work very well.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  213. Purnell, Kankakee, IL.

    No it is not we just have to get the Republicans out of the way so that we can advance, naturally, they have held our country and world back for over fifty years!

    Why is that on every issue the first thing the Republican say is we can't have it?, Better Education, they say no, because people who are ill informed made bad choices and have to depend on them to lead them! Better Health Care, they say no, because they make billions each year by not looking for real cures instead they want treatment which in enriches them! Better roads, they so no! Fuel efficient cars, they so no! Solar, Wind, Geo- Thermo, and any form of being self suffice in Energy, they say no again. But if it is anything that enriches them and their buddies in big business, they are all for it! If starting wars based on lies they are for it, they sell weapons! If it is torture they are for it, to keep us in a constant state of war and they make billions if not trillions! If it is invading sovereign nations they are for it, because all they can see and worship is the dollar, while they send our corporations into their lands to take other nations resources through trickery!

    Purnell, Kankakee, IL.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  214. Kirk Williams

    The problem often with this country is that we are so arrogant about who we are, and think that our way and our system is the best no matter what, that when things go wrong we are not willing to see what works in other countries. Why can’t we look at what is working in other nations, and see if there are ways to employ some of those methods here?

    Peoria, AZ

    June 3, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  215. Lance Schumacher

    It is not too late, however, it is not going to happen either. Not unless the American attitude towards personal responsibility changes. The politicians refuse to hold the states, the schools, the teachers, or the students responsible for learning, teaching, or any measureable results. Parents, for the most part, are too busy making a living to prepare their children to face the real world, because most of them have been conditioned to believe that day care and the public school system should raise their kids. As long as noone is held responsible, the nature of kids is to continue to do what they want, sexting, experimenting with new ways to get high, and new ways to engage in sex, not to do anything that requires them to actually expend effort doing something constructive. Laqnce, Ridgecrest, Ca

    June 3, 2009 at 5:29 pm |
  216. Tim

    Much better question than asking whether or not the goverment should pay for a weekend away from the White House.

    My greatest fear of standardized education is that we will inevitably breed a society of businessmen, scientists and engineers to the exclusion of artists, writers, and social workers. Education is a balancing act between a person's natural talents and society's needs. We should not strive to recreate China or India in our educational systems. Homogeneous thought seems to be the antithesis of the American experience where we are stronger through our differences. Maybe we need a system where we achieve a base level of education through our 15th-16th year and then we have tracks for tradesmen, creatives, business types and scientist/engineers.

    We need to try something new, not try to match what others are doing.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:40 pm |
  217. Jenna

    My son nearly dropped out of high school. Many of his friends nearly dropped out too. We have a unique program at Round Rock High School (near Austin, TX) called the Atlas program. It has literally saved my son and many students from becoming a negative statistic on the road to nowhere. This program has the students catching up on their school credits by having them work diligently on everything in school for several hours a day. No homework, which keeps the students busy at school where they can receive help on work they would otherwise ignore at home. They must obey all the rules or they lose their place in the program and they are held accountable for catching up on everything necessary to pass state exams and to graduate.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:41 pm |
  218. Matt in Michigan

    In the industrialized countries that the U.S. is compared to, students take a test at the end of what we would call "Jr. High". The ones that do well go on to a high school that focuses on college prep. The rest go to a vocational High School. Only the college prep. High School students are tested and compared to our students. In America, we test everyone – including special ed. students. This isn't just apples and oranges, it's apples and mini-vans.
    One of the biggest problems with school today is parents. Between school-of-choice, charter schools, vouchers, and private schools, the public schools must cater to the whims of every parent. If a student doesn't receive an A for their C work, parents threaten to pull the student. Having high academic and behavioral standards is nearly impossible in this culture of victimhood.
    And, yes, I am a teacher. I've been teaching 3rd grade for 18 years. I love my job, and my students. It just irks me when journalists write about the comparisons between the U.S. and other countries – without any understand of who the other countries are (or aren't) testing.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:41 pm |
  219. shakib

    it's not late for the next generation which are still in elementary & middle schools. but, it's obviously too late for the generations that are 20 to 40 years old. in general, if you compare their knowledge in any issues with the people who grew up in some other countries' school system and then migrated here, it looks pathetic!

    June 3, 2009 at 5:41 pm |
  220. unattached

    jack if the kids in india with no lights can study and make it in a ramshamble school forget facilites there is no reason that our kids in America cant make it in this world we need to start with standards but before that we should have uniforms for schools so that the kids know that they are going to school and not a party.
    its discipline that is lacking and also there are teachers and school districts that don't want to address the issue of giving help to gifted students,

    June 3, 2009 at 5:41 pm |
  221. Nick from WPB

    The way it is: American kids are so pampered with material things they do not need to think or imagine how to get it. If they need something, parents give to them, use credit cards... where is the ingenuity developed here? where is the academic pursuit in the class?. the classroom is designed to impart knowledge from the teacher and vis a vis students to interact with the subjects and get engaged. the bottom line is, there is no discipline in young kids or students anymore. of course it is very expensive. if we want to get back our lead in the education system and be among the top of the world ranks in literacy/education...the schools should purely be for academics, the rest is for the parents.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:41 pm |
  222. Karl from SF, CA

    It’s never too late but first we have to commit to funding it and not whine our taxes are too high. That’s why we are where we are now, particularly here in California. First we need to reinstate the curriculums and standards that have been diluted and lost over the years. Make parents responsible for their kid’s education and make the kids responsible for learning. Don’t pass them to the next grade until they actually complete the current grade and get music and sports back into the schools to give the kids a broader interest in learning. An education is more than just book learning; it’s also character development which is sorely lacking today.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:42 pm |
  223. Apple

    I think it is time for us to look into how other countries handle their educations systems. We always allow people from other countries come and learn. That is why they are moving on.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:42 pm |
  224. Joseph Wardy...Randolph, NJ

    It is not late but must be approached in an evolutionary manner. As a retired teacher and college professor, we have major deficiiencies in language arts as well as mathematics. There are college students who can't write, speak on their feel and God forbid think creatively and conceptually!

