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Posted by: Brad Bernatek on 2/16/2011

Jay Matthews of the Washington Post recently posted an interesting column entitled,“The myth of declining U.S. schools: They’ve long been mediocre” based on a Brookings Institution study by Tom Loveless that looked at U.S. performance on international tests such as PISA and TIMSS. While far from reassuring, the study does challenge much of the rhetoric around a lost golden age of K-12 education. I’m a data guy and in taking a look at the Brookings report, there is some interesting evidence providing support for the claim that places the U.S. squarely in the middle of the pack with flat or even modest improvements over time. Interestingly, most coverage of the recent PISA results released in December largely focused on the performance of Shanghai (as a proxy for China as a whole) which placed first among all countries that participated. Popular reactions were ones of shock with even eminent education experts such as Chester Finn being quoted as saying, “Wow, I’m kind of stunned. I’m thinking Sputnik.” So am I, but I’m thinking more of Werner Von Braun than Nikita Khrushchev.

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