International PISA Scores Paint Unsettling Picture of America's Schools: Buried in 'Content' and Tests, Today's Students Not Receiving 'Relevant Education'

DETROIT, Dec. 4, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- News from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) confirms what educators and education policy makers have long feared: students in the United States rank near the bottom of industrialized nations in terms of applying their mathematics, science and reading literacy skills to practical, real-world problems. That's the takeaway from the International PISA test scores. The Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, is a comparison of learning outcomes of 15-year-old students around the world. 

In other words, the nation's students are sorely unprepared for the real world. Employers have been making this case for years, such as in a recent Time Magazine article. The PISA results are one more source of data confirming that students in the U.S. don't measure up to the employers' needs.

"It's no surprise that our PISA scores are so low," says Susan Kruger, M.Ed., best-selling author of "SOAR Study Skills." "The United States has completely ignored the concepts of 'relevant education'! Students are taught to churn information, not learn it!"

Kruger says today's K-12 standards are completely content driven. Teachers are expected to be content-pushing machines and students are terrified to make a mistake, in school or in life, because they are never given the freedom to think.

"There is no connection between what students will need in the real world and what our K-12 system delivers," says Kruger. "All of this focus on content does not teach students how to learn."

To understand where the United States has gone wrong, it's useful to look at countries that have gotten it right, namely Finland and Germany, who hold the leading models of education reform. Policy makers in these countries have shifted the focus away from heavy content standards and placed more emphasis on skills such as:

  • Goal-setting
  • Planning
  • Organization
  • Reading and writing skills

An article in "Voices in Urban Education" (p. 17) demonstrates how Finland closed their own achievement gap. Meanwhile, Finnish education blogger Bert Maes has distilled his nation's reform policies into 10 essential principles. Lastly, chapter 9 from "Lessons from PISA for the United States" provides the background on Germany's remarkable education reforms of the last few decades.

The workplace calls these "soft skills"; educators call them "study skills." According to a study by the Carnegie Mellon Foundation, soft skills/study skills are three times more important in workplace success than content knowledge.

"These skills bridge the ever-widening achievement gap between students in the United States and the rest of the developed world," says Kruger. "They are relevant to what students actually need in the real world, and what employers need from our students.  They are the building blocks for success, beginning in middle school and carrying over into high school, college, and eventually the workplace. How far behind must we fall before the K-12 system will change course to better serve our students?"

About SOAR Learning, Inc.

SOAR Study Skills ( is the brainchild of Susan Kruger, M.Ed., who is a certified learning specialist and has been recognized by Microsoft Partners in Learning University as a "Global Expert in Education Innovation."  She's also a former struggling student; growing up with learning disabilities, Susan was shocked when she simplified a few study skills in college — and graduated with a 3.9 GPA. Since then, she has taught thousands of students how to achieve the same sense of accomplishment and confidence with study skills. Susan is the author of the international bestselling study skills book "SOAR Study Skills." Her curriculum materials are used by over 1,800 schools nationwide and in 14 countries.

Susan Kruger, M.Ed.
SOAR Learning, Inc.

Read more news from SOAR Learning.

SOURCE SOAR Learning, Inc.


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