New report IDs problems with international school rankings


In the study, Loveless uses 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study math scores from a number of countries. While the U.S. ranks near the bottom, a closer look at the data reveals that “the U.S. performance is indistinguishable statistically” from some of the countries included in the rankings—essentially boosting U.S. performance.

“A statement that we can be confident in making, then, is that the U.S. scored below eight countries, the same as four countries, and above twenty-three countries in mathematics,” Loveless writes.

The “A+ Country Fallacy” refers to the habit of pointing to high-performing countries and assuming that their policies must be good. Loveless calls this a “misguided” step, because it combines the errors of dubious causal claims and misusing rankings. Combining those two mistakes with a third error of omitting or ignoring evidence from low- or average-scoring countries leads to further misinterpretation, he writes.

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Common standards

The Common Core State Standards are intended to improve U.S. education by identifying a more rigorous curriculum, setting higher expectations for states and improving efficiency through standardization.

Critics have argued that the common standards’ “one-size-fits-all, centrally controlled curriculum does not make sense,” the report notes.

While 46 states and the District of Columbia have signed on to the Common Core standards, Loveless argues that the standards will have “little to no impact on student learning.”

This conclusion emerged after analysis of states’ previous experiences with standards, combined with years of National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) scores.

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