Why does the US have so many of the world’s smartest students?
Useful piece that helps to explain how the US can be doing so well in terms of education and so awful at the same time. The problem is our enormous variance, in part explain by our enormous size. Averages are way different than individuals.
Part of this is easy to explain: The United States is big. Very big. And it’s a far bigger country than the other members of the OECD. We claim roughly 27 percent of the group’s 15-to-19-year-olds. Japan, in contrast, has a smidge over 7 percent. So in reading and in science, we punch above our weight by just a little, while in math we punch below.
But the point remains: In two out of three subjects, Americans are over-represented among the best students.
If we have so many of the best minds, why are our average scores so disappointingly average? As Rutgers’s Hal Salzman and Georgetown’s B. Lindsay Lowell, who co-authored the EPI report, noted in a 2008 Nature article, our high scorers are balanced out by an very large number of low scorers. Our education system, just like our economy, is polarized.