Commentary: Can USA be number 1 in the field of education

It’s no secret that the United States likes to be number one in the world. During the summer Olympics of 2012, the United States ranked number one in gold medals; it took more gold medals than China, Russia, Great Britain, Germany and especially Finland.
But, if you take a look at these countries who also won gold medals at London, and compare them educationally to the United States, the United States is way down the list in science and is even worse in mathematics. There is something that needs to be done if the United States wishes to put its education system at number one. If it could be done, it would possibly raise the long run productivity levels to a place where the economy would grow by almost one trillion dollars a year, faster than its is current growth.
This would allow the public debt to be paid, which is what most Americans would love to be able to do. It is all about creating human capital-talented people, skilled workers, people who can accomplish a great deal. That is what this country needs. Unemployment rates are already two or three times higher for those who do not graduate high school compared to those who hold a college diploma.
What can be done about improving this country’s educational system? First, bringing good quality teachers into the classroom. That means identifying effective teachers, compensating them and not keeping the non-effective ones. A recent study by two economists from Harvard and Columbia tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years. The study concluded that replacing a bad teacher for a good one generates about $250,000 more in lifetime income for the average classroom. This means that if you leave a low quality teacher in a position for ten years rather than replacing him/her for a good quality one you are talking about $2.5 million lost in income.
There is a real demand for charter schools so that people can chose what kind of teaching they wish to receive. The charter school movement is beginning to have an effect on about five percent of students who now attend a charter school. These privately managed schools are paid for by the government and set up with government authority. Perhaps this is the way the United States has to go to with education.
After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans’ educational system has almost completely been transformed by the charter model, and the impact in that city has been noteworthy. New Orleans’ school system is no longer at the bottom when compared to the rest of the country. We can see New York and Washington D.C. having similar results where charters are making their way into the educational system.
It is time for San Antonio and the rest of the country to catch up.

Alex Camacho
Staff Writer