The Education Gadfly The Education Gadfly A Bulletin of Weekly News and Analysis from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Volume 11, Number 43. November 3, 2011.
In This Edition
The Education Gadfly The Education Gadfly The Education Gadfly The Education Gadfly The Education Gadfly
Listen to the Podcast Subscribe to the Gadfly

Read Fordham's blog Flypaper

Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter
Opinion and Analysis

Education in the P.R.C.: A layer cake baked from the top down
China’s heavy-handed governance structure
Opinion | Amber M. Winkler

What’s at stake in ESEA debate? Not much
Alexander-Isakson: A porridge just right
Opinion | Michael J. Petrilli

No Malthusian crash for the teacher population
So says a large district survey
News Analysis | Chris Tessone

Give the people what they want
More choice for the middle class
News Analysis

Short Reviews

The Nation’s Report Card 2011: Reading and Mathematics
The arrows point in the right direction—but just barely
Review | Daniela Fairchild

Strategic Pay Reform: A Student Outcomes-Based Evaluation of Denver’s ProComp Teacher Pay Initiative
We might be onto something here
Review | Laura Johnson

Don’t Count Us Out: How an Overreliance on Accountability Could Undermine the Public’s Confidence in Schools, Business, Government, and More
What we have here, is a failure, to communicate
Review | Tyson Eberhardt

From The Web

Planking, Tebowing, and more
NAEP-apalooza—and a splash of China for good measure
Education Gadfly Show Podcast | Hosts: Mike Petrilli and Dave DeSchryver

Voucher-student performance promising, better data needed
A data snapshot reveals vouchers’ beautiful smile
Flypaper's Finest | November 2, 2011 | Bianca Speranza

Are teachers overpaid?
Says AEI/Heritage—yes…but there’s more to it
Flypaper's Finest | November 1, 2011 | Chris Tessone


The apple falls far from the tree
Learning from the Germans
Briefly Noted

Education governance in the twenty-first century
Be a part of an historic conversation: December 1

The few, the proud, the Fordham interns
Fordham wants YOU for our winter/spring cohort

An uncommonly interesting job
Common Core is hiring a policy and operations assistant

Make a big impact
Public Impact needs consultants

American Achievement in International Perspective
In raw numbers, we don't look as bad
Featured Fordham Publication

Opinion and News Analysis

Opinion: Education in the P.R.C.: A layer cake baked from the top down
By Amber M. Winkler

It’s no secret that the manner in which U.S. schools are organized, overseen, and managed is an overlapping colossal mess—a “marble cake” of governance, with the relationships among federal, state, and local policies (not to mention building- and classroom-level decisions) oscillating between redundant and contradictory. This not only makes public education exceptionally hard to reform; it also lays open that system to innumerable adult interest groups—school boards, district and school leaders, teacher unions, community and business groups, parents, and so on—that manage to pursue their own ends while blaming and scapegoating others for whatever doesn’t work.

Despite a proclaimed devolution of power to local authorities in the 1980s, in this realm as in so many others, China remains a tightly hierarchical society.


Many see this state of play as a consequence of our messy democracy. But, even if our system were more efficient or more coherent under a centralized regime, would it lead to higher student achievement? And what would be the trade-offs of such a shift? During a recent sojourn to the land of Confucius (I was traveling as a senior fellow with the Global Education Policy Fellowship Program), I sought to find out.

What does education “federalism” looks like in communist China? What powers and/or decision making does Beijing reserve for itself in this realm and what powers are held by provinces, local governments, and schools? And are there any useful lessons for us? (Mind you, this trip took place in the shadow of Shanghai topping the world on the last round of PISA.)

It was hard to get clear information. Our American study-group leaders warned us in advance that, when the Chinese can’t or won’t answer your questions, they will simply respond, “It’s complicated.” Most of my governance queries elicited such a response.

Still, I managed to cobble together some findings and impressions from fragments of conversations and other limited research. I’ve surely gotten some of it wrong. So I invite you, knowledgeable readers, to tweak, correct, and augment what I learned in my ten-day visit.

toppling quadruple-decker cake photo

This tiered cake may not be
so sturdy afterall.
Photo by Shelley Panzarella

Bottom line: Despite a proclaimed devolution of power to local authorities in the 1980s, in this realm as in so many others, China remains a tightly hierarchical society—with power resting first with the national government (Chinese Communist Party), then with the provincial government, municipality, county, and so on down the list. A layer cake baked from the top down.

