Timothy Taylor, the economics blogger with by far the highest signal-noise ratio, has another valuable post, this time spotlighting a piece by Martin West on Global Lessons for Improving U.S. Education. I’ll snip from Taylor’s excerpt:

[T]here are three broad areas in which the consistency of findings across studies using different international tests and country samples bears attention.

Exit exams. Perhaps the best-documented factor is that students perform at higher levels in countries (and in regions within countries) with externally administered, curriculum-based exams at the completion of secondary schooling that carry significant consequences for students of all ability levels. Although many states in the United States now require students to pass an exam in order to receive a high-school diploma, these tests are typically designed to assess minimum competency in math and reading and are all but irrelevant to students elsewhere in the performance distribution. In contrast, exit exams in many European and Asian countries cover a broader swath of the curriculum, play a central role in determining students’ postsecondary options, and carry significant weight in the labor market. … The most rigorous available evidence indicates that math and science achievement is a full grade-level equivalent higher in countries with such an exam system in the relevant subject.

Private-school competition. Countries vary widely in the extent to which they make use of the private sector to provide public education. … Rigorous studies confirm that students in countries that for historical reasons have a larger share of students in private schools perform at higher levels on international assessments while spending less on primary and secondary education. Such evidence suggests that competition can spur school productivity. In addition, the achievement gap between socioeconomically disadvantaged and advantaged students is reduced in countries in which private schools receive more government funds.

High-ability teachers. Much attention has recently been devoted to the fact that several of the highest-performing countries internationally draw their teachers disproportionately from the top third of all students completing college degrees. This contrasts sharply with recruitment patterns in the United States.

What do these three reforms have in common? Answer below the fold.

Will technology be our salvation? Alex Tabarrok says that The Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer is nearly here. He points to an article on the Inquire Project.

That project stand to mine in the same relationship as the human brain stands to that of the lowly amoeba. Still, I am proceeding. If you don’t mind going to a web site that has all the visual appeal of the back wall of a warehouse, you check out vhandouts. It is usable, at least for me. It’s still a couple of months away from being something I could confidently recommend for other teachers. Comments welcome.What do the three reforms described by Martin West have in common? All of them are opposed by teachers’ unions. Really. Think about it. Do you disagree?