The learning gap- harold stevenson and james stigler.

ch 2 - academic achievement.

Sendai - Japan, Minesota and chicago - USA, Taipei - Taiwan


Of 13 year olds in Korea, Spain, the UK, Canada, Ireland and the US, our students score the lowest in math.


On tests of algebra in which the Japanese and hong kong students had a median of 80 points, our 12th graders had just over 40 points.


In 5th graders, the lowest scoring Japanese schools scores higher than the highest Japanese schools.


ch 3- children’s lives

We spend about half our days in schools.  Asians spend 2/3rds.  We spend 180 to their 240.


95-98% of Asian families had bought their 5th graders a desk.  Only 63% of americans had.  By 1st grade more than 80% of Asian kids had their own desks.


American children don’t spend more time watching TV.  Americans did 1.8 hours a day and Japanes do 2.0 hours a day.   Asians are ore likely to make it contigent on homework completion.


Though asians read for pleasure and Americans do more chores.  Children’s magazines are popular.


Chart on pg 60 is good


There are few janitors in asian schools the children clean up.


Japanese and Chinese have recess after nearly every class. 


Chinese children work as a group.  Working at your own pace (US style)  means working alone.


Chinese children do group work.  The US kids work alone.  Perhaps that is why they talk innappropriately during class and don’t stay after to join groups.


Americans don’t integrate school and home.  The desk scenario is a case in point.


CH 4- socialization and achievement

Americans believe in the importance of early stimulation.  We put mobiles over beds and start reading earlier and read to them earlier.


9 of 10 US mothers teach their kids the alphabet at home.  Only 36% of Asians do.

Asians don’t expect the preschool to emphasize intellectual or academic advancement.


Paradoxically, just as Asian parents are gearing up to invest  large amounts of time and energy in supporting their children’s academic activities, american parents begin to pull back.  Responsibility is handed off to the teacher and the student. 


US families give much more of a role to the schools: sex and drug education, minority relations, nutrition and fire prevention are taught in American schools.


The percentage of parents working in the Asian and American families studied didn’t vary much.


Our schools attack our natural role models.  We love to hit at the clay feet of Jefferson.  Asian kids are given lots of positive Asian role models to follow.


Our kids are proud of their individualism. Asians are proud of their group orientation.   They worry about loner kids.  One group that they represent is the family.  We use shame to say “you should be ashamed of yourself”  They wonder about the effect on the family.  Kids know that if the kid does poorly it looks like the family isn’t doing its job.


The kids there are explicity taught how to speak clearly and loudly, how to arrange their pencil box and to take notes and organize their desks and their written answers so that they are legible.  This isn’t sen as stuffing individuality.  Rather it allows you to automate more and spend more time expressing yourself.


Asian parents see academics as the most important task of childhood.  Americans see social skills, high self esteem and hobbies as the most important.


ch - 5  Effort and ability

Americans used to view themselves as rugged individualists who can accomplish anything if they work hard enough.  this had disappeared.  Our belief in effort undermines those who then feel they have no hope.  It also hurts those that think they can rely on talent.


In Asia, high test scored are seen as a sign of dilligence.  If one fails they are not ashamed.  It means they must work harder.  The slow bird must start out early.


Charts pg 101-102


An american child who draws poorly  may say “I am just no good at drawing”  The asian “It is too bad that no one taught you to draw”.l


When given an impossible mathematics problem to solve.  The US kids give up quickly.   Asian kids won’t give up.


When given many problems in 20 minutes, the Americans try more and get more wrong and fewer right. 


People ask should we expect all to do the high end academic stuff?  We’ve said no. SO our academic course offerings dropped by 60% from 1910 to 1950.


We do learning disabilities.  THey don’t.


Ch - 6 satisfactions and expectations.


40% of 1st grade mothers and 5% of Asian mothers said they were satisfied.

American children do worse  relative tot heir peers befor etheir mothers would be dissatissfied than Asian children could.  Perhaps even more stunning is that US mothers expectations went down between 1st and 5th grade.


When asked “Let’s say your child took a math test for  5th graders with 100 pts and the average was 79 points.  What score do you think your child would get?”  All showed  a positive bias.  But american mothers said they would be satisfied if their children got 76 points.  Asian mothers said 94 points.


American schools don’t have clear stndards.  American elementary schools generally don’t provide grades just : needs improvement, satifactory and excellent.

Also we have different textbooks without reference to grade level of reading within.

Also new math and science every year makes parents unfamiliar with what’s taught.


Asian students know their main task is to get an education.  Older americans shy away from academic achievement because it isn’t “cool”.  Many wh see them selves as “pretty good” at studies theink they are , therefore, “good enough”.


Suicide in both cultures is about 12 per 100,000.    There is no evidence of mental disorder or stress being more prevalent in Asian than american youths.


CH 7 The organization of schooling


Asian schools are austere.  They must combat cold by wearing multiple layers of clothes.  Many are in busy areas with traffic noise.


China spends 3.7% of their GNP on education. The us spends 6.8% of its much larger GNP.


They spend less on administrative staff.  There are few janitors and service personnel; one rarely encounters special ed teachers, assistant teachers, school psychologists, counselors aor social workers.  Kids do the maintenance and the family handles emotional problems and parents assist slow learners.