Most real power resides with the central Communist Party government, otherwise known as the State. Beijing oversees compulsory education, and has required, since 1986, that children receive a minimum of nine years of schooling (starting at age six or seven). To the astonishment of foreign observers, compulsory enrollment rates reportedly reached over 90 percent in 2002. (Other sources report that this goal was met by the mid 1990s.) The State develops and maintains a fairly detailed national curriculum on all core and many non-core subjects (including technology, sports, and fine arts) which all the schools we visited told us they implement. The majority of provinces are also assigned the same textbooks (though one celebrated school we visited in Xi’an had received special permission from the State to use U.S. textbooks—and Shanghai as a whole tends to get preferential treatment).

Equally important, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has devised a rigid tracking system for secondary students—which shuffles them (within their given province, thanks to China’s draconian residency requirements) into academic schools of various quality (three types, informally known as key, regular key, and public-high schools), or into vocational schools, based on achievement on State-administered tests. Barring payoffs, favors, or false addresses, it is nearly impossible to educate a child in a top-notch school outside his provincial boundary (though I heard it was easier to move across boundaries if one’s been guaranteed a job). Hence, parents exercise little choice in their children’s education except for those who can afford private options (an uber-regulated but furiously expanding sector); otherwise, the out-of-bounds child will be placed in a “migrant” school of dubious quality (or stay at home). The entrance exams, then, act as the key to better (or worse) education. So, while children ordinarily attend their neighborhood schools at the elementary level (again, provided they don’t pay to go elsewhere), the MOE sorts adolescents into middle and high schools based on test scores (though I could not make out whether Beijing assigns students to specific schools or simply to one of the three tiers).

The end result? Top scorers attend secondary schools that fare well in getting graduates into prestigious universities. (This also means that schools instruct children within somewhat narrow bands of achievement.) Students who don’t test into the academically tracked high schools are left with three options for their secondary education: They can apply to vocational schools, can simply cease formal education, or—if they come from a privileged or wealthy family—can buy their way in, surreptitiously and for a handsome price. The National College Entrance Exam (NCEE) is also administered by the State. Given at the end of high school, the assessment determines the fate of would-be college goers. (Note: the national teacher exam, is also State-managed; more below).

But there’s growing dissatisfaction with some of the State’s policies. So it is loosening the reins—gingerly. For instance, at least half of the provinces have been granted permission by Beijing to develop their own college-entrance exam. Whether this exam supplements or replaces the NCEE is not clear (readers, help!). What is clear is that residence quotas reinforce provincial segregation and mean that provincial governments have a say in the acceptance decisions of all their own universities—and can opt to lower the entry bar for their residents. These new provincial college-entrance exams have also resulted in a set of somewhat independent curricula and textbooks for the schools in those regions.

We also learned that the State is becoming more open to for-profit, community, and university partnerships with schools, though school leaders gave us little to go on here— perhaps because those efforts are nascent or nonexistent. One Chinese scholar, Ka Ho Mok, believes the impetus behind this move is financial:

The nature of the work of the State has changed from directly coordinating, administering, and funding education to determining where the work will be done and by whom… By making use not only of market forces but also other forces such as individuals, families, local communities and the society, the state is now saved from being overburdened with a continual increase in educational financing. (Riding over Socialism and Global Capitalism, 2005)

With curricula and student assignment handled by the Party (and with provinces gaining more say regarding assessments and instructional materials), what’s left for local governments? They decide cut scores for hiring based on the State-designed national teacher exam. They are also in charge of hiring teachers and principals and assigning them to new schools and/or those with vacancies, with the input of current school principals if they choose to take it. It’s unclear what—if anything—is left of consequence for school-level leaders. That said, we were told more than once that elementary schools have greater autonomy in general than middle or high schools since they are further removed from the pressures of placement tests.

What to make of this governance scheme? As pretty much everyone surmised, Beijing still calls the shots when it comes to weeding and sorting students (and, to an extent, teachers, through their teacher-assignment policies); it also maintains control over curricular and assessment matters except when it opts to turn these over to provinces. And it pays a modest portion of the cost of educating the country’s young people but only through ninth grade, the close of compulsory education. (Hard to believe but that’s what I heard in China. Readers, what say you?) Provinces kick in some funds and execute the mandates from Beijing (though they are seeing more independence, especially around student-assignment decisions). Local governments serve as the HR department and contribute to the kitty. Schools work around the edges; for instance, doing the best they can to improve teaching via lesson planning teams and mentors (they cannot terminate government employees). And parents, although vocal advocates for their children, have little say in where their child attends school, unless they flee to a private school or slip into another locality. They also take care of the remainder of the education tab.