    In addition to national tests, we must adopt practical " in basket ; excersises that will better determine whr the work world needs..interspersonal skill, effective time managemnet and the capacity to deal with ambiguity!

    June 3, 2009 at 5:42 pm |
  225. Matt in Syracuse, UT

    National standards are certainly needed, but when will we understand that an educational system that hasn't substantially changed since the days of the one-room schoolhouse is woefully inadequate to prepare our children for a 21st century world. Are we not a country of innovation? Patching an antiquated system is not the answer. A completely new system is.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:43 pm |

    Maybe if Bush had gone forward with: The No Child Left Behind, that he promised, schools would be in better shape by now. The wealthy are not interested in having better schools, books,and teachers for the less fotunate children. I think if we give our President time he will work it out.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:43 pm |
  227. razr62

    Unfortunately education is at the bottom of the priority list on our state legislature's and Governor's list. They managed to cut 133 BILLION from the education budget (that was the first thing they went after). What is really ironic, is that they give "vouchers" to parents who wish to send their children to "private" schools or charter schools where some require a tuition. Supposedly this was to make public schools more competitive. BS!!! When I was a kid if parents wanted to send their children to a "private" school they had to pay for it, and there was no such thing as vouchers. I pay my taxes so my child can go to public schools, yet some of those taxes go to parents who choose to send their children to private schools.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:43 pm |
  228. Ralph Spyer chicago Il

    If your parents are stupid,or they do not care,if they are not their for you to read a book,to help you with your homework, they have no control over you,maybe your in a gang ,maybe you know all the answers; then it is to late.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:43 pm |
  229. linda in Columbus, Indiana

    If our schools are so lousy, why do people from other countries come here to get their education??

    June 3, 2009 at 5:43 pm |
  230. Pat

    As an educator in public schools, I say it's not too late, but we must change. Many teachers don't want to be in the classroom and it shows. Summers off is the main reason they are teachers. We need to make it much more difficult to obtain a teaching certificate and then pay them as professionals. It takes at least 2 years in my state to get rid of a bad teacher. Most principals don't have the time to play that paper game. And until parents step up and participate in their child's education, the system becomes accountable for raising as well as passing or failing and you get what we've got – manipulation by the school to meet the arbitrary testing requirements set by the state.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:44 pm |
  231. Becki

    As a high school math teacher, I can't agree more with requiring standards for competency but national standards do exist already and have not improved the state of education in our country yet. I get to see the sad state of numeracy and literacy in our youth everyday. I don't believe that the problem can be solved alone by nationalized standards or examinizations. Mathematics, for example, has had national standards for more than a decade that most states have adopted as their own. We spend more money and time testing our students than teaching them and our classrooms have become very impersonal places for students due to overcrowding. and underfunding. Parents have to become active members of the educational process. Many send their children to athletic camps for the summer and spend hundreds of dollars but you don't see them sending them to academic camps. Students in other countries experience a different type of education that involves more hours of instruction with teachers and tutors and less vacation time.

    Social promotion is also a serious issue. In Utah, where I teach, students are socially promoted from grade to grade. Math is one of the few subjects where the system has set up prerequisites for moving from one course to another but that doesn't occur until students are in high school. This is much to late to mitigate a lack of math skills such as basic computation. I have had students every year that couldn't add, subtract, multiply, or divide without the aid of a calculator.

    I hope that we war finally approaching a time when it is unacceptable to be mathematically illiterate. You don't hear people admitting that they can't read but they don't hesitate to admit that they are limited in their math skills.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:44 pm |
  232. Josh in Georgia

    The dropout rates are alarming. Exam standards are a mute point for those students. We should start by requiring a high school education and holding parents accountable.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:44 pm |
  233. charles

    The demise of the American educational system is a myth that has been perpetrated since the 60's. As a former teacher and a father whose son has recently graduated from college, I can report that the American public school system is in excellent health. Research continues to show that the biggest influence on the success of a student is the home. Bad public schools? I don't think so. Lousy parents? Research says, Yes.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:44 pm |
  234. David

    From a recent graduate, I see a big issue being that the school systems are trying so hard to educate students to pass these tests instead of giving them actual fundamental abilities. Concentrating on test scores is part of the reason for this. A better measure might be a longer term measure of a students' success after college.
    Also, we need to stop being afraid to fail students and stop spoon feeding students answers. It is hard to learn how to think when you never really have to think.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:45 pm |
  235. oz Gig Harbor WA

    Jack, I'd challenge those 30 countries to compete with the US in Baseball, Football, Basketball, drug taking, teen sex and pregnancies, and drop-out rate. I'll bet we come out on top!

    June 3, 2009 at 5:45 pm |
  236. RGS-Texas

    What we need is to look at ourselves.

    It may be necessary to weed out students wo do not perform well, right from the early stages. If a student cannot perform well in a particular subject area, that student should be given some other subject which is more palatable. At the very least, if a student finds math difficult, then try them on an easier version, and if that doesn't work, drop math altogether from that student's curriculum.

    With no math, the student cannot take any of the sciences. That is OK, since we are not wasting good money on bad projects.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:45 pm |
  237. Dawn

    Don't blame the teachers! Blame the parents! I work in a school and it is inconceivable to me that a child in kindergarten cannot count 1-2-3 or say ABC. The majority of teachers are intelligent hardworking people who have their hands tied by absent/neglectful parents and by that wonderfu l"NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND!" Some children should stay behind!

