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Vol 453|1 May 2008

COMMENTARY

Making the grade t’s a familiar story. Children around the world have been tested, and the United
States is in trouble. A US Department of
Education report1 from March concludes that
“without substantial and sustained changes to the educational system, the United States will relinquish its leadership in the twentyfirst century”. The panic plays out in countless newspaper articles and policy reports, recently leading to legislative responses such as the
America COMPETES Act, which contains a list of measures to boost average mathematics and science test scores.
A country’s place in the new global economy is, according to these reports, determined by its rank in the maths- and science-score hierarchy.
Following this reasoning, one would conclude that the US economy is threatened not only by
Japan and South Korea, but also by Finland, Singapore, New Zealand and the Czech Republic.
The rankings that engender these fears are primarily based on two tests administered to middle- and high-school students since 1995: the
Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International
Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).
Improving education should be a priority for the nation, but erroneous interpretations of international test scores may drive economic and competitiveness policy in the wrong direction. When we consider that education testing shows formidable US strength as the largest producer of top-scoring students alongside a significant problem at the bottom, the threat to future competitiveness seems to be something quite different from the headlines2. Caution is needed so we neither create policies that

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students is 30% lower than that of the United
States. In fact, the United States has a higher percentage of top-performing students than
5 of the 14 others in the top-ranked group of countries with high average scores.
Moreover, it would seem inappropriate to consider the United States, a country with a population of more than 300 million, in competition with Singapore, a country of 4.5 million, or with even smaller New Zealand. The economies in these countries range from a gross domestic product (GDP) of $124 billion in New
Zealand to $236 billion in Finland, compared
Lagging behind? with the $14-trillion GDP of the United States.
It is misleading to gauge the relative position of Perhaps a more apt comparison would be Masthe United States in the world based on a sim- sachusetts with a population of 6.4 million and plistic ranking of its students’ a gross state product of $338 billion, or Colorado with 4.8 test scores. This is much like
“Average test scores measuring shoe size to premillion residents and a $230dict runners’ future race billion state product. Although are largely irrelevant times while ignoring their the top group also includes as a measure of past performance. There are economic powerhouses South economic potential.” substantial methodological
Korea and Japan, which come limitations in using these in at under a fourteenth and tests to compare nations, less than a third, respectively, including reporting ‘rankings’ that are based of the size of the US economy, for the most on minute differences that are not statistically part it makes more sense to compare US state significant3. For example, when considering economies with other countries because it is statistically significant differences, national Massachusetts or California that is ‘competing’, test scores can be clustered into three mean- for example, with Singapore in developing their ingful levels and the United States consistently biotech industries. ranks in a middle group on maths and science
If, as we argue, average test scores are mostly while being top ranked in civics4 — the study irrelevant as a measure of economic potential, of citizenship and government. Overall, about other indicators do matter. To produce leadingone-fifth of other nations rank better and two- edge technology, one could argue that it is the fifths rank underneath the United States. numbers of high-performing students that is
Still, average performance tells us nothing most important in the global economy. about the distribution of students with the very
These are students who can enter the scibest test scores. In maths and science, when ence and engineering workforce or are likely to looking at average scores, the United States is innovate whatever their field of study. Remarkoutranked by countries such as Finland and able, but little noted, is the fact that the United
South Korea. But the rankings change when we States produces the lion’s share of the world’s examine the percentage of students who per- best students (see graph opposite). form at the top, those most likely to be tomorAt the same time, low-performing students row’s innovators. The South Korean average can hamper productivity and here, unfortuplaces it in the top-ranked group of nations, nately, the United States also stands out. The yet its relative proportion of top performing United States produces more than one million overstock the science and technology workforce nor unthinkingly implement the education and social practices in other high-scoring countries. A full grasp of the meaning of testscore differences should lead the next president to address education and competitiveness problems more effectively than the recent
America COMPETES legislation, which is now languishing for a lack of funding. Focusing the great consternation about education on real rather than imagined problems requires a careful assessment of the evidence.

C. EMIABATA

International testing that is used to predict the grim future of US science and technology is being vastly misinterpreted, say Hal Salzman and Lindsay Lowell.

