While Americans may believe that they’re champions at everything, this isn’t really the case when it comes to education. The state of the US education system has received a lot of criticism and with good reason: the US now ranks 28th in the world for math and science. Even though we are a wealthy and developed nation, the education systems of some individual states aren’t that different than those of poorer countries.
A map that has been recently released and has caused a lot of talk shows the US with each of the states named after the country that most closely resembles their education level. It was created by using data from American high school graduation rates compared with information about every country’s education index obtained from the United Nations Development Program.
Some states did quite poorly. Nevada and Arizona ranked 48 and 49 out of all states and were matched with Tunisia and Ghana, who were graded as 90 and 138 respectively on the United Nations index. Many could wonder how an American state could have an educational achievement level that is on par with developing nations in Africa. One of the causes of this may be a lack of investment in education. States that don’t put too much money into improving their school systems saw poor results.
On the other hand, states that place a heavier emphasis on school funding got much better results. The Northeastern states had results that were similar to those of Scandinavian countries, which are seen as having the leading school systems. For example, New Hampshire was matched with Finland, a country well known for its superior quality of education. The Finns have a unique approach to education that combines high standards and compensation for teachers, free post-secondary education, minimal homework and less standardized testing. Finland also places a heavy emphasis on equality. Every child receives the same quality education in a good learning environment regardless of which part of the country they live in.
If the United States is falling behind on education, it is likely because of the country’s lack of investment in its schools. Federal funds that should have been used to bring schools to higher standards have often been cut. In fact, K-12 education funding has been slashed by 20 percent by Congress since 2011, which is significantly higher than cuts in other sectors.
Even if high school graduation rates have improved recently, hitting a record high of 81 percent between 2012-2013, this doesn’t mean that everything is on the right track. Test results show that less than 40 percent of high school seniors have acceptable knowledge of reading and math. This means that many students who graduate high school are still poorly prepared for college.