What do test scores really mean?

With a graduation rate peaking above 80 percent for the first time in history, the united states seems to be emerging from its educational slump of the past decade. With test scores lagging behind those of our neighboring countries, officials, citizens, and the community alike are still worried for the  future. What many claim as ‘falling behind’, I view as something else. Being on the cutting edge of state development since our founding, I believe that the United States is in the midst of pioneering the next stage of development of first world development.

The destruction left by bombers in WWII

For all purposes America is the most fully developed and oldest democratic state in the world. Many other candidates, such as those in Europe, growth as a state has either been stunted or reversed in recent history. Destruction of the past world wars had left most of Europe in shambles, refocusing citizens efforts into rebuilding the very basics of the country, thus halting its development as a modern state, in effect halting and tailoring their education system to the current needs of the country. Menande summarizes the education style of Europe in his article on education : “Society wants to identify intelligent people early on so that it can funnel them into careers that maximize their talents. It wants to get the most out of its human resources.” (Menande,2).  A heavy focus on knowledge and specification in the education system stems from post- war rebuilding, where every resource needed to be maximized including citizens. Learning is still influenced by the trauma of the post war area today, and has never really expanded or grown. This leads to students being forced to accelerate in all areas of education, otherwise many times they are not able to attend college, and live comfortable with a career they enjoy. This is where the line is drawn. In the united states the education system has become increasingly more inclusive instead of exclusive,  leading to interesting results:

“Proportionally, the growth in higher education since 1945 has been overwhelmingly in the public sector. In 1950, there were about 1.14 million students in public colleges and universities and about the same number in private ones. Today, public colleges enroll almost fifteen million students, private colleges fewer than six million.” (Menande, 3). Opening up of

Harvard, one of the top private universities in America.

higher education has resulted in a strange phenomenon. Citizens in the United States don’t need to accelerate in math or reading because higher levels of education have become so much more accessible, leading them to be able to find a more fulfilling  job, and a comfortable lifestyle. This is the stage the America has reached. Society has developed to the point where citizens don’t need to be “the best” at reading or math to give its citizens the best standard of living in the world, rendering test scores useless.

This is what every other country should strive for. We are not in a game of catch up, but well on  our way to finding the next evolution of a democratic state. Once other counties can say they are not just using education to help stimulate jobs, but to build better citizens, they will be where America is now.

One thought on “What do test scores really mean?

  1. This is the issue America has now, trying to get other countries to be like us to striver for. Better democracy. But why? Why do other countries have to strive to be like America why not be themselves? Plus even though test scores are rising are we really learning? Although knowing how to be the best reader and the best critical thinker is no longer being necessary I believe that it is an important part of education.


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