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The World Leaders in Education

Lessons from the Successes and Drawbacks of Their Methods

Edited By Hani Morgan and Christopher Barry

The World Leaders in Education: Lessons from the Successes and Drawbacks of Their Methods explores the practices and policies that the highest-ranking nations in education implement to achieve their success. Topics include the education of disadvantaged students; cultural attitudes toward education; teacher preparation; and teacher salaries. Eight countries are examined: China, Japan, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea, Finland, and the United States. The United States is discussed for several reasons, including its large number of strong performers on international tests and its notable history in education. The book looks at both the successes and the failings of these nations, and also mentions the possibilities and limitations of implementing the practices of world-class nations in education in areas where students tend to perform poorly on tests like the PISA. This book may be used for undergraduate and graduate courses such as comparative education.
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Chapter Three: The United States—Schooling in the United States: What We Learn from International Assessments of Reading and Math Literacy


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The United States

Schooling in the United States: What We Learn from International Assessments of Reading and Math Literacy


John Godfrey Saxe (1963), in his poetic rendition of a famous Indian legend, tells of six sightless men attempting to learn about an elephant. Each man encountered a different part of the pachyderm, and that determined his observation. Thus, the elephant was like a “wall,” or like a “spear,” or like a “fan,” and so on. This legend is similar to the challenge of trying to capture the vast and complex character of the American school system in a single chapter. Others, like Joel Spring (2013), have written multiple editions of book-length descriptions and analyses of education in the United States. Yet even with efforts such as these, only a part of the whole is ever really accounted for.

To bring a common vision to our description and analysis, we have taken a look at the American education system through the lens of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) reading and math literacy results. This assessment offers expansive data on cognitive aspects of student learning as well as on a range of noncognitive factors. Thus, it is possible to link reading and math achievement of youth in the United States to such factors as race, gender, socioeconomic status, engagement, and student skills and strategies. Moreover, we argue that...

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