International tests show achievement gaps in all countries, with big gains for U.S. disadvantaged students

Source: EPI website, Jan 2013

The first study of which we are aware to compare the performance of socioeconomically similar students across nations.  

… a careful analysis of the PISA database shows that the achievement gap between disadvantaged and advantaged children is actually smaller in the United States than it is in similar countries. The achievement gap in the United States is larger than it is in the very highest scoring countries, but even then, many of the differences are small.

Extensive educational research in the United States has demonstrated that students’ family and community characteristics powerfully influence their school performance.

Children whose parents read to them at home, whose health is good and can attend school regularly, who do not live in fear of crime and violence, who enjoy stable housing and continuous school attendance, whose parents’ regular employment creates security, who are exposed to museums, libraries, music and art lessons, who travel outside their immediate neighborhoods, and who are surrounded by adults who model high educational achievement and attainment will, on average, achieve at higher levels than children without these educationally relevant advantages. 

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