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PISA Results Underscore Need for Higher, Benchmarked Education Standards

December 4, 2013 - 6:00pm

I believe in a strong America; an America that is the definitive beacon of opportunity, an America that is the global leader in economic prosperity, an America that has the most competitive workforce in the world.

But the daunting truth is that we are not that America. We are falling behind. We have to do better, for our children, and for generations to come who deserve a revived, strong nation.

Tuesday, results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) were released. The assessment compares 15-year-olds from developed countries across the globe in math, science and reading. The results point to a jarring reality we all need to face in our country: our education system is not equipping our children for the competitive workforce.

Other countries are making faster progress. U.S. teenagers are now ranked 26th in math, 21st in science, and 17th in reading. Shanghai, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong are leading the pack, while countries like Poland and Ireland surpassed us for the first time.

There is no excuse in the book to justify our performance on the world stage. We are in a competitive 21st century and its time we start preparing our kids to compete. Without adequately preparing our kids with the fundamental skills needed in school, how can we expect them to go on and contribute to a vibrant workforce? We need to do better.

Yesterdays results dramatically underscore the need for higher, internationally benchmarked standards and a focus on foundational skills in K-12 education. We accomplish this by holding schools accountable for performance and providing teachers with the supports they need to help students meet these higher expectations. This improves our childrens opportunity to achieve success in school, college, career, and life, thereby preparing them to successfully compete with their peers around the globe.

However, we do see a positive outcome in the PISA results that reaffirms my core belief: all students can and will learn when education is focused on them. Massachusetts participated for the first time in the international benchmarking system and received separate scores. Massachusetts average scores were higher than both the U.S. and global average scores in all three subjects. The reason Massachusetts outperforms not only the rest of America but other countries? Reform works. In 1993, Massachusetts adopted a bold package of education reforms to transform the failing status quo and focus the system on students learning. They implemented rigorous standards and achievement tests that students have to pass to graduate.

Today other states are following their lead and it couldn't come at a more critical time.

Jeb Bush is founder and chairman of the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education. He served as the 43rd governor of Florida, from 1999 through 2007. This email was distributed to the foundation's mailing list.

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