World Ranking: What America Can Learn About Smart Schools in Other Countries

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By contrast, the team did not expect good news out of France, where Mr. Schleicher lives and where his children are enrolled in school. “Most reforms have been on the surface, not reaching into the classroom,” he said. “Nobody predicted France would be a star performer.”

Finally, it was time for the results: The analysts looked at the country names to see how their predictions held up. It was, by statistician standards, a huge thrill. The United States had not raised its average scores, but on measures of equity, it had improved. One in every three disadvantaged American teenagers beat the odds in science, achieving results in the top quarter of students from similar backgrounds worldwide.

This is a major accomplishment, despite America’s lackluster performance over all. In 2006, socioeconomic status had explained 17 percent of…

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