    June 3, 2009 at 5:45 pm |
  238. LEB

    "However it is a well documented fact that many other countries simply do not allow students who cannot pass these tests to stay in school. They don’t drop out. They are kicked out."

    Which isn't a bad system, IMO. Perhaps high school should stop at the sophomore year, allowing academically untalented kids to finish their educations and get out into the working world earlier and/or attend vocational school (where they may do better anyway), and the more studious, disciplined students a far higher quality of education their last 2 years - on par with college-level courses. Bright students and college-bound students could handle it, and may also thrive more than they do now in a system where their classes are too easy and some end up unchallenged and bored.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
  239. Richard Niemeyer

    As someone who teaches at a university, let me say this: the only way student achievement will improve is when both the student and their parent(s) begin to think of an education as being about intellectual growth and personal edification. As long as both continue to see education as purely a means to a "better job" or "more money," all is lost. A desire to get rich may motivate a person to (barely) pass a class, but only a true thirst for knowledge can motivate the kind of learning needed to compete in a global economy.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
  240. Roy Jackson

    It's not to late, IF :
    1.) political correctness is eliminated, from school board's decisions
    2.) students (AND parents) are properly made to behavior
    3.) students punished (AND parents) for misbehavior
    4.) basic's are taught first ( reading, writing, math, science, ... ).
    5.) needed subjects are again taught ( trades,finances,health,etc. )

    Finally, get the politicians AND politics, out of the educational system,
    AND let teachers teach, NOT fill out forms for their administrators
    on every piece of nonsense noe REQUIRED by LAW !

    June 3, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
  241. DB

    Yes Jack, I do think it's too late. School standards is just part of the problem though. In America, we live in an anti-intellectual culture. Students in this country in general do not have the discipline drive or motivation to pursue intellectual achievements. Parents are partly to blame for this. We glamorize consumption and chastise intellectual achievement.

    If schools improved their standards, or even did year-round schooling, parents will complain because ole Johnny boy can't go to soccer practice because he's in school too long or has too much homework. Don't even mention math skills – most teachers of the subject are utterly clueless as to how to effectively teach it and inspire students to excel in it. I know, because I went to public schools, I tutor public school students, and I'm doing a PhD right now. In technical fields, American students have no chance of competing against India, China, Iran or Eastern Europe because we're too well off and lazy to try.

    The solution to this is to simply eliminate bad teachers, increase pay (2 or 3 fold) for good teachers that give a damn about our future, cut back on extracurricular fluff like athletics and make our students work harder – year round and balance it with a judicious amount of vacation time for them. Make education more rigorous and competitive for teachers wanting to teach at all levels, and I'd bet you'd have a different scenario. If the U.S. had valued education, we'd be funding it as much as our military.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  242. laura

    The main ongoing problem lies with the parents...that's it. Sadly, many of the parents can't function in English so they couldn't help their kids with homework even if they wanted to. Also, many parents are just "duh" dumb or neglectful of their kids. Second, Ilegals and their kids have ruined the public schools in Texas and California because their "special language needs" take billions yearly from other students...a thirty year old situation. Third, students who want to learn and do their best shouldn't be in the same classes with the losers and criminals. Fourth, public school teachers are probably the only group, aside from police, who often go to work daily and put up with abuse and violence...and when the "baby boomer" teachers retire, the shortage of highly skilled educators will will be acute. Mandates from Washington are just hot political air and will accomplish nothing.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  243. Brian Spotsylvania, VA

    The bottom line is that our lagging educational system is a direct result of uneducated, inexperienced parents. If you give us unlimited resources and money, it will not increase our test scores. Americans are caught in a vicious cycle of producing below average students and making them parents. When are we going to turn the heat up on these parents that are not involved and supportive of their child's education? Just like their parents. Jack, your question should read: "is it to late for our parents to improve the education of their children?" The answer is whole-heartedly – NO!

    June 3, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  244. Ryan

    Look at Oregon. We have allowed the people to vote on how money is distributed. Recently we passed a measure putting more money towards prisons taking away from classrooms. When we start to make a corrolation between good grades and less people in prison we may start dedicating the money to our future instead of to those who already ruined their lives. The children need the money, not those who bring society down.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:48 pm |
  245. Connor

    It's never too late to improve. Part of the problem, aside from little unified national standards for students is that there's no national standard for TEACHERS, nor is there adequate support for them on any level in our culture, which values fame and money over a well-rounded education. In a country where your average public school teacher has 30-40 students in a single class period, is it any wonder that our students, lacking any sort of teacher attention beyond the most meager, are unable to compete against students from cultures that actually support and encourage education?

    June 3, 2009 at 5:48 pm |
  246. Lori G

    Big government caused this problem.....Failure is no longer an option since the advent of "no child left behind". Along with no child left behind, no child is let ahead either, no parent has to take responsibility for teaching their children to have a work ethic.
    I'm a High School teacher that is frustrated by the poor math skills of our students too, as to learn my subject you need math. As it is now, I think math is taught like a magical mystery that only a few can figure out along the way. But without a repercussion to not learning something, few will learn it. If no child can fail, where's the repercussion of not learning math, not learning science, not learning how to read, not learning anything at all? No student left behind, no teacher left behind, no Jack Cafferty left behind.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:48 pm |
  247. V. Ferrell-Sims

    It seems that so many educators and politicians are singing the praises of charter schools in the United States. If the charter schools are as successful as being reported, why isn’t the same plan used in the charter schools being implemented in non-charter public schools? Why are we discriminating? They’re all our children.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:48 pm |
  248. Todd from Minnesota