NATURE|Vol 453|1 May 2008

COMMENTARY

increased salaries and job openings, students openings in the US workrespond. When the IT industry was growing, force”. Teitelbaum adds that the number of graduates in computer science this overproduction, which kept pace, doubling over six years. Follow- leads to increasingly longer ing the collapse of the IT industry bubble, the postdocs in many science number of graduates fell by 17% between 2003 fields, makes our universiand 2005. Employment in this field is just now ties look more like a system to reaching the levels of the boom years but, with produce “a pool of low-cost research lab little prospect of rapid growth, students seem workers with limited career prospects than a to be wise in choosing other fields. Or, consider high-quality training program for soon-to-be petroleum engineering. This is an industry academic researchers”. that has had slow growth for two decades and, correspondingly, undergraduate enrolments Social choices declined 85% during that period, and master’s The beauty of brandishing a simple number programmes instead attracted students from or a few facts is that they fit in a single headareas of the world with fast-growing oil explo- line and focus the reader’s attention. However, ration. Today, 75% of US master’s graduates in before we send teams of educators to discover petroleum engineering are foreign students on the educational secrets of Finland, Singapore, temporary visas. Now, the
New Zealand, South Korea low-performing maths and science students US industry has a real need or Japan, we should do
“History suggests that each year, more than any other country in the for more engineers because more study into the nature
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and of increased demand for and context of their educapolicies designed to
Development except for Mexico (see graph oil and new exploration tion systems. As the PISA stockpile scientists and overleaf). Although programmes to improve coupled with 20 years of report6 notes, the tests do engineers are countereducation for low-performing students and minimal hiring and an not evaluate schooling, schools are included in the various policy ageing workforce. The oil per se, but the “cumulaproductive.” reports, they are shunted to the background industry has responded by tive impact of learning when the headlines focus on increasing the increasing entry-level salaexperiences ... starting in numbers of those at the top, and overall seem to ries 30–60% over the past four to five years, early childhood and up to the age of 15 and carry little weight when they are diluted as part far greater than in other fields. As a result, embracing experiences both in school and at of a long laundry list of recommendations. petroleum-engineering graduates have dou- home”. That is, much is made of a few select bled in the past five years and freshmen enrol- schooling practices in each country and recomMarket maths ments, at Texas Tech University in Lubbock for mendations are made to emulate them without
Without a doubt, science, maths and technol- example, have increased more than sixfold. considering what the effect is both on the lives ogy education is needed in today’s society,
When supply far exceeds demand, the bust of these children and on the economy. whether for its citizens to understand enough that follows reverberates for many years and
Sending children to classes six days a week, to participate in public debate or just to operate discourages students even when demand does extra preparation courses nights and weekends, the technology of everyday life. However, some increase later. As Michael Teitelbaum of the and having a single examinaton that decides argue for more advanced courses as if they Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in New York notes, their fate, as is done in Japan, is not a choice want to prepare all students to be scientists or not only is there no evidence of any widespread most US parents would make. Nor is the social engineers. We believe that there is something shortages but “substantially more scientists discipline in Singapore that seems to keep stufundamentally wrong with such an approach. and engineers graduate from US universities dents on the straight and narrow path: death for drug pushers, prohibitions on spitHistory suggests that policies designed to than can find attractive career stockpile scientists and engineers are ting and, for offences in between such as counter-productive. The robbery after 7 p.m., at least 12 strokes
NTRY
U
STUDENTS BY CO space race is typically cited of the cane. Although South Korea’s
P-PERFORMING
TO as a success story of Amerispectacular economic rise is held in awe, can technological prowess, and its tenfold-per-capita GDP increase but less often discussed is the over the past 20 years is widely praised, impact of the workforce buildrarely noted is the close to 250% rise in up on US engineering and scithe incidence of suicide over the same ence in the years that followed. period, with suicide becoming a leadFollowing a spike in the numing cause of death among young peobers of science and engineerple. With South Korea are Finland and ing college graduates in the
New Zealand at the higher end of the late 1950s and early 1960s, a global rankings of test scores and suispectacular bust followed that cide rates. No single factor is responled to high unemployment in sible for either high scores or suicides, these fields. For many years but mental-health experts cite the pressure leading to one outcome as afterwards, fields such as physics were thought of as poor career a factor leading to the other in many choices5 . Similar boom-andhigh-scoring nations7.
–bust cycles have continued for
The future educational path for the past four decades, in engithe United States should come from neering, in information technollooking within the country rather than lionizing faraway test-score ogy (IT) and in science. champions. Our analysis3 of the
When demand is translated into
29

COMMENTARY

NATURE|Vol 453|1 May 2008

LOWEST
-PERFOR
MING ST
NUMBER
UDENTS
AND SH
BY COUN
ARE OF
ALL 30 O
TRY:
TOTAL (1
RGANIS
5 YEAR O
ATION F
AND DE
LDS IN
OR ECON
VELOPM
OMIC CO
ENT COU
-OPERAT
NTRIES)
ION

