College Attainment In The U.S. And Around The World

Posted by on October 16, 2012

A common talking point in circles in that college attainment in the U.S. used to be among the highest in the world, but is now ranked middling-to-low (the ranking cited is typically around 15th) among OECD nations. As is the case when people cite rankings on the PISA assessment, this is often meant to imply that the U.S. education system is failing and getting worse.*

The latter arguments are of course oversimplifications, given that college attendance and completion are complex phenomena that entail many factors, school and non-school. A full discussion of these issues is beyond the scope of this post – obviously, the causes and “value” of a postsecondary education vary within and between nations, and are subject to all the usual limitations inherent in international comparisons.

That said, let’s just take a very quick. surface-level look at the latest OECD figures for college attainment (“tertiary education,” meaning associate-level, bachelor’s or advanced degree), which have recently been released for 2010. Read More »


The “Jobless” Recovery: Implications For Education?

Posted by on January 21, 2011

Our guest author today is James R. Stone, professor and director of the National Research Center for Career & Technical Education at the University of Louisville.

The headline of the USA Today article reads: “Tense Time for Workers, As Career Paths Fade Away” (January 13, 2011). The article notes that while most key economic indicators have improved over the past two years, the unemployment rate has remained persistently high. This is a jobless recovery.

Is this a time for pessimism or a time for a reality check?

This is not the first jobless recovery. The recession of the early 1990s spawned books with titles such as The Jobless Future (1994), A Future of Lousy Jobs (1990), The End of Work (1995), The End of Affluence (1995), and When Work Disappears (1996). Any one of those, and many other, similarly-titled books and articles could speak to today’s labor market crisis. Were these authors prescient or is the creative destruction in the labor market wrought by our relatively unbridled free enterprise system’s speeding up the cycles? I’ll leave that for economists to argue.

What is new this time around is the effect of the recession on recent college graduates. Read More »


PISA For Our Time: A Balanced Look

Posted by on January 10, 2011

Press coverage of the latest PISA results over the past two months has almost been enough to make one want to crawl under the bed and hide. Over and over, we’ve been told that this is a “Sputnik moment,” that the U.S. among the lowest performing nations in the world, and that we’re getting worse.

Thankfully, these claims are largely misleading. Insofar as we’re sure to hear them repeated often over the next few years—at least until the next set of international results come in — it makes sense to try to correct the record (also see here and here).

But, first, I want to make it very clear that U.S. PISA results are not good enough by any stretch of the imagination, and we can and should do a whole lot better. Nevertheless, international comparisons of any kind are very difficult, and if we don’t pay careful attention to what the data are really telling us, it will be more difficult to figure out how to respond appropriately.

This brings me to three basic points about the 2009 PISA results that we need to bear in mind. Read More »


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