    Karen, TN is on to something. Schools are the easy targets and have some culpability, but if you do a root cause analysis you might find the problem isn't just school performance but student preparation/motivation. Who has more impact on a child, one teacher who has 45 minutes a day with a kid or the people raising the child. If new standards or more money or revisions to curriculm using new education pardigms is the answer, how come we keep trending the wrong way with student performance. I am going to puke next time I hear a parent complain about schools then enable their kid with excuses. I love my children but I'm not my kids best friend, I am their parent and am responsible for their success. Find a mirror people.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:48 pm |
  249. sebastian

    Jack, is not too late, as a foreign educated person I can say we need help. In a short-run give all foreign educated graduates in math and science green card in exchange they must teach high school for 3 years, second analyze all kids from unstable house in inner-city and establish bording schools for kids from unstable house-hold. This bording schools should be run as a team with our military and let Us-Corp like Microsoft and NFL, NBA, Google help on this bording schools.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:48 pm |
  250. Ian D

    Sure you can switch from a state level standardization to a national one. All that will happen is that the national standard will get dumbed down as much as needed to make an acceptable percentage of students pass it. If you haven't been on this planet and don't know how politics works in the U S of A, this may be news to you, but otherwise you'll know in your heart that this will happen.

    The simple solution, albeit not very popular to suggest in the current environment, is to separate the school from the state, in the same way and for the same reason we separate church and state. If you don't want the state to tell you whether, when and how to worship, how can you trust them with something even more important – telling your children what and how to learn the skills they will need to be successful?

    June 3, 2009 at 5:48 pm |
  251. Barbara Smith

    I have spent the last 36 years of my life in American classrooms and I can tell you that kids are still kids...the same things are interesting, the same things are there to be learned,but in the last years , aside from being told how "dumb" and "out of touch" we are,teachers have had to deal with "helicopter "parents who refuse to let kids make mistakes and learn from them! This is the biggest problem I can see- parents are so afraid to BE parents and say "sorry kid, that is not a very good paper and you cannot expect to be told it is". Kids need to put away their toys and see school as serious and real...sometimes just because mom will be mad if they don't. if all other motivation is lacking. When kids come wanting what we have to sell, teachers can use all the gizmos,gimmicks and gadgets and make it fun. if appropriate...and sometimes it just isn't fun and that's part of life, too. I have watched standards drop subtlly as kids balk at expectations and display rudeness and laziness. Kids ARE rude and lazy...it is the nature of the beast. When parents accept it ,then it becomes an acceptable pattern.Kids will do what you EXPECT of them.I also believe we are the only nation out there that tries to educate those who are not ready...cognitively, socially, or emotionally ...to do what we want. We are also really short on expecting more from talented kids...if everybody is in AP, for example, how about the place for the challenge of the exceptionally talented? we are losing a lot of them because they are just bored!...I refuse to accept the responsibility for kids and parents who will not work with us and I think every teacher out there probably feels some of this frustration.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:49 pm |
  252. Dena H

    It's TOO late, not "to" late. 3rd grade knowledge – at least in the 70's.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:49 pm |
  253. Robert

    Until we stop graduating colledge students that can not speak well, cook a meal, balance their checkbook, fix a flat tire on their own car, fix a leaky faucet, or about any thing else that we need to know to get through life, we will continue to stay in this rut watching all the other countries of the world pass us rapidly with their skilled labor.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:49 pm |
  254. MJC

    Is it too late to change? Nope. Can it change? Yep. Will it change? For the better? Nope.

    As long as we can walk down any street or into any store and see 13 yr olds (or younger) on cell phones texting back and forth, the education of our young will not get better. It's not just that they're texting. They're texting in a language that cell phone companies endorse in their commercials. Why should students learn to properly write an essay when they can just text 'ware r u lol' back and forth.

    Also, the hands of teachers are being tied constantly by parents. It seems parents are always complaining about something that schools/teachers are doing. "Don't teach my kids manners. It's not your place to teach my kids manners," "If my child is failing your class, it's obviously your fault, and I don't want to hear about how he only turned in 30% of his homework this year." Too many parents don't bother teaching their kids how to be respectful or how to behave and when those kids misbehave in class, teachers/schools aren't allowed to discipline them. All they can do is suspend/expel.

    I have two kids, one is 5 and the other is 3 and I'm going to be 'old fashioned' with them. They're being taught to be respectful of others, to listen to authority figures (teachers included) and they won't get a cell phone until they're old enough to hold a job and pay for it themselves. And even then I'll be quick to take those phones away if their grades start to slip.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:49 pm |
  255. Ron

    Sadly, it does appear to be too late for substantial improvement.
    We are so far at the basement level now, and with dropout rates approaching 50%, the way up is virtually out of sight. Always worth trying I suppose, but don't count on very much from this bunch.
    "Math, science, engineering, business- who cares? I can make 100
    times as much money jumping up and down with a basketball." That's the present day philsophy. Good luck guys and gals.
    Actually, I hate being a pessimist – perhaps just a realist?

    June 3, 2009 at 5:49 pm |
  256. Duane Strand

    Our schools in the past had standards that were upheld by teachers, parents and employers. When we started with social promotion standards went out the window. As a teacher, I have often felt frustrated because no matter how much effort I would put into a lesson the students know it doesn't matter as they will go onto the next grade anyway. If we had standards that were adhered to all teachers would say "great". We would then be able to make a much bigger difference in kids lives and force parents to participate in their child's education in reality and not just in lip service.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:49 pm |
  257. Randy

    No! The problem with the whole question is that it is dishonest. The drumbeat of the word "Competitive" is designed to get the american populace agreeing to even try and compete with people making thirty dollars a month. American kids are leaps and bounds smarter than kids were when i grew up. What the talking heads don't say is that they really want the kids to accept a lower standard of living so that the mega-wealthy and int'l. corporations can gain even more power over the masses. Educate yourselves people.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:50 pm |
  258. Alex

    It is way past time to have national standards: maybe then school boards in Kansas, Pennsylvania or Texas will stop brainwashing our children with things like "intelligent design" and provide some quality education.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:50 pm |
  259. GED teacher in AZ

    There is no point in playing the blame game; there is enough blame to go around, and no, Jack, I don't think it is too late, but the standards and teaching methods must be addressed, and new and innovative approaches must be implemented. Teachers need to be trained and well qualified, and paid a viable wage.

