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Though American higher education is the envy of the rest of the world, U.S. students struggle to compete with other young scholars abroad. American academic accomplishments tend to pale in comparison with the achievements of students from Singapore or Finland. What could be the story behind the lack of aptitude from U.S. students? Here may be a few reasons that American students are lagging behind students from other countries. 

Mathematics in America is Not Well Taught 

The average score of American fifteen-year-old students who took the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment is 470. This is almost one hundred points below the score for Singaporean students. This may indicate that there may be something about the way math is taught in America that does not enable students to master crucial mathematical concepts. Dr. James Stigler has studied math and science taught to American students since the 1970s. He determined that students in middle school and in high school do not learn enough math and science to succeed in college math courses. Many students do not graduate from college because their education in math has not prepared them to do well in college math courses. The way math is taught in American schools is also very different from the way other schools in Japan or Europe teach math. American students are often taught the procedures of doing math problems. However, they do not often master the conceptual nature of math principles and do not mature beyond doing math problems in a mechanical manner. Repetition is emphasized in American schools, which prevents students from considering individual problems carefully. In contrast, schools abroad may emphasize conceptual mastery of different mathematical principles. This enables them to think critically about different topics and apply varied principles to other problems. The focus on conceptual learning may enable students abroad to perform better on tests. 

Literature is Not Properly Emphasized and Explored in U.S. Schools 

The United States does not seem to fare much better when it comes to reading. Students scored an average of 497 on the Reading tests. This could be due to the fact that literature is not explored well enough in American schools. Books may be assigned to students and papers may be required on certain pieces of literature, but literary forms may not be taught in a way that invites interest and critical thinking on texts. Poetry, for example, is often neglected in U.S. schools. Poetry often invites readers to examine ideas and imagery in different, thought-provoking ways. This can promote deeper thinking and analytical skills when it comes to the literary form. Students may benefit from analyzing how poets use and break grammatical rules in their work. Classical texts are also not always emphasized in American schools. Works of classical literature can help students analyze complex emotions, ideas, and visions in text and respond to these ideas on their own terms. 

Parents Do Not Read to Their Children Enough 

Parents are burdened with managing jobs, housework, work events, and children's needs. It is easy to see that these parents do not always have the time needed to read to their children on a regular basis. Yet this practice may help develop children's reading skills and bond with their parents. Only a small percentage of parents read to their children on a regular basis. Fifteen minutes every day spent reading to a child may help contribute to reading skills later in life. Most parents believe that their children are capable of reading books appropriate for their age, but the reality is that a significant percentage of students are below their reading grade level. Parental involvement in children's reading skills may be critical for competent reading ability during the school years. 

Schoolteachers Are Not Treated With Care Or Given Adequate Resources 

A significant number of children enters the school system every year in need of basic education, and there are not enough teachers prepared to meet the enormous task of nurturing young intellects. Furthermore, teachers that do manage to teach school children often do not earn enough to support themselves. The strain that this could put on the school system may have an impact on the way children are educated. Improving scores and education may require better care given to teachers. Public education funding is not always very thorough and does not always meet the needs of teachers and students. Teachers are not always paid sufficient funds to continue their work long-term. In order to support themselves, schoolteachers must often work two jobs to cover their personal expenses and house payments. Teachers are not valued as critical components of the American school system and they are rarely compensated in a way that rewards their efforts. 

A study also revealed that most teachers are not thoroughly trained to take on teaching as a full-time profession. Many of these teachers want to contribute positively to the school system but are not well prepared to handle classroom dynamics. This may impact the quality of education. The quality of education may play a strong role in determining test scores. 

Americans Do Not Focus Intensely on Test Preparation 

A simple reason why American students may not outperform other countries on test scores is that they are not often rigorously trained to perform well on tests. Chinese education is famous for making students pass tests in order to qualify for higher education or good jobs. In contrast, American students do not rely as much on tests to gauge ability and value. While cultures that strongly emphasize test scores have weaknesses, they do prepare students to outperform other students on exams. This may be a reason why U.S. students do not succeed as well on exam scores as do other students abroad. A focus on accomplishing a set of tasks under pressure and learning how to manage time while working may be crucial in improving American test scores. Paying for tutors and for test preparation may also not be reasonable for some students or parents. This may cause complications for exam scores. 

SOURCES: 

Rethinking Education in America 

Why So Many Students Aren't Learning Math 

U.S. students’ academic achievement still lags that of their peers in many other countries 

Why Teaching Poetry Is So Important 

Most Parents Are Not Involved Enough in Their Child’s Reading Education, Survey Says

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