Benchmarking for Success: Ensuring US Students Receive a World Class Education

Ben Hoffman

National Governors Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve
December 2008

This report recommends five steps that the U.S. should take toward international benchmarking, a move necessitated by an increasingly global economy and job market and America's mediocre performance on tests measuring the skills our students will need to succeed in said global economy. Unlike many similar reports based on international performance, this one (and the initiative behind it) is primarily driven by state leaders. The ideas, as Mike and Checker have already noted, are fundamentally sound. Briefly, the report suggests that we push for common, internationally benchmarked standards among states; ensure that textbooks and other instructional materials are aligned with those standards; model our human capital practices on those of high-performing countries; hold schools and states accountable; and evaluate performance by comparing student achievement and growth internationally. In all cases, we should "draw on lessons from high-performing countries" (see above). For example, most top-performing countries not only carefully align curricula and standards in the same way but also teach similar content in the same order and at the same grade levels. Finally, a review of this report would be remiss without mentioning its emphasis on addressing inequity. Only focusing on "the next generation of elite 'rocket scientists'" isn't sufficient; on the contrary, the authors claim, "closing achievement gaps is not only compatible with a global competitiveness agenda, it is essential for realizing that agenda." You can read the whole manifesto here.