International Benchmarking

State Governments Respond to Globalization

States are competing internationally; are our brain trusts keeping up? Image: iStockPhoto.
States are competing internationally; are our brain trusts keeping up? Image: iStockPhoto.

States are now realizing that they are no longer competing just with their neighboring states, but with countries around the world. Increasingly, they will need to benchmark themselves against human resources policies in other countries — these are the educational levels and skills that students will need to succeed. Just as business leaders benchmark their companies against the best in the world, so too state education leaders need to study where U.S. schools stand in relation to the rapidly expanding educational systems of other countries. In addition, the exchange of ideas about best practices in, for example, math/science, languages, and teacher recruitment and professional development not only heighten appreciation of the strengths of U.S. education, but also expand the range of ideas about how to