It’s a tiered governance cake and the layer that matters most is the one on top. There are slight modifications to this hierarchy, but only when the State sees fit. All of which makes me agree with Mun Tsang at Columbia University who summed up Chinese education reform thusly: “Popular pressure for educational change has some possibility of being accommodated as long as it is not a threat to political stability and the party’s power.” Which means we aren’t likely to see big shifts in China’s education-governance arrangement anytime in the near future—no matter what sort of cracks some proclaim they see in the walls of Zhongnanhai.

This piece was originally published (in a slightly different form) on Fordham’s Flypaper blog. To subscribe to Flypaper, click here.

Click to play

Click to listen to commentary on Amber's trip to China from the Education Gadfly Show podcast.


Opinion: What’s at stake in the ESEA debate? Not much
By Michael J. Petrilli

Forget Occupy Wall Street. Liberal reformers and prominent editorial pages are steaming mad about the supposedly weak approach to accountability that the Harkin-Enzi ESEA-update bill takes—in comparison to current law and the Administration’s waiver plan. But are they right to be so hot and bothered?

Let’s start by examining the language that’s causing the hullabaloo—the main options on the table today when it comes to determining which schools qualify for interventions:

  • The Administration’s waiver package. In order to opt-out of ESEA’s Adequate Yearly Progress metric, states must propose accountability systems that “set new ambitious but achievable [Annual Measurable Objectives] in at least reading/language arts and mathematics for the State and all LEAs, schools, and subgroups.” In other words, states must set a goal for each year in terms of the percentage of students reaching the “proficient” standard on the state test. States must also identify “Title I schools with the greatest achievement gaps, or in which subgroups are furthest behind.”
  • The Harkin-Enzi bill (as passed out of committee). Under this version of ESEA, states would have to develop accountability systems that expect “the continuous improvement of all public schools in the State in the academic achievement and outcomes of all students, including… subgroups.”
  • The Lamar Alexander-Johnny Isakson bill. Under this bill introduced by several Senate Republicans, states would have to establish “a system of identifying and differentiating among all public elementary schools and secondary schools in the State based on student academic achievement and any other factors determined appropriate by the State [that] also takes into account achievement gaps…and overall performance of all students and of each category of students.”

So the waiver plan, the darling of civil-rights groups, requires states to set annual targets for all kids and subgroups. The Harkin-Enzi bill, on the other hand, just asks for “continuous improvement” (whatever that means). And the Alexander-Isakson bill would leave it up to states to design their own systems—and determine whether they want to use annual targets or not—though such systems must consider subgroup performance, too. Even astute readers will have a hard time discerning what the big-deal differences are among these three options. Observe that none of these approaches maintains AYP as we know it. But none of them eliminates the federal mandate around accountability entirely. This is a debate taking place between the forty-yard lines.

That being said, I favor the Alexander-Isakson approach, for two reasons. First, we know that setting annual (and ever-rising) targets à la NCLB put pressure on states to keep their “cut scores” modest so as not to label every school in their jurisdiction as failing. I worry that the continued use of fixed targets will either encourage the Common Core testing consortia to set their cut scores low—or, if not, that the combination of high cut scores and annual targets will cause lots of states to bail from the Common Core project entirely. And in my view, it’s more important for states to be gunning for high standards (à la Common Core) than it is to have utopian annual targets in place.

The second reason for preferring Alexander-Isakson is more straightforward: We don’t know what the ideal accountability system looks like so why not give states the latitude to innovate? Asking them to consider subgroup performance is appropriate, but there are lots of ways to do that without looking at annual performance targets, per se. Why tie our hands unnecessarily?

Including achievement targets in the next ESEA wouldn’t be the end of the world. Neither would excluding them. Let’s pick one approach and get this reauthorization across the finish line.

This piece was originally published (in a slightly different form) on Fordham’s Flypaper blog. To subscribe to Flypaper, click here.

Click to play

Click to listen to new commentary on ESEA reauthorization from the Education Gadfly Show podcast.