    Finally, what's good of the suburbs in terms of quality education, needs to be good for all kids. Only then can we claim to have leveled the playing field, and yes, it should be the same across the nation. These pockets of school boards are nothing more than day jobs for inflated egos (wannabe politicians)...I mean it! Most of them are a freaking joke!

    June 3, 2009 at 5:50 pm |
  260. Beth.

    It's not too late. The fact that many people and specially the government, educators and the elected officials acknowledge our education have some lack in his system(need real school to form the teachers) is the beginning of a better and competitive education; if we have a political will to do it.
    I'm in fact a parent of a teenager who was in school recently in U.S I was forced to send my child away from me ( Cameroon- Africa)because her education and the way the system is made do not help children to be prepare for diverse and competitive world.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:50 pm |
  261. Heather

    It's not too late as long as we can get parents, ALL parents, on board. Teachers can do everything in the world, have every resource available to them and still fail when kids come to school not ready to learn. Parents need to be held accountable for their children. Teachers are spending too much time on discipline and their hands are tied to do anything about it. Schools aren't able to get rid of the bad seeds. This means that everyone suffers because of those that wreak havoc and don't care about their education. Parental and family involvement with expectations needs to occur for the majority of kids to succeed.

    Also, this country needs to start respecting education. This is a society where financial geniuses are making millions for shifting numbers around and teachers make what they make and have the responsibility of future generations on their shoulders?? Those who make more money are more respected in this country rather than those who do important jobs that make a difference to many.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:51 pm |
  262. Arizona Dave

    We need to introduce competition into education. Teachers should be paid for performance. Schools should receive funds for performance.

    The problem with a nationalized standard is that it will be set too low so that under performing schools and children do not get their feelings hurt.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:51 pm |
  263. Marie Gallagher

    We will never make it as long as parents refuse to make their children behave and work at school. Teachers can not do everything for the students. We already buy school supplies for the kids, and, in some schools, teachers have to buy toilet paper and soap. But that we could handle if only the parents would do their jobs and support the teachers instead of fighting them. Make kids actually study math facts and vocabulary, do homework, and pay attention in school. If the kids can't behave at school, then, parents, discipline your kids, because you won't let the teachers do it! If a student needs to repeat a grade, make them do it. Then we might find a change in students' accomplishments.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:52 pm |
  264. Ryan

    Too late? Maybe.....but the first step will be to take politics OUT of the education system. This is the reason why nothing gets done (all politicians are guilty of this).

    Quick fact: The state of Minnesota spends almost as much money on welfare programs as they do on education. I wonder how many states are in this structure? And most importantly, doesnt this show what the American populace REALLY wants?

    You cant have your cake and eat it too folks!

    June 3, 2009 at 5:52 pm |
  265. James


    You are talking about education !

    Look around we are getting beaten up in every field you can possibly think about !

    It is only matter of excepting that we are not at the top. We never were since last 15-20 years but it is slowly sinking in ...

    We would need a world war to get the edge back because that is the only thing we could possibly think about and possibly know too well.
    ( Although we would get beaten up there if it were to happen )

    Fair competition started just in last 3 decades with the rest of the world and turns out we are not as good as we thought.

    East beats the West at its own game, Chinese were happy riding their bikes and planting rice and Indians in small villages. The West decided to make them part of global market with an idea that they open their markets and as we open ours.

    Guess what they opened their markets quite cleverly without not much too our advantage.
    Globalization turned out just like Iraq war NO CLEAR STRATEGERY so far.

    James from Georgia

    June 3, 2009 at 5:52 pm |
  266. Tim E

    Hey Cafferty,

    Looks like you need to go back to school and learn a little math and stats. It is extremely misleading to state that the quality of our education can be accurately described by a single statistic, the mean of the data set. You should also include some info about the distribution of scores. How do our top 10% compare to other countries top 10% in math. High math scores only serve to benefit those who actually use a lot of math at their job (namely scientists, engineers, and math teachers), which is maybe 10% of the workforce. As long as our top 10% are competing, then we have nothing to worry about. For somebody working on an assembly line, their math skills really don't matter.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:52 pm |
  267. L in Tempe

    As long as kids continue to spend hours every day playing video games, and parents don't role model reading, learning, volunteering, being involved in the schools, etc., it's rather hopeless. We don't value education like other cultures do. It's much easier for parents to sit kids in front of a TV or computer....or let them text the hours away with their friends. I cringe just reading these blogs. Very few people can write a grammatically-correct sentence.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:52 pm |
  268. hm

    It is nice to be young and free to choose, but time will catch up to you. It is not too late. However, parents need to put in extra effort to teach/tutor/encourage their kids instead of just soley rely on teachers/professors. Parents must always remind their kids that there is a different between having a job and a career. A job is when a person working at a fast food places (no college degree requires). A career is someone with a college degree or higher. Of course, people with college degrees always make much higher income. Higher education is important for future relationships and education provides economic stabilities. If one doesn't want this then just go and apply at McDonald.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:53 pm |
  269. Aaron B, Dallas

    Jack, Its not just about the kids and education, As a society we've given up on the VALUE of education with scatter-brained celebrities getting all the credit i think your spot on!!!

