For example, the authors consider the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international mathematics examination. America is stuck in the middle of average scores, barely beating out European countries whose national economies are in the red zone. U.S. performance as measured against stronger economies is even weaker—in total, 32 nations outperformed the United States. The authors also delve into comparative reading scores. A mere 31 percent of U.S. students in the class of 2011 could perform at the "proficient" level as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) program, compared with South Korea's result of 47 percent. And while some observers may downplay the significance of cross-globe comparisons, they should note that Canadian students are dramatically outpacing their U.S. counterparts as well.
Clearly something is wrong with this picture, and this book clearly explicates the costs of inaction. The time for incremental tweaking the system is long past—wider, deeper, and more courageous steps are needed, as this book amply demonstrates with accessible prose, supported with hard data that simply cannot be ignored.