Since the Reagan administration and the publication of A Nation at Risk, American education has been haunted by the spectre of failure in international comparisons. It has always been the case that the US was never really 'failing' in that our scores on international assessments like PISA and TIMMS have always been average. However, the dirty little secret is that once you take social class into consideration (as in the US tolerates a much higher level of poverty than do our peer nations) the US education system performs quite well. It's long been a topic of conversation among the minority of folks in the education business opposed to current trends, but it is now starting to leak out to the echo chamber of think tanks running the ship of state these days. Money quote:
If U.S. adolescents had a social class distribution that was similar to the distribution in countries to which the United States is frequently compared, average reading scores in the United States would be higher than average reading scores in the similar post-industrial countries we examined (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), and average math scores in the United States would be about the same as average math scores in similar post-industrial countries...
This re-estimate would also improve the U.S. place in the international ranking of all OECD countries, bringing the U.S. average score to fourth in reading and 10th in math. Conventional ranking reports based on PISA, which make no adjustments for social class composition or for sampling errors, and which rank countries irrespective of whether score differences are large enough to be meaningful, report that the U.S. average score is 14th in reading and 25th in math.
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