What do High Performing School Systems in Other Countries Have in Common?

American schools are frequently compared to higher performing foreign schools with the reminder that our schools need to be globally competitive in today’s economic climate.

If we look at the TIMSS Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study or PISA Programme for International Student Assessment examinations given by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development and (OECD), we can see many differences between America’s low achievement rate and those of other countries.   One of the major differences is about to be addressed by the Obama’s administration’s “Common Core State Standards” which were released on March 10th.

The Constitution of the United States does not mention education and therefore education is assumed to be a state function not a federal government function.  This has led to a patchwork of high and low state standards.  The new “Common Core” is designed to remedy that.  The draft lists a grade-by-grade list of common standards which 48 states and Washington, DC have agreed to follow.  (Alaska and Texas are the only holdouts.)

The English/language arts standards aim to “lay out a vision of what it means to be a literate person in the 21st century.”   There are 300 pages of appendices which offer examples of student work from the minimally acceptable to highest performing.  There does not seem to be an attempt to tell teachers how to teach to the standards.

The government is soliciting public comments until April 2 by going to  The final version is expected to be posted in late spring.