Re. "Commentary: Some truisms and falsehoods about schools," (Oct. 13): It's difficult to know where to start to address the misstatements in this commentary. A more accurate title would be "America at the bottom of the class."
How else to describe the fact that U.S. eighth-grade students badly under-performed compared to their peers from 34 countries around the world? In the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exams, our students scored 30th in math, 23rd in science and 17th in reading among the 34 nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). For a global super power, this is a national disgrace.
While teachers face difficult challenges today, particularly in inner-city and gang-ridden neighborhoods, they are not heroes. Soldiers in armed combat are heroes.
American education is controlled by unions and politics. Many teachers lack qualifications. Forty percent of math teachers lack at least a minor in mathematics; 51% of chemistry and physics teachers lack a minor in their discipline.
Teachers who are not qualified should be culled and replaced by qualified teachers who currently cannot get credentialed and hired.
This reality by itself can explain why eighth-graders scored worst in class on PISA or Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) and why high school graduates can't read. Recent surveys found that 75% of freshmen in two- and four-year colleges require remediation.
Our students get a high school diploma at the end of 12th grade but not the education that entitles them to the credential.
Poverty, class and race are not the handicaps the writer claims. The black and Hispanic girls at the Young Women's Leadership Academy in East Harlem are often from single-parent homes in bad neighborhoods, and yet they outperform students from posh private schools on the New York State Regents' Exam.
The same positive results were duplicated by girls at Ivy Preparatory Charter School in Atlanta and by boys at Urban Preparatory Academy in Chicago and Boys' Latin Charter School of Philadelphia.
The United States outspends every country on education but gets almost nothing for its investment. The cost per student for public education ranges from $11,000 in California to $30,000 in Washington, D.C. The amount spent totals 10% of the federal budget, about $1 trillion annually.
In "Failing Liberty," William Damon says the survival of a democracy depends upon an informed and educated citizenry. America's uneducated educators have produced an uneducated citizenry.
The country has reached a critical point. If the problems are not confronted and reforms are not made, there is little hope we will ever restore our ranking at the top of the class.
R. Claire Friend
Don't outsource trash service
Outsourcing trash pickup is not a popular move. Considering the money wasted on the Civic Center park, don't compound the error. Keep our trash people.