Data shows US falling behind the rest of world in math, science, reading

Local teacher says US should stop pushing college

SAN DIEGO - The United States education system is falling way behind the rest of the world, according to the Program for International Student Assessment.

A PISA study shows the U.S. ranked 24th in reading, 28th in science and 36th in mathematics.

"I'm extremely disappointed," said 2003 National Educator of the Year Keith Ballard. "We are failing many kids here in America."

Ballard, a South Bay music teacher, told 10News the biggest difference between the U.S. and countries in the top 10 like China, Japan, and Taiwan, "is they don't believe all kids are going to go to college."

Ballard said the 50 percent of minority schoolchildren who drop out of high school would be better off if they selected a vocational school by the time they were 14 years old.

"That's exactly what I'm advocating," he said.

Ballard has traveled to more than 80 countries like Germany to investigate their education systems. He said those countries identify children early and give them a choice of hundreds of vocational paths.

Ballard said if the U.S. were more like Germany, the U.S. would have fewer dropouts and more people graduating from vocational schools ready for the workforce.

"We're either going to have to ramp up and compete and work harder and do the things we need to do," said Ballard. "Or we're going to be left out in the world."

He added Americans don't spend enough time in the classroom. California kids go to school about 175 days a year, while Chinese kids go 230 days.

Ballard said sports like football also take up way too much time and money.

"If we can figure out a way to harness our energy for organized sports and put that into our academics, we would definitely be number one," said Ballard.

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