The Olympics are happening again!  I have always enjoyed watching Olympic events, as well the competition between athletes and nations.

I would like to take you on a research based journey to an Olympic competition in the world of education.

Just for fun and in the spirit of the Olympic games, I will share with you over the course of the next couple of weeks, some factual information about academic achievement.  I don’t know how much standardized test scores really matter to you, but as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, a culture spawned where “student achievement,” the quality of schools and national education became solely and inseparably connected to standardized test scores.  Consequently, test results alone were often used to cast US public school education in a negative light and shake our citizens’ confidence in our public education.

While every school, every student, and every nation’s education can always improve, the bad wrap argument against US public schools has a couple of important holes in it.  For example, it was often based on or included test results of high school aged students.  This distorts the results because in the US generally most every person of that age attends school and takes those standardized tests.  Conversely, in most of the “elite” education nations of the world, this is not the case.  Their social cultures and educational systems are often such that only about the top third of their students–in terms of academic attainment–are still pursing education at the same age of US high school students, while the other two thirds are sorted into various occupational paths where traditional education is no longer necessary.  Thus, those test comparisons are really putting America’s total 100% of students against the top 33% of students in other nations.   How might things be different if it was their 100% compared to our 100%?  What if we therefore took high school aged students out of the mix and instead compared younger students’ achievement?

Another thing that tends to be overlooked is that public education can differ significantly from state to state in the USA because government power over education is, in fact, delegated to the states.  Again, in typical education comparisons, the entire USA is lumped together, when in fact, states perform at different levels of proficiency.  Considering this point, what if the US sent just one state into worldwide competition as its delegation?  What if that state was Montana?  How would that shake out with Montana competing against the nations of the world?

On this journey, over the next couple of weeks, we are going to attempt to find the answer to these questions using standardized test score results.  What if we compared Montana’s “student achievement” of 4th and 8th grade aged students–ALL of them–against ALL of the same aged students in other nations–not just their top 33%?  This will be the premise as we will look at six “events” in this education Olympiad:

Event #1: Reading – 4th grade

Event #2: Math – 4th grade

Event #3: Science – 4th grade

Event #4: Reading – 8th grade

Event #5: Math – 8th grade

Event #6: Science – 8th grade

We’ll see who makes the podium in each event and if our education here is not better then what many have made it out to be.