Lay aside what I believe are some difficulties with any international comparison - this is a very important point to understand.Brutal history, and recent policies, largely explain that PISA score—the score which embarrassed the horse’s ass O’Hehir at Salon,the score which led the horse’s ass Guggenheim to make his deeply unintelligent film. When you look at these “disaggregated” test scores, you’re looking at the actual shape of America’s actual educational challenges. (For links to all data, see below.) And no, the realities reflected in these scores were not invented by America’s teachers, or by their infernal unions:Combined science literacy scale, PISA, 2006:Finland 563
New Zealand 530
[United States, white students: 523]Korea, Republic of 522
United Kingdom 515
Czech Republic 513
OECD average: 500Poland 498
United States 489Slovak Republic 488
[United States, Hispanic students: 439]Turkey 424
[United States, black students: 409]Gaze on the shape of your nation’s history! White students scored fairly high, despite the drag of a certain sub-group; if they were a separate nation, they would have finished seventh out of thirty developed nations. And how about a hand for our teachers? This score was achieved despite the drag of a sub-population whose parents and ministers tell them not to believe the things they hear in science class! (This just in: Finland doesn’t have a “creation museum” where children are taken to see cave men living with the dinosaurs. Finland doesn’t have a major state whose school board is working hard to muck up the nation’s textbooks.) [emphasis mine]
We are a nation of immigrants and a nation that oppressed African-Americans for hundreds of years (and, in some ways, still does). If you think we can wish that away just by claiming "All children can learn!", you are either a fool or a knave.
We have a lot of work to do to truly live our to our ideals. But bashing teachers and unions is much easier than redressing the injustices that have plagued this country throughout our history.