    June 3, 2009 at 5:53 pm |
  270. JoeMO

    They will still be godd enough to become jouranalists or politcians.
    Education is not like cuts of meat that can be graded as grade A, Choice or anythng else. . Students are not pieces of metal that you put into a punch press and they all come out the same. How anyone can blieve tha naional stndards that a e enoforceble can be put inyo place is beyond me I taught Latin and Social Studies in secondary schools , public, parochial . coed and single sex for 40 years.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:53 pm |
  271. ken from illinois

    Until US schools can enforce discipline in the classroom and the hallways there is no hope! The next step is use the EU model where students are tracked at an early age, e.g. 10. Standardized tests track students down a "college/professional" path, a "trade skill" path, or a "labor" path. It is absolutely stupid to slow down the brightest students in an attempt to let the dumbest catch up! The least common denominator is not the objective of education.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:53 pm |
  272. Steven

    I'm a teacher, and I truly believe it's not too late for our schools by any stretch of the imagination. I do believe however that perhaps we shouldn't be concerned about this to the degree that people are bringing up these international test scores – they're misleading and comparing apples and oranges.

    Are kids in foreign countries scoring higher? Yes. Is it a true sampling of those countries though? Mostly not. America is one of the few countries that makes it the goal to educate EVERY kid all the way through till they're 18. Most countries don't do this. Take the asian countries that people always point to: if by the time they get to this comparison stage they're not keeping up they're cut loose. They're not there to drag their scores back to earth. We still have all of those kids in the system!

    Personally I think we need to give the kids the skills to make it through to college if they choose to. At the same time college is not for everyone. In most cases, 50%+, we would be better off educating the students in a trade. That's what they're going to do in the end, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it! We don't want to have a society that has college educated McDonalds Cashiers. It's a waste of money.

    Let's give the kids an education for a lifetime, not just for test scores. Let them focus on truly valuable things, including arts and music, where they learn may learn to express themselves, and maintain sanity when they enter the "real" world.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:54 pm |
  273. manny Fl.

    Nobody gives a damn about the kids enough to do anything about the problem. Children are second class citizens in this country and they have no income so why should the Government spend a dime on the quality of their education.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:54 pm |
  274. Larisa, Chicago IL

    It's never too late. We need the standards, and we need to research all best schools, best teachers for ways to reach them. Don't waste time and money trying to invent something new (but "our own"). Use the experience of others that proved it works.
    As to the students not speaking English – here is the story of my family.
    We came to USA in 1993. My son was 15 and my daughter was 11.
    He went to high school, had trouble to keep up because of language problem, dropped out, went to vocational school. Eventually learn English enough to live, work. Now has his own business. But it was difficult, and he missed on collage education.
    She went to school that has children with different ethnic background and formed classes based on it. By the time she went to high school, even English teacher did not realize that she was not born in America, and English is not her native language.
    She graduated from college, works for law firm, is successful.
    My point is – look for schools that made it work and push others to learn how to achieve the success.
    One more thing – if we have the competitions in language, math, science, etc similar to sports it will help a lot!

    June 3, 2009 at 5:54 pm |
  275. Nat

    Our focus for education has been on standards. State standards, national standards and now international standards? Shouldn't we be focusing on our students? And not some policy driven agenda that limits and tarnishes the ability of underpriviledged areas to get the resources they need to be successful. Our focus should be in getting the right amount of resources to these schools of 50% dropout rates (usually urban and rural areas). We don't need tests to determine if a school is struggling that is evident and wasted money. That money should be used to train teachers, fund programs and provide for school infrastructre that allows students to be excited and innovative about their studies(Math, Science and Reading). By the way, Who are we trying to compare ourselves to? Our education system should be based on what it wants to be as a country. Not where it fits in with everyone else. Every country has their own priorities.

    Murrieta, California

    June 3, 2009 at 5:54 pm |
  276. the bobster

    it's never to late ! What we need to do is tear down all of our school's, rebuild brand new stuctures with a standard, up-to date technology,Replace the teachers with highly competitive and educated professors on a software system/ cirriculum and big screen now time and replace the books with laptops, it's time to come out of the caves! AUG!

    June 3, 2009 at 5:54 pm |
  277. Matt

    When Republicans found out 25 years ago that Hispanics would be the majority people of color in this country, the battle was on for making sure a select few would get a proper education. We are better off as an educated society. Because of the lack of education this countries citizens are at risk of not only lack of competitiveness, but also making good daily decisions. We are all in this together and people need to start acting like it.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:54 pm |
  278. Sekhar

    I'm from India , I have two kids born here in the US & I like both my kids to study in India than in the US., just not me , most of the Indians do.. for few reasons... Very little work in Science, Maths , Geography and general knowledge., no competitiveness at all... We want our kids to stay away from sex, guns and yes they need to respect their teachers and elders.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:55 pm |
  279. Douglas

    Our education will continue to decline as long as we place more importance on sports than science. Teachers should make names like Michio Kaku and Stephen Hawkings as familiar as Michael Jordan and Alanzo Morning.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:55 pm |
  280. TK from Georgia

    Education in America is beyond redemption. Many states guarantee the right to education over the behavior and environment it takes to nurture an education. You can create all the standards you want. When kids have parents who are not involved in their lives and are replaced by Hollywood imagary or praternal voids from "Roe's" choice, all we can guarantee is opportunity; and that is getting more dismal. In order for us to get back on track our notion and use of "Freedom" must be seriously explored.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:55 pm |
  281. Matt

    You know Jack, it's funny. Educated in Europe, The Netherlands to be exact, I moved to the US 15 years ago. In my home country I was averagely intellectual at best. Here? I feel like I'm Einstein!

