Mercy College Professor: American Students Lag

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Mercy College Associate Professor Dr. William Farber recently spoke about students lag and what local residents can learn. Photo Credit: File Photo

DOBBS FERRY, N.Y. -- Mercy College Associate Professor William Farber said in a recent interview that he was "not surprised" U.S. students lag behind international students after results of international tests were released. 

About half a million students in 65 nations took part in the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Students in Shanghai had the top scores in all subjects, and Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong students all scored higher than American students, according to a release. Farber said he isn’t surprised by the results, adding that U.S. students have traditionally not scored high on international tests. Farber said high rates of child poverty and cultural diversity are general the reasons blamed for the low scores.

Below is an interview with Farber, courtesy of Mercy College: 

Q: How can this trend be reversed?

A: “I strongly believe that in order for our students to increase achievement levels in mathematics, we must intensify our efforts to recruit, select and retain the best and the brightest teachers, from the early childhood level to the secondary level. This can be achieved by identifying exemplary teacher preparation programs that offer rigorous and realistic curriculum containing coursework and activities that is connected to the needs of the school.”

Q: What are we doing at Mercy College to help American students?

A: “Mercy College in partnership with the Yonkers Public Schools has developed the Race to the Top Clinically Rich Program, which is a master’s degree and school-based internship program for a new corps of secondary mathematics teachers prepared to improve the mathematics performance of general education students and diverse student populations, including English language learners and students with disabilities, in grades 7-12 in high need schools. The program integrates content, clinical experiences, and pedagogical and professional knowledge through a 150 day internship in selected Yonkers secondary schools and 45 graduate credits at Mercy College. A roundtable is held bi-weekly to assure the integration of theory and practice. Successful candidates receive a Master’s Degree in Secondary Math Education and certification in Children with Special Needs and Mathematics."

Also not surprised by the PISA results is Mercy College School of Education Dean Al Posamentier. While he questions the weight placed on the PISA results, he agrees that a lesson can be learned from the international test. Posamentier said: “Mathematics instruction in this country has been severely compromised by the excessive testing and evaluation of teachers, administrators and schools. Especially in mathematics classes, “teaching to the test” has virtually eliminated genuine teaching techniques, appropriate enrichment to motivate students and consequently resulting in less well prepared students for tests unlike those that are used a standardized testing in this country.”

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