data suggests two fundamental problems that discussion than the averages. So require different approaches. First, pedago- we need to look beyond the mean gies must address science literacy for the large to consider size and quality of the numbers of low-performing students. Second, workforce and the content of our education policy for our highest-performing education that will be driving students needs to meet actual labour-market innovation. In a country that has a long history of innovademand.
In the United States, a decade’s worth of tion and high productivity, we international test rankings based on slender should start by looking at how measures of academic achievement in science our best schools educate top and maths have been stretched far beyond performers. It is unlikely that their usefulness. Perhaps policy-makers feel it they do so by the types of is better to motivate policy by pointing to high- education heralded in other scoring Czechs with fear, instead of noting our countries. high-scoring Minnesotans as examples to
Paying attention to the emulate. But looking within the United States problems at the bottom is as may be the best way to learn about effective important, if not more so, than focusing on education. As the PISA authors emphasize in the top. The most innovative technology has their report, 90% of the variance in the scores limited use if the more than 70 million workis within countries rather than between coun- ers without college degrees do not have the skills to use it effectively. tries. Therefore, most of what one can learn about
The nation’s low perform“A better understanding high performance is due of the education data will ers and schools should be to the variation in factors a headline concern and lead to better policy.” the remedies are often to within the nation’s borders. be found in schools only
It would seem far more effective to transfer best practices across city a neighbourhood or town away. It will be far more effective to take the best that America and state lines than over oceans. has to offer before seeking elusive and poorly
Chasing tails understood practices found in a diverse collecIn America, little about the nation’s condition tion of small countries around the globe. can be gleaned from averages, whether
As advocates of evidence-based policy, we by assessments of income or edu- argue that competitiveness and education cation. Our great opportunities as policy should use the best available evidence well as our great limitations seem as a guide and not be driven by impressions to be accompanied by great dis- and rhetoric. Our analysis suggests that a better parities. It is these extremes, the understanding of the education data will lead to tails at either end of the distribu- better and, in many cases, different policy direction, that require much more tions from those now being advocated.

30

Hal Salzman is at the Urban
Institute, 2100 M Street NW, Washington, DC
20037, USA. Lindsay Lowell is at the Institute for the Study of International Migration at
Georgetown University, 3300 Whitehaven Street,
Washington, DC 20007, USA.
1. www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/mathpanel/report/ final-report.pdf 2. Lynn, L. & Salzman, H. Issues in Science and Technology
Winter, 74–82 (2006).
3. Lowell, B. L. & Salzman, H. In the Eye of the Storm: Assessing the Evidence on Science and Engineering Education, Quality, and
Workforce Demand (Urban Inst., Washington DC, 2007).
4. Boe, E. E. & Shin, S. Phi Delta Kappan 86, 688–695 (2005).
5. Kaiser, D. Social Res. 73, 1225–1252 (2006).
6. Learning for Tomorrow’s World: First Results from PISA 2003
(OECD, Paris, 2004).
7. Lim, M. Asia’s Ongoing Struggle with Suicide International
Affairs Journal at UC Davis (29 June 2007).
8. PISA 2006 Science Competencies for Tomorrow’s World
(OECD, Paris, 2008).

To discuss this article or any of our education material this week, visit http:/
/tinyurl.com/6ndqko…...

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...Scholarship Repository University of Minnesota Law School Articles Faculty Scholarship 1988 Discovery in Labor Arbitration Laura J. Cooper University of Minnesota Law School, lcooper@umn.edu Follow this and additional works at: http://scholarship.law.umn.edu/faculty_articles Part of the Law Commons Recommended Citation Laura J. Cooper, Discovery in Labor Arbitration, 72 Minn. L. Rev. 1281 (1988), available at http://scholarship.law.umn.edu/ faculty_articles/307. This Article is brought to you for free and open access by the University of Minnesota Law School. It has been accepted for inclusion in the Faculty Scholarship collection by an authorized administrator of the Scholarship Repository. For more information, please contact lenzx009@umn.edu. Discovery in Labor Arbitration Laura J.Cooper* The mere statement of the topic, discovery in labor arbitration, suggests a paradox. Is not the essence of the arbitration process an effort to avoid the procedural complexities that make litigation comparatively slow and costly? More than forty years ago, Learned Hand admonished a litigant distressed with the procedural failings of an arbitration proceeding: Arbitration may or may not be a desirable substitute for trials in courts; as to that the parties must decide in each instance. But when they have adopted it, they must be content with its informalities; they may not hedge it about with those procedural limitations which it is precisely its......

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...In this article, it goes into detail about what executive search consultants do and how they should act. Executive search is basically moving a person from one firm to another. This process is not as easy as it is said. “The profession is not regulated,” meaning there are gray areas as to the standards and what is off limits. Presidents and CEOs of executive search consultants firms in the article talk about maintaining a professional stand and remaining loyal to the clients, not the candidates. Executive search consultants are meant to help find candidates for clients and not take away people from the company they are helping. Also they should not practice “parallel processing,” which is basically having a candidate for two different clients. Executive search consultants also have to “take care not to misrepresent themselves, their clients or the candidates during the search process” Each candidate has to be treated fairly to avoid a candidate not being chosen due to discrimination. Nowhere is perfect, there will be some search consultants who have favorites and try to get them selected instead, but all firms should be striving to avoid that practice. Evaluation This article had some deal to do with business conduct. When reading this article, the ethical dilemma in Chapter three comes to mind. Lavonda had been recruited to another pharmaceutical firm. But how it she was recruited was not, by any means, appropriate. The case itself said that Lavonda was “lured away from......

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