How do Virginia students rate when compared with students from across the nation and around the world?
How does barely in the top 50% sound?
By Amanda Ripley
Published in The Atlantic
Imagine for a moment that a rich, innovative company is looking to draft the best and brightest high-school grads from across the globe without regard to geography. Let’s say this company’s recruiter has a round-the-world plane ticket and just a few weeks to scout for talent. Where should he go?
Our hypothetical recruiter knows there’s little sense in judging a nation like the United States by comparing it to, say, Finland. This is a big country, after all, and school quality varies dramatically from state to state. What he really wants to know is, should he visit Finland or Florida? Korea or Connecticut? Uruguay or Utah?
Stanford economist Eric Hanushek and two colleagues recently conducted an experiment to answer just such questions, ranking American states and foreign countries side by side. Like our recruiter, they looked specifically at the best and brightest in each place—the kids most likely to get good jobs in the future—using scores on standardized math tests as a proxy for educational achievement.
Virginia ranked around 33rd in math proficiency, putting us among the top in the US, but just barely in the top 50% internationally. One of the greatest factors pulling down the performance of Virginia students is the reliance our students have on calculators. In most high performing nations, like Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea, calculators are prohibited until students are in more advanced classes in upper high school, if they’re permitted at all. In Virginia, our students are expected to use calculators from kindergarten onward and basic skills, like long division, are no longer taught.