Your Child Left Behind

What if we force ranked every state in the country and every country in the world, based on the percentage of high-school kids with the most marketable skills? Which league would your state be in?

My latest story in the Atlantic features new research by Eric Hanushek at Stanford, Paul Peterson at Harvard and Ludger Woessmann at the University of Munich. They ranked the world, comparing countries to individual states.

What’s new about this is that they compared states to a long list of developed countries, and they looked specifically at the percentage of kids scoring high in math—which tends to be a good indicator of future earnings and a relatively reliable way to compare student learning across oceans. (For those of you who think minorities or low-income kids drag down the U.S. rankings, they also carved out the white-kids only data on a state-by-state basis.)

They wanted to do this not just as an intellectual exercise, but because it is essentially what more and more companies are doing when they hire employees. Kids from California are not just competing with kids from New Jersey anymore. They are competing with kids from Canada and Australia. And they are not winning.

To see how well your own state (or city, in some cases) competes with any of 57 countries, check out the Atlantic‘s super-cool interactive tool. Unless you’re from Finland, Korea or Massachusetts, prepare to be humbled…

EducationAmanda Ripley