News Analysis: No Malthusian crash for the teacher population
By Chris Tessone

wolf photo

Who's afraid of the big bad
pension-reform wolf?
(Photo by Wayne NoffSinger)

Doomsday projections aside, NCTQ found in a recent survey that layoffs in large urban districts were modest: Over the past two years, only 2.5 percent (on average) of the teaching staff at the seventy-five large urban districts they surveyed were let go. Half of the participating districts saw no forced layoffs at all. (Many districts decreased staff size simply through teacher attrition.) This falls in stark contrast to the rhetoric of a “new normal” pushed out from the White House: Remember its forewarnings of 280,000 teacher layoffs this year alone? The story of how cities avoided layoffs is interesting: A large percentage cut their central-office workforce. Good. But more districts cut class time or school days than reduced workers’ benefits. In fact, only 7 percent of surveyed districts in 2011-12 dared mess with teacher benefits. These data could bolster the case of reformers like Scott Walker who argue that state policy should tackle runaway growth in benefits because school boards and administrators will not. Clearly only a tiny minority of districts were willing to touch these areas of their budget. So lay off the predictions, Nostr-Obama.

Teacher layoffs: Did the sky fall or not?,” by Staff, National Council on Teacher Quality, November 2, 2011.


News Analysis: Give the people what they want

piling in the water photo

Charters rise the school-performance
tide (Photo by Mike Haller)

Despite all the good she’s done—her Harlem Success Academy 1 ranks in the top percentile of schools in New York State, and the others in the network are no slouches—Eva Moskowitz has earned herself some fierce opponents among Gotham’s upper-middle class. How come? First, a year ago, she sought to locate one of her schools on the Upper West Side—only to see hordes of public-school parents freak out at the thought of their schools competing with a new charter for space, money, and kids. (After some effort, Moskowitz opened the school this fall.) Now she’s back for a rematch, this time in the upscale urban hamlet of Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill. Why the focus on more-affluent locales? As Moscowitz has explained, “middle-class families need options, too.” (The political heft that middle-class folks could provide to the charter movement isn’t a bad reason, either, especially as the majority of her schools are in lower-income neighborhoods.) Voicing an agenda of excellence for all, Moskowitz is finding support from parents who aren’t willing to wait for their zoned schools to improve—and facing opposition from those who see her charters as siphoning resources (and education-minded families) away from the project of improving district schools. There is much to be said for rebuilding neighborhood schools, but we happen to think Moskowitz is right that more parental options will lift all boats, rather than sink revitalization campaigns.

Click to play

Click to listen to commentary on Eva Moskowitz's new charter school from the Education Gadfly Show podcast

Charter School Push Grows,” by Lisa Fleisher, The Wall Street Journal, October 31, 2011.


Short Reviews

Review: The Nation’s Report Card 2011: Reading and Mathematics
By Daniela Fairchild

NAEP 2011: Reading coverNAEP 2011: Math coverSports fans have the NFL draft. Politicos relish the presidential election. And on Tuesday, education wonks enjoyed their favorite day: the release of the nation’s report card, or NAEP. The assessment found modest gains in fourth-grade math and in both reading and math at the eighth-grade level since the last round of testing in 2009. (Fourth-grade reading scores have been flat since 2007.) Two days after the release, much of the relevant inference and conjecture that can be bled from the NAEP data stone already has been: Kevin Carey of Ed Sector used the longitudinal data to articulate that we can move the needle on student performance—especially for math. (In the last twenty years, the percentage of fourth-grade students scoring below the basic level in math fell from 50 percent to just 18 percent.) Mike Petrilli speculated that the statistically significant uptick in eighth-grade reading could be attributed to the efficacy of Reading First (prior to its defunding). Politics K-12 dissected results of Race to the Top winning states (especially Hawaii, the only state to see gains in all four categories). And Matt Ladner ranked states on how well they’re teaching low-income, minority, and special-needs students. Go ahead and join in the fun; play with the user-friendly NAEP data explorer here.

Click to play

Click to listen to commentary on the NAEP results from the Education Gadfly Show podcast.

National Center for Education Statistics, The Nation’s Report Card 2011: Reading and Mathematics. (Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, November 2011).


Review: Strategic Pay Reform: A Student Outcomes-Based Evaluation of Denver’s ProComp Teacher Pay Initiative
By Laura Johnson

There is much opposition against teacher merit-pay programs today. But one such venture stands largely outside that debate: Denver’s ProComp program enjoys teacher-union support and is partially funded by a voter-approved tax. ProComp offers individual and school-based incentives to participants based on both input measures (acquisition of higher degrees, etc.) and output measures (student performance and progress, etc.). Under the ProComp contract, new teachers are automatically ushered into the program—which offers rewards for a variety of input- and output-based achievements, including advanced degrees, higher than expected student test scores, and working in hard to staff schools—while veterans must volunteer, creating unique conditions for research. Five years into the program (which enrolls 80 percent of DPS teachers), Dan Goldhaber and Joe Walch offer some perspective on its effectiveness. Their findings are promising, but with caveat (notably because of the convoluted statistics done to ascertain results). The findings? Student achievement did increase (notably at the secondary level in reading) since implementing ProComp, and students of participating teachers fared better than those not in the program. That said, even veteran teachers not partaking in ProComp saw positive residual effects from the system. Yet, the researchers also found that advanced-degree or professional-development bonuses had little effect on student achievement. The upshot? Merit-pay programs can lead to better results—if designed and implemented thoughtfully.

