We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Endangering Prosperity

A Global View of the American School

foreword by Lawrence H. Summers. Eric A. Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann

Publication Year: 2013

The relative deficiencies of U.S. public schools are a serious concern to parents and policymakers. But they should be of concern to all Americans, as a globalizing world introduces new competition for talent, markets, capital, and opportunity. In Endangering Prosperity, a trio of experts on international education policy compares the performance of American schools against that of other nations. The net result is a mixed but largely disappointing picture that clearly shows where improvement is most needed. The authors' objective is not to explain the deep causes of past failures but to document how dramatically the U.S. school system has failed its students and its citizens. It is a wake-up call for structural reform. To move forward to a different and better future requires that we understand just how serious a situation America faces today.

For example, the authors consider the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international mathematics examination. America is stuck in the middle of average scores, barely beating out European countries whose national economies are in the red zone. U.S. performance as measured against stronger economies is even weaker —in total, 32 nations outperformed the United States. The authors also delve into comparative reading scores. A mere 31 percent of U.S. students in the class of 2011 could perform at the "proficient" level as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) program, compared with South Korea's result of 47 percent. And while some observers may downplay the significance of cross-globe comparisons, they should note that Canadian students are dramatically outpacing their U.S. counterparts as well.

Clearly something is wrong with this picture, and this book clearly explicates the costs of inaction. The time for incremental tweaking the system is long past —wider, deeper, and more courageous steps are needed, as this book amply demonstrates with accessible prose, supported with hard data that simply cannot be ignored.

Published by: Brookings Institution Press

Front Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF (25.7 KB)
p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (159.5 KB)
pp. 2-5

Table of Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF (95.7 KB)
pp. v-vi

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (145.7 KB)
pp. vii-x

The Duke of Wellington famously remarked that the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. That was in an elitist age. Today, the battle for America’s future will be won or lost in its public schools. Unfortunately, victory is not at hand. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (96.1 KB)
pp. xi-xii

The chapters on international test comparisons are extensions of analyses previously released by the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance in the Taubman Center on State and Local Government, Harvard Kennedy School, in the form of three reports by Eric A. Hanushek, ...

read more

1. An Economic Future Imperiled

pdf iconDownload PDF (304.8 KB)
pp. 1-16

Americans like to believe that their youth are truly exceptional. A glow of pride spreads across the land whenever young U.S. athletes win more medals than any other nation in the Olympics, as in Vancouver in the winter of 2010 and in London in the summer of 2012. ...

read more

2. Human Capital and Economic Prosperity

pdf iconDownload PDF (406.5 KB)
pp. 17-32

Few doubt that human capital is important to economic prosperity. But how do we measure a nation’s human capital? Is it high school completion and the amount of education attained by the citizens of a country, that is, the number of years of schooling the average person has received? ...

read more

3. A Global View of U.S. Student Proficiency Rates

pdf iconDownload PDF (375.7 KB)
pp. 33-46

If American students are to have successful careers, and if the country as a whole is to prosper in the decades to come, American students must be, at a minimum, proficient in math and reading. There is much more to education than competence in these basic subjects, but it is difficult to imagine high levels of scientific and historical knowledge, ...

read more

4. U.S. Advanced Performance in Global Perspective

pdf iconDownload PDF (349.6 KB)
pp. 47-56

Public discourse tends to focus on the need, particularly among disadvantaged students, to reach basic levels of achievement. That focus has been evident since the passage of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 1965, when special attention to the needs of low performers was reinforced ...

read more

5. Economic Benefits of Higher Performance

pdf iconDownload PDF (286.5 KB)
pp. 57-68

That the system of education in the United States is lackluster is indicated by the following four facts established in the previous chapters of this volume: ...

read more

6. A Global View of Growth in U.S. Achievement

pdf iconDownload PDF (414.7 KB)
pp. 69-84

If one takes a long, historical perspective, the answer to the first query is obviously in the affirmative. Nations across the globe, particularly as they transition to modern industrial societies, have enhanced the human capital of their citizens throughout the past two centuries. ...

read more

7. Substantive Concerns and Political Obstacles

pdf iconDownload PDF (382.1 KB)
pp. 85-104

U.S. schools are not helping the next generation reach its full potential. Compared to what is being accomplished by other industrialized countries, the performance of the United States, once the world’s education leader, is now, especially in mathematics, below average. ...

Appendix A: Methodology for Comparing U.S. and International Performance

pdf iconDownload PDF (212.4 KB)
pp. 105-116

Appendix B: Two Measures of Reading Proficiency

pdf iconDownload PDF (215.8 KB)
pp. 117-120


pdf iconDownload PDF (186.5 KB)
pp. 121-132


pdf iconDownload PDF (158.2 KB)
pp. 133-140


pdf iconDownload PDF (144.7 KB)
pp. 141-147

Back Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF (43.0 KB)
p. 161-161

E-ISBN-13: 9780815722717
E-ISBN-10: 0815722710
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815703730
Print-ISBN-10: 0815703732

Page Count: 147
Publication Year: 2013