    June 3, 2009 at 5:55 pm |
  282. Bruce in NM

    Jack: In my classroom I raised the bar of academic expectations for my students. I asked parents to share the accountability of their children's education. I applied the national and state benchmarks and content standards in my lessons. I even used the Baldrige mission statements, PDSA, plus/delta, charts, graphs, &etc. We began to progress. Then, my principal (and superintendent) began receiving reports from "concerned" parents that I was "too mean" and "too demanding." I was asked to "... tone it down" to the level or our kids. I toned it down, and down, and down... I gave up. Now, I don't get any more complaints. Is it too late for me to try again? I wonder.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:56 pm |
  283. Dave from Milwaukee

    I'd guess that it has taken a good 30 years for our schools to spiral down to the level that they're at today. I'd also guess that it will take around that same lenght of time to get them back to being competitive.

    Kids today (for the most part) are too lazy or simply don't care about advancing the quality of their lives through education.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:56 pm |
  284. Mike H from Florida

    Of course it isn't too late. The only way it would be too late is if we were to admit the decline and fall of these United States. As long as we are able to see where the improvements and steer in that direction is is never too late. We also need to stop allowing absurd political and religious interference in the educational process, and we have prioritize. We can bail out the banks, but we cannot put more (and efficient) use of money into the education system. We are mentally limping, but not down.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:56 pm |
  285. Tara

    Responsibility. That is the real question. Who holds the responsibility for educating our children? Ultimately, that responsibility falls to the parents of the child. Whether those parents choose public school, private school or home education, parents are the ones responsible for their children. The fundamental problem with education today is the lack of responsibility and ownership taken by parents. They expect the state or federal government to take ownership and care about their child. It is a ridiculous assumption. So to answer your question, is it too late? Maybe? Do we, as Americans, have a society anymore that supports the fundamental unit of the family and parental responsibility? I'm not sure. I guess I had better go turn off the TV show that has been babysitting my kids and ask them…

    June 3, 2009 at 5:56 pm |
  286. Roland(St George,UT)

    Part of the problem is Hollywood. "Geeks" or those who study, or are educated, are just not seen as "cool", whereas, the "jocks" or those who cut up in class are seen as role models. 100 years ago, before the advent of Hollywood stereotypes, education and brains used to be something people wanted. If you were a smart guy, you were looked up to, and girls wanted to go out with you. Not anymore...thanks to Hollywood pop culture. It's sad, but this is an example of life imitating art (which Hollywood swears vehemently never happens. Yeah...right!)

    (Roland/St George, UT)

    June 3, 2009 at 5:56 pm |
  287. Randall Schmidt

    Only a complete overhaul of our school systems would allow them to compete, something that our current government is not capable of implementing. That's nothing against the Obama administration, but rather the way that politics as a whole work in this nation.

    Now there is some consolation to be had. The kids that really put themselves out there and really want to be educated have a lot of resources at their disposal. Few other countries have so many opportunities for advanced classes and the like. The kids that really try hard flourish in our school system, but the ones that don't try are pretty much given up on, and that's the problem.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:56 pm |
  288. Lewis

    Its not too late but we must quit dumbing down our schools with special needs this and English as a second language that, increase the lentgh of a school day, and demand rigorous high levels of quality core standard work from all students. Dont take no for an answer from them and stop codding the kids like they cant handle it or something, Set the bar high and make them jump to the level they need to be at.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:57 pm |
  289. philippe yatsenko

    We have a class system in this country: the well-educated class and the poorly-educated class.
    The well-educated are succesful and spend great efforts in educating their children. And of course the poorly-educated are poor and getting poorer. The well-educated live in the suburbs and the others live in the inner cities. This demographics is actually fairly stable and not likely to change anytime soon.
    The question is: is this bad or is this good????
    It does server the upper class well !!

    June 3, 2009 at 5:57 pm |
  290. dan

    Why would you want to improve education? Unintelligent people easily are controlled by politicians because they do not have the intellectual capacity to challenge policy, and more than likely do not even understand policy. We can ensure that there will be an endless supply of recruits for the military, and that Burger King and McDonald's will continue to function for generations.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:57 pm |
  291. Janine

    It's not too late and fortunately we have a president who dares suggest that responsibility begins in the home. Anyone who has watched Oprah's shows on improving educational opportunities for African children cannot help but be struck by the glaring contrast of what those kids need versus what American kids "need." When African children walk miles to school, where they politely sit shoulder to shoulder in primitive conditions to learn, or more than anything else wish for a uniform to be able to attend school, it's clear that something is very wrong with American values. Money is a very small part of the problem in this country, and is mostly used as an excuse. Chinese grade school children in the poorest part of Oakland, many the children of immigrants are excelling, despite the steep language learning curve, because their parents value education.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:57 pm |
  292. Jan Johnson

    I'm going to say what many educators are thinking: College is not for everyone. Not everyone wants or needs to go. However, we have steadily raised graduation requirements and eliminated vocational programs, and now we have more high school dropouts than ever. See a connection here? When you compare "everybody must be on the college track" (US) to "only the best kids get to go on to the high-level courses" (UK), you are not comparing apples to apples, and what you get is the US is 25th, etc., etc. I am in favor of national standards. Long overdue, if you ask me! Good luck getting people to agree on them, though. The textbook and testing lobbies are powerful and will be big obstacles on this road, and too many teachers think they are in private practice; they'll nod and smile and then go in their classrooms and shut the door.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:58 pm |
  293. Sean Fox

    The only time it's "too late" when it comes to education is when you give up on it altogether.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:58 pm |
  294. Ralph Sato