Dan Goldhaber and Joe Walch, “Strategic Pay Reform: A Student Outcomes-Based Evaluation of Denver’s ProComp Teacher Pay Initiative.” (Seattle, WA: Center for Education Data & Research, 2011).


Review: Don’t Count Us Out: How an Overreliance on Accountability Could Undermine the Public’s Confidence in Schools, Business, Government, and More
By Tyson Eberhardt

So many institutions—from Congress and Wall Street to public schools and HMOs—have lost the nation’s confidence: “Citizens don’t consider many institutions…to be either responsive or effective,” write the authors of this Public Agenda/Kettering Foundation report. This, despite much effort on the part of organizational leaders to provide transparent data to the public. Why? According to the report, it’s because the public and those leaders don’t agree on the fundamental nature of “accountability.” While elites tend to see accountability as transparently holding organizations to objective, quantifiable standards, the public views it, more opaquely, as a moral issue. Pervasive irresponsibility causes a lack of accountability, regardless of measurable results. This disconnect, the report argues, cripples policy. To remedy it, leaders need to listen to and empathize with the public’s concerns, rather than unilaterally choose technical solutions, the authors argue. To buttress this point, the report authors draw from examples in education, housing, and health care. (On the education front, they showcase school closures as a prime time for enhanced communication.) Still, though they tout communication’s virtues, the authors remind that it is not the same as consensus: Leaders must hear all opinions. But the ultimate decision-making power must rest in their hands. The public is accountable for remembering that.

Jean Johnson, Jonathan Rochkind, and Samantha DuPont, Don’t Count Us Out: How an Overreliance on Accountability Could Undermine the Public’s Confidence in Schools, Business, Government, and More. (New York, NY: Public Agenda; Dayton, OH: Kettering Foundation, October 2011).


From The Web

The Education Gadfly Show Podcast: Planking, Tebowing, and more

Everyone’s favorite guest host, Dave DeSchryver, joins Mike to discuss the 2011 NAEP results, ESEA reauth, and charter schools in middle-class locales. Amber dissects the Chinese education system and Chris extols the virtues of eating red meat.

The Education Gadfly
Click to listen to the podcast on our website. You can also download the podcast here or subscribe on iTunes here.


Flypaper's Finest: Voucher-student performance promising, better data needed
By Bianca Speranza

Ohio currently has a basketful of publicly funded, private-school voucher programs, making it unique in America’s school-choice landscape.… Still dissent for the programs remains. An October 12 Columbus Dispatch editorial, “Many Questions,” stated that “advocates should be able to show that students who go to private schools using vouchers do better than their peers who remain at the public schools they left. So far no one has collected such data.” While better data are certainly needed, what we have now is telling.…

The Education Gadfly
Click to read the rest on Flypaper.


Flypaper's Finest: Are teachers overpaid?
By Chris Tessone

In a new AEI/Heritage paper that is sure to create some buzz, Andrew Biggs and Jason Richwine say yes, teachers are overpaid relative to similar workers based on several different metrics. The most interesting result in the paper for me was that teachers take a pay cut of roughly 3 percent when they leave the profession, while new entrants actually see a raise of almost 9 percent compared to their previous non-teaching job.…

We need to take the conversation on teacher pay beyond averages, however.…

The Education Gadfly
Click to read the rest on Flypaper.




