Someone sent me a link to an organization I had not previously heard of. It’s called the State Government Leadership Foundation, and it sounds a lot like ALEC. It takes positions and offers policy advice on many different issues, all from a conservative point of view. After much scouring of the site, I discovered that SGLI is a 501(c)(4) ¬†organization associated with the Republican State Leadership Committee.

When I went to the section of the website on education reform, I was not surprised to encounter the usual corporate reform ideas, like school choice, ending tenure, and evaluating teachers by student test scores.

What astonished me was the education reform sector opens with a little graph titled “America the Illiterate?” The graph is accompanied by this language: “Several decades ago, American students were at the top in every subject. In that time, public school union membership has increased 600%, and now we trail China in every category.” The graphic has three arrows purporting to show that American students dropped from #1 to #25 in math literacy, from #1 to #17 in scientific literacy, and from #1 to #14 in reading literacy.

None of this is true. The first international assessments were administered in the 1960s; twelve nations participated. We scored twelfth out of twelve. In the intervening half-century, our students typically ranked in the middle or even the bottom quartile on those tests. We were never #1. Maybe those tests rate test-taking skills but they surely are not a predictor of future economic success. Our nation continued to boom economically and to encourage entreprepreneurship, creative media endeavors,  and new businesses despite the unimpressive scores on international tests.

If you recall, the famous report “A Nation at Risk” complained in 1983 that our international test scores were consistently mediocre. So the claim that achievement on those tests has fallen over the decades is factually untrue. It’s no worse, and actually somewhat better, than on previous international tests.

And we are certainly NOT behind China, because China has never participated in any of the international tests. The city of Shanghai did take part in the PISA exam of 2009 and came out #1, but Shanghai is one city, not the nation of China. That would be like characterizing U.S. performance by putting only Massachusetts–our highest scoring state–in the testing pool to represent the nation.

In short, this description of U.S. Education is a pack of lies that smears our nation. I wonder if the people who created this website went to fancy prep schools and looked down their noses at those of us who went to public school. They seem so eager to put down American schools, which educated 90% of us, and by implication, put down the United States. it makes one wonder who they are. Too bad they didn’t take responsibility and put their names on their work so we would know who they are.