The big difference between the US. and other nations is at the low end of the achievement spectrum. Our kids who score low are at the VERY bottom, well below the lowest scoring kids in other nations that we compare ourselves to (think Germany, Japan, Singapore, Denmark). Thus our average score is much lower than that of other nations. Not because our smart kids are scoring poorly, but because we have so many kids at the bottom, and our bottom is so low.
This is overlooked by education ideologists who just want to whine without solving problems. And the solutions don’t cost more money. But they demand that we rethink the way we deploy educational resources. I’m talking as a nation, not a parent. Any individual parent wants what they want for their kid. But from a public policy perspective, it is better for the nation as a whole if we raise the floor.
All the organizational stuff–class size (and btw, the rich white parents in my district are the MOST vocal about getting smaller class sizes, and many send their kids to private schools in order to get junior into a class of 18), desk arrangements, etc.–is just moving deck chairs around on the deck of the Titanic. Education is in trouble because it’s very core is rotten. We don’t know how to teach teachers.