The United States has never ranked at the top of international education tests, since we began comparing countries in 1964, yet has been the dominant economic and innovative force in the world the entire time. Despite this fact, a popular annual education report has once again stoked fears of America’s impending economic mediocrity with fresh stats on how far the U.S. “lags” behind the world in college attainment, pre-school enrollment, and high school graduation.
The reason for the apparent disconnect is because schools don’t prepare students for the real world, so broad educational attainment will have a weak correlation with economic power. Research has consistently shown that on nearly every measure of education (instructional hours, class-size, enrollment, college preparation), what students learn in school does not translate into later life success. The United States has an abundance of the factors that likely do matter: access to the best immigrants, economic opportunity, and the best research facilities.