American 15 year olds are lagging behind students from other nations in math and science, according to the results of an international assessment exam called PISA. Though we’d like to think of ourselves as an educated nation, these results point to some glaring deficiencies in the way that we educate our children. For the record, this is not about poverty; students from wealthy american families fared no better in the results.
What is hidden behind these results, however, is an even more unsettling insight. The PISA test, unlike the standardized tests that are administered in most American schools, assesses older students in mathematics literacy and science literacy, or how well they can apply their knowledge and skills to problems set in real-world contexts. Most standardized tests that are used in the US measure only content knowledge. The newest US assessments now being piloted, PARC and SBAC, which are aligned to the new “Common Core” standards, measure some of the cognitive skills linked to that content. They are a step forward, but they don’t really assess the skills that are needed for college and career readiness. In other words, it is not what our kids know that is really important, it is whether they can apply that knowledge to real world problems and new situations.
The PISA test does measure some of those college and career readiness skills, and the mediocre performance of our high school freshmen in these important measures should raise some pretty serious concerns among our local, state and national leaders. We assume that American’s will always be able to innovate; to invent the future. But if these tests are any measure, our ability to think critically, to problem-solve, and to adapt our knowledge to new and novel situations is truly in doubt.
It is for this reason that we have chosen to focus on the teaching and strengthening of these essential 21st century skills at our Camp. We consider it our mission to teach your children the skills that they will need to be successful and fulfilled in the world they will enter as they enter the workforce someday. If our schools are unable to teach these skills right now, then it is incumbent upon all of us who work with children during their out of school time to do this important work. Free of the constraints of funding streams and the politics of assessment, we will continue to do all that we can to insure that your children are college and career ready, with the skills to innovate and invent the future.