National standards, a high regard for teachers and the teaching profession, more equitable distribution of resources, autonomy at the school level to implement reforms, and opportunities to personalize instruction: These are some of the key reasons Finland saw its students earn the highest marks in both science and math on a recent international exam.

U.S. students, in contrast, were outperformed on average by 16 other industrialized countries in science—and by 23 in math.

The poor showing of U.S. students on the latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) has renewed calls...

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