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How US can model top-performing international ed systems


April 26, 2019

Expecting 10th-graders to have the knowledge and skills that would allow them to succeed in the first year of community college, demanding more of university teacher preparation programs and pairing struggling schools with high-performing ones are among the lessons U.S. districts can learn from leading education systems across the world.

And school superintendents are the ones to design and implement such reforms in their districts, Marc Tucker, president and CEO emeritus of the National Center on Education and Economy (NCEE), said Tuesday during a live-streamed event focusing on his book, “Leading High-Performance School Systems: Lesson’s from the World’s Best.”

“The challenge is not to manage well the system you have,” he said. “It is to design a much better system and implement it where you are.”

Tucker presented data points that reinforce why NCEE’s research team has been examining other high-performing systems for guidance on how states and districts can approach redesign. In 10 countries, for example, the average student graduates at least two years earlier than the average U.S. high school student. And students in more than 30 countries outperform U.S. students in math, he said, adding that the U.S. system is still built for a “smokestack economy.”

Tucker highlighted three principles that guide education systems in countries such as Finland, Singapore and China: