by David Safier
Scores from the PISA international tests came out Tuesday. If you just look at the raw scores, the takeaway is, U.S. students are far behind the rest of the world. It's a hopeful sign that many people in the media, possibly for the first time, are taking a more measured approach to the data and considering factors that add a degree of depth to their analysis and make a blanket condemnation of U.S. schools look questionable. But not Power Lunch on CNBC. Uh uh. Host Sue Herera interviewed the top two people at BASIS charter schools -- Craig Barrett, president and chairman of the board (and Gov. Brewer's educational right hand man), and Michael Block, BASIS' founder -- and asked them flat out, no nuance, why U.S. students are lagging so far behind internationally. Barrett, an intelligent man who has lots of experience in the educational field (though he's never taught at a K-12 school), answered, disingenuously,
"It's probably a combination of three things. Great education systems like Shanghai -- or BASIS -- have great teachers, high expectations and a degree of accountability, or tension, in the system. . . . You hardly find that at all in the United States."
I guess Barrett forgot to mention the fourth thing: both Shanghai and BASIS have highly selective school populations. BASIS uses a triple selection process to make sure its high school students are among the most intelligent and conscientious in the state. Shanghai is a city filled with China's elite. While 24% of China's high school graduates go on to college, the number is 84% in Shanghai. On average, Shanghai's parents spend as much on tutoring and weekend activities for their high school aged children as the average Chinese worker makes in a year. Oh, and children of immigrants aren't allowed to attend Shanghai's high schools. If they want to go to school, they have to return to the rural villages they came from.