Briefly Noted: The apple falls far from the tree

  • Ed schools say no; teachers say yes. The National Council on Teacher Quality may be butting heads with recalcitrant ed-school hierarchs as it collects data for its groundbreaking evaluation of teacher-prep programs, but teachers—the former students of these programs—are all for the study. A recent NCTQ survey found that fully 81 percent of teachers think there should be a national review of teacher-prep programs. Sweet, sweet vindication.
  • An outside-the-box inspiration: In order to keep up six-day-a-week mail delivery in Germany, Deutsche Post cut costs by selling off its buildings and sharing space with other businesses, like banks and convenience stores. A smart idea for our own USPS, but also food for thought for districts moving to a four-day academic week. (Though rethinking their Cadillac benefits packages would probably help too.)
  • With the backing of Gov. Tom Corbett, the Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill last week that would give access to vouchers to students stuck in PA’s lowest-performing schools. Now the bill sits in the House, where its fate is uncertain. Make the right call, Harrisburg: Let these kids escape from failing schools.
  • As November 2012 creeps closer, what are the odds that ESEA gets reauthorized before the election? Over at the Title 1-Derland blog, a group of education experts, including our own Mike Petrilli, weigh in. (Mike gives it a 50-50 chance.)
  • A few weeks back, Rahm Emanuel made a deal with about a dozen district schools in Chicago: Extend the school day by ninety minutes and get a 2 percent raise (and $150k in school funds). Now it’s Chicago charters’ turn to capitalize on the same deal. And they’re much less shy than the district schools: Thirty-two of the forty-one eligible schools have already signaled they want in on the initiative.


Announcement: Education governance in the twenty-first century

Imagine our education-governance arrangement as a highway—potholed, eroding, and far too narrow. What needs to happen to smooth the bumps, widen the lanes, and lessen the roadblocks impeding student achievement? To think through these tricky issues—and come to some concrete policy conclusions—Fordham and the Center for American Progress have assembled a bold and brilliant crew of panelists for an all-day conference on December 1. For a full schedule and list of panelists, and to register, click here.


Announcement: The few, the proud, the Fordham interns

If you were inspired by last year’s Danctitute video, now’s your chance to make your own magic. Fordham is hiring a new media intern to help maintain the website, coordinate web campaigns, and—yes—produce high-quality video content (especially for April Fool’s Day!). If policy, research, and writing is more your bag (but you’d love to star in our next viral video), don’t fret. We’re looking for research interns as well. Our standards are high, our ranks are few. And our videos are top-notch. Read up on the job descriptions here.


Announcement: An uncommonly interesting job

Have a flair for writing, a keen policy eye, and an organized and hard-working disposition? Common Core—which works to bring comprehensive, content-rich instruction to America’s K-12 classrooms—is on the prowl for a policy and operations assistant. Better still, you’d work in the same building as Fordham. What’s not to love about that? For the full job description, and how to apply, head here.


Announcement: Make a big impact

Graduate and professional-degree students, look alive. Public Impact—a national education policy and management-consulting firm—is on the lookout for consultants to join their ranks starting in the summer of 2012. Applicants should have strong communication, research, and writing skills—and boatloads of tenacity and work ethic. For more information on how to get in on the ground floor of a top-notch research shop (and conduct some really cool analyses of school-reform initiatives), read the job description here.



Featured Fordham Publication: American Achievement in International Perspective

American Achievement in International Perspective cover

Results from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) garnered all the usual headlines lamenting America’s lackluster performance and fretting the rise of competitor nations. And to be sure, the assessment results—America’s fifteen-year-olds perform in the middle of the pack in both reading and math—are disconcerting for a nation that considers itself an international leader, proud of its home-grown innovation, intellect, and opportunity. But that’s not the entire story. Particularly among other industrialized and advanced nations, the U.S. still has the upper hand in one critical measure—size. In this brief analysis, we compared the PISA performance of the U.S. and thirty-three other nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and found that the U.S. produces more high-achieving students than any other OECD nation—and more than France, Germany, and the UK combined (both in reading and math). Read on to learn more.


The Education Gadfly is published weekly (ordinarily on Thursdays), with occasional breaks, by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Regular contributors include Tyson Eberhardt, Daniela Fairchild, Chester E. Finn, Jr., Chris Irvine, Michael Ishimoto, Laura Johnson, Matthew C. Kyle, Jamie Davies O’Leary, Emmy Partin, Michael J. Petrilli, Terry Ryan, Janie Scull, Bianca Speranza, Chris Tessone, and Amber Winkler. Have something to say? Email us at Find archived issues or other reviews of reports and books here.

Follow the commentary online:  Twitter Facebook YouTube

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a nonprofit organization that conducts research, issues publications, and directs action projects in elementary and secondary education reform at the national level and in Ohio, with a special emphasis on our hometown of Dayton. (For Ohio news, check out our Ohio Education Gadfly, published bi-weekly, ordinarily on Wednesdays.) The Institute is neither connected with nor sponsored by Fordham University.

Unsubscribe here.

powered by CONVIO
nonprofit software