When the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development international education study showed the US coming in 14th in reading, 17th in science and a disappointing 25th in math, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the results "a massive wake-up call." President Obama said in his State of the Union that we face a Sputnik challenge. But a variety of excuses offered since then make it all too tempting for Americans to push the collective snooze button.
Later this week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan working with the OECD will gather education ministers and union leaders to discuss the results and share best practices - and hopefully dispel any lingering sense that we don't need to act.
The OECD's Program for International Student Assessment is a widely respected survey comparing the academic performance of 15-year olds in reading, science and math. Nonetheless any number of pundits have offered middle-class parents the false comfort that it's just our diversity that brings down our results or that it doesn't matter because the tests only measure memorization - and the kids who get high scores come from Asian cultures that value rote learning but lack the creativity of our kids. The studies show otherwise.