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The People’s Republic of . . . Shanghai?

Misreading reading scores.

9:14 AM, Dec 3, 2013 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
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We’re going to hear a lot in the coming days about how the “Chinese” education system is superior to America’s.  That’s because the results of an international exam were released today, and American students fared predictably poorly. And it was “Asian nations [who] dominated the test,” reports the Associated Press. “The top average scores in each subject came from Shanghai, China,” says the AP.

But the deck here really is stacked. Shanghai, which bested the entire United States, is not a country. It’s one of the wealthiest cities in China, and hardly illustrative of the Chinese education system as a whole. What’s more, poor students are excluded form Shanghai’s schools because of China’s hukou system, which denies access to public services to migrant workers and their children. For a number of reasons, children in more wealthy school districts – and from more wealthy families – tend to achieve higher education outcomes.

If the scores of the students of, say, Scarsdale, New York, or Bethesda, Maryland, or Palo Alto, California, were stacked against Shanghai’s, our results would probably look a lot more impressive.

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