U.S. has the most high achievers

The U.S. produces many more high-achieving students in reading and math than any developed nation, write Mike Petrilli and Janie Scull in a new Fordham study, American Achievement in International Perspective. What’s our secret? Size. There just aren’t that many Finns.

Because of our size, the U.S. continues to turn out lots of “innovative scientists and entrepreneurs,” the authors conclude.  When China and India start taking the PISA exam, “we might discover that their high-achieving students outnumber ours many times over.”

The U.S. also produces more low achievers than France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom combined, and our domestic achievement gap is huge.

America’s white and Asian students perform among the word’s best; our black and Hispanic students are battling it out with OECD’s worst. Still, this report identifies an interesting wrinkle, and perhaps a ray of hope: In raw numbers, at least, our high-achieving Hispanic and black American students outnumber the high achievers of several other countries.

At the least, this indicates that they will have a seat at the international table—on prestigious college campuses, in the board room, and in the laboratory. It’s a start.

Fun fact: “Proportionally, Asian-American students are the best readers in the world, and white Americans are bested only by Finns and New Zealanders.”

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