Whereas we seek to maximize differences, asians go for basic information and skills.


Chinese and japanes think it uneccesary to consider individual differences in setting curricular goals and devising educational programs.


We have no central control of our school system.  After WWII occupation we foisted school boards and ocal control on the Japs.  They  disbanded them.  They siad that it led to lack of continuity grade to grade, a lack of a common fund of knowledge and hurt parents that moved.


In Asia each teacher teaches the same topic at the same time.Asian textbooks are slim, inexpensively produced paperbacks.  They seldom have more than 100 pages and cover one semester’s work.  They rely on the teacher to elaborate beyond the basics.


American textbooks are expensive and comprehensive and are so big that american teachers skip sections and chapters.


By the 6th grade, asian kids have spent one to two more years at school than our kids.  They do 240 to our 180  But the difference in academic instruction time is not so profound as the general statistics imply.  Their school vacations are shorter and spread throughout the year and they get homework and do school activities ofver them.


In taiwan the teacher was the lekader of the child’s activity 90% of the time, as opposed to 74% in Japan and only 46% ub the US.  In Taiwan 9% of the time noone was leading instruction, 26% ub Japan and 51% of the time in the US!


US teachers must steal time away from classes to do prop work.  Americans spend the least amount of time inolved in academic activities int heir classes.  Only 65% of the time in 5th grade.  Before extending the school year we should make this better.  We spend 10% of our time in transition fromm one activity to another.  Asians 5%.

We’re out of our seats 20% of the tiime. Asians less than 5%.


We spend differing amounts on reading and math. They spend uch ore on ath though.

Tracking doesn’t exist in Asian elementary schools.  Not separating causes weak students to lag and strong ones to be bored.  separating  causes strain on resources.  It stigmatizes without a solution (if one exists)  and different curriculum screws continuity.


ch 8 - The profession of teaching.

Americans act as if good teachers are born, not made. 
Our teaching schools are in the balance between too vague and too specific.  Asians spend less time in university classrooms in preparing to teach and more time in teaching situations.    The real training is after graduation from college.  In the US training comes to a near halt after the teachers get certificates.

Master teachers get one year leaves of absence to observe beginning teachers


All teachers interact more in their department lounge.  In this room the teachers have desks in which they can query eachother and grade papers.


This is facilitated by their being on the same lesson about the smaee timel  TV shows show how master teachers handle particular lessons.


Becominga teacher is tough in Japan.  Young teachers don’t need to worry about sacrificing financially to be a teacher.  They make as much as university professors and there is only one word for teacher not teacher & professor.


Teachers in the US emphasize independence which creates lonliness.  The door closes and ...  THere is not a common curriculum and therefore bond.


Beijing teachers teach no more than three hours a day.  Japs ony 4 hours a day (6 days)

But asian teachers spend more time at school.  Americans don’t have shorter weeks (they work at home more.).


Principals are such by virtue of their success as classroom teachers. 

The ideal teacher in asia  was the ability to explain things clearly and to be enthusiastic.  For the americans sensitivity and patience were chosen.


They do not innovate as much as make each performances interpretation good.  TEachers don’t feel bad about stealing eachother’s stuff.


And asian teachers are not counselors.

Discipline is for the sake of the group  The teacher tells the lead student “its too loud I cannot teach”  and the lead student quiets the class down.


In some schools there is an annual good teacher competition judged by visitors.


ch 9 the practice of teaching

The lessons always began by presenting a practical problem in Asia.  They spent 8 times as long at the end of the class period summarizing the lessons as did those in chicago.  In american schools the teacher was interrupted by someone else in 20% of all first-grade lessons and 47% of fifth grade lesssons.  none in asia.


Asian teachers use the same props over and over. In the USSS we try to be inventive (but perhaps end up confusing).


americans make little use of mistakes as teaching techniques.In the US questions are posed to get an answer  In asia it is to pose a question that stimulates thought.  A good question gets discussio going for a while.  A bad one just gets a simple answer.

It is an error to thing that diversity in the children’s social and cultural backgrounds that poses the greatest problem for teaching. In fact, a far greater problem is variability in children’s educational background.  Teachers everywher emust deal with students who vary in their knowledge and motivation.


Variety of teaching techniques and alternative answers.  Americans separate all into different tracks.


CH 10 defining the solution

National standards are good.

Teachers can no longer do counseling and psychology and special ed and parent surrogate roles.


Our goals should be specific foir our nation.


Special ed forever puts the kid out.  We spend more than any other country.  Just more money to do the same thing won’t help.40.4 % of our udgets go to teachers in 1989.  In 1959 it was 56%.


American teachers need less time in the classsroom.  Our training should deemphasize philosophy.  It should happen in school classrooms, not lecture hallsl.


And supervision shouldn’t be by already overworked teachers.  THey should get sabbatical.


We ask kids to sit too long each day.  Mor lunch would help  We should lay off of the preschool years.


Families should make a desk for their kid and set aside times for study.


We should ditch smiley faces for grades.  We should withhold praise. 

We can get support for change by showing that this country was built o folks doing their best.  We are investing in fellow citiz3ns.


We must drop the belief in talent.  why did we drop the ideal of struggle for achievement now?  The worst chinese gets average american scores.

undo the results of the previous reform.