Finland, Singapore, and the U.S. are on an airplane that’s about to crash…


The title comes from a trope of jokes about the hilarity that results from dissimilar groupings of people (usually a rabbi, a priest, and a minister). Sometimes the joke is how alike they all are and sometimes, the dis-congruity of groupings makes that joke. That’s how I like to think about comparisons between the U.S. and countries like Finland and Singapore on international tests. The issue came up recently on Larry Ferlazzo’s blog in his response to a particularly brain-dead and specious argument about teacher quality (Do Teachers REALLY Come From The Bottom Third Of Colleges? Or Is That Statistic A Bunch Of Baloney?). I was going to write a whole post just about the comparisons to Singapore and Finland, but I’ve decided to put up links because really all I would be doing is using information easily gotten from the posts of others:

  • The Bracey Report 2009
    Bracey takes apart  international score data to show that the U.S. may have lower average scores on math and science, but because we have a large number of students, and we have a large number of students at the high end of the distribution (offset in the average by the large number in the cellar of scores), we have more high-end math and science graduates, than countries that score higer on PISA. He also does a nice job on the breakdown of our scores by school poverty-level which yields and unsurprising correlation.
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