Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Variation in educational achievement in the U.S.

Very interesting article in the Atlantic monthly by Amanda Ripley: "Your Child Left Behind". The article references a study, just published in EducationNext, by Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann which compares national educational performance (in mathematics) in several countries around the world to state-level educational performance in the United States (a more extensive version of the study is here).

The motivation for the research was that it is well-known that the United States as a whole performs poorly on such international comparisons (for the latest example, see here), but the United States is so large that it might well be the case that individual states within the U.S. outperform most countries. The researchers' finding, unfortunately for the U.S., is that the best performing state, Massachusetts, comes in 17th, followed by Minnesota in 20th place, with no other state in the top 25.

The study is interesting (and disturbing) in its own right, but it is also a nice example of bringing good social science methods to bear on questions that many people have impressionistic beliefs about but which are often difficult to test systematically. [As Hanushek notes in Ripley's article, one explanation for poor U.S. performance he often hears in his hometown of Palo Alto is "We're a very heterogeneous society — all these immigrants are dragging us down. But our kids are doing fine.")]

1 comment:

  1. Wow to the immigrants comment. I'm pretty sure a lot of the stupid is homegrown here.