    I agree with many comments above that American society as a whole not just the educational system has adopted the practice of "dumbing down." Foremost among the institutions of "dumbing down" is the media both broadcasting and print. This accounts for the abysmal condition of the past eight years of the Bush presidency. How the American electorate ever put in office the worst president in US history in 2000 and tolerated another 4 years of avoidable misery in 2004 is explainable only by this "dumbing down" phenomena. Recently, as a retiree of the public school system, I have been reflecting on my experience, and have come to the conclusion that standards must be raised much higher for our children and this is not only necessary but possible. We must return to the rigorous school standards of the past that produce some of the best schools in the world. We must stop "dumbing down" our society.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:59 pm |
  295. Skeptic

    These tests comparisons are not very accurate. Not all countries have 12-year mandatory education. Most Asian nations have only 9-year mandatory education, if not less. So, comparing their high school kids with ours is like comparing elites with average kids. If we choose their best to compete with our best, I think we will do quite well. With standard education we may turn a genius into an average kid. Why haven't we had another MichaelAngelo, Mozart, or Chopin? Our standard education maybe to blame.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:59 pm |
  296. Blake

    There must be a tremendous amount of restructuring in the educational system if we are going to be competitive with other countries in the future. I myself am a high school teacher and have found myself thinking often about this issue. If you want to make significant changes, address the teachers, who in my opinion are the biggest problem. They should
    do away with tenure and fire worthless teachers left and right by using a benchmark system. In addition, teacher salaries should be raised significantly AND a competitive salary system should be put in place that rewards successful teachers who can consistently prove the successful progress of their students from year to year.

    June 3, 2009 at 5:59 pm |
  297. Bernie of Lowell, MA

    Our students need a goal to learn. When they see their parents lose their jobs to cheaper foreign labor, they will not even bother to pick up a book and learn, Jack.

    We've seen the same problem with kids in the slums, now we're seeing it in all ranges of our economic stratum.

    We've also become lazy – complacent about technology, relying much too heavily on letting a machine do our work.

    June 3, 2009 at 6:00 pm |
  298. Hemang Bhatt

    I don't think it is too late but we are seriously behind other developed/developing countries. I came to US for higher studies from India. It is difficult to believe but it is true that educational standards and merits are very high outside US. The paradox is that US schools have state of the art facilities but passion and brain to take maximumn advantage of these facilities doesn't exist any more. Future generation of any country need not just to compete whithin their own country but globalization is forcing to compete at international level. Intellectual level and general knowledge of 5th grader in US is much lesser then awareness of 5th grader in China or India. US govt. and people need to take drastic steps to maintain the niche which made US #1 country in the world.

    June 3, 2009 at 6:00 pm |
  299. Johnny

    It's not going to matter one way or another! Poor areas you can't control the classroom let alone even teach! Rich areas kids have other things to do besides learning. You can't force someone to learn! Parents complain but they don't even see there own faults with there kids. The only way it will change if you change the environment of learning! Kids who disrupt others need to be taken out of classrooms so others can learn. Put control back into the teachers over there students! School shouldn't be a right it should be an opportunity! Families with lots of kids should know how hard it is to keep control and the attention of there kids. Now put 30 kids in a room keep control and attention of kids not your own! That's what you are asking from teachers!

    June 3, 2009 at 6:00 pm |
  300. Jack

    The education system was turned over to the "touchy-feely" crowd of the 1960s and since then in spite of billions of dollars literaly thrown at them they had destroyed what was once a great system. We need to take it back and put the emphasis on first teaching a child to read - books written by the great authors and not these simple "new age" books. We need to teach them math, not just adding and subtracting but the algebra and trig as a way to form the basis for learning "critical thinking". We need to teach them to write, diagram a sentence, know how to convey a thought. All this will produce an adult capable of critical thought and an ability to appreciate the other great things in life from great conversation to the arts. They need to learn our government system so they can become informed not brain washed voters. They need to know math to the level that they are functionally literate and know what the real interest rate on their 20 credit cards really is. We need to force their parent to be responsible for them by holding the parent accountable for their childrens' actions. I went to school in a small rural grade school and high school. I had teachers that to this day I love and remember.They had me reading great American and World literature. It was a wonderful time that I can never thank these ladies enough. Take the schools back to what many will call a classic eduction that produces an adult capable of understanding and thinking. Not one that only knows sensitivity training, a basketball court or football stadium, or the extracurricular activities. It isn't rocket science and throwing more money at it will not save it!

    June 3, 2009 at 6:01 pm |
  301. Mark


    All of the comments center around a core problem with our culture which our system of education simply reflects. That problem is how we deal with failure. Instead of being allowed to fail (and learn from the experience!), our culture does everything to shield kids from this experience. If you can't acknowledge and deal with failure, how can you truly appreciate success? How do you distinguish between the two?

    June 3, 2009 at 6:01 pm |
  302. Ron in NC

    What the public school system needs is competition for the public dollars they get,if you don't product you loose the funds,all the educators around here keep wanting is more and more money and keep turning out less and less qualified students.

    Schools around here seem more like daycare centers taking care of all the socials ills children face and being politically correct than educating and training our young people to become productive members of society and face life's challenges.

    June 3, 2009 at 6:01 pm |
  303. JuanP.

    Absolutely not; I think there are a culmination of things that need to be addressed – but at the end of the day, this country's diversity is one of its greatest assets. The existing education system, along with parental participation, needs to be completely revamped; but ultimately, if we can get our act together we can achieve a greater status as a country other than being known for its military and monetary prowess.

    June 3, 2009 at 6:01 pm |
  304. Tim in Los Angeles

    Too late is an understatement! Our systems of government (under both parties) have been allowed to be sloppy and inefficient. How can we expect the people that have designed a system as bureaucratic and inefficient as our government to retool our educational system with any significant results? As long as mediocrity remains acceptable as an American standard then we are going to be looking at our decline as a global power.

    June 3, 2009 at 6:02 pm |
  305. Dan in Hollywood

    We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.
    – Carl Sagan

    June 3, 2009 at 6:02 pm |