There does seem to be some evidence that shows US schools are starting to lose competitive edge internationally.
"A swiftly rising number of American workers at every skill level are in direct competition with workers in every corner of the globe. While our international counterparts are increasingly getting more education, their young people are getting a better education as well. American students and young adults place anywhere from the middle to the bottom of the pack in all three continuing comparative studies of achievement in mathematics, science, and general literacy in the advanced industrial nations. While our relative position in the world’s education league tables has continued its long slow decline, the structure of the global economy has continued to evolve. Every day, more and more of the work that people do ends up in a digitized form."
"If we continue on our current course, and the number of nations out pacing us in the education race continues to grow at its current rate, the American standard of living will steadily fall relative to those nations, rich and poor, that are doing a better job."
-- "Tough Choices or Tough Times
", The National Center in Education and the Economy*
I think this specific report is overtly alarming and manipulative but the premise of their argument is fairly well excepted; US schools need to produce more high quality students sooner rather than later.
The report goes on to make some severe recommendations but the data they're using is good. I think what the data actually shows is that nobody is really sure how to make the changes that need to occur for US education to stay ahead, or how much education has to do with economic strength. However, this discussion is only about education and the data used to support "Tough Choices or Tough Times" shows that education needs to be improved, and that it can only be improved through radical changes.
I'm not particularly keen on the seeing the US as the country that forever stays at the head of the world, but I do think that it was once a leader and the improvements that were made in other school systems in other parts of the world need to be studied, acknowledged, and in some cases implemented everywhere. What mostly concerns me is that it appears that the US is unprepared to realize its place in a well educated world. The US supposes itself to lead. It is time for it to recognize that it has not for a long time.
The US needs to admit that continuous studies on how to properly
educate are essential are essential to maintain our warehouse of innovation and ideas. Current pedagogy needs to be properly understood and the changes to it need to be conscious and deliberate. NCLB is actually a pretty good example of an attempt to do this even if it does have its pitfalls.
*The National Center in Education and the Economy (NCEE) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing young people with the world-class skills that will allow them to succeed in a global economy. The 26-member commission includes former Cabinet secretaries of labor and education, Senators, Members of Congress, school superintendents, CEOs of major firms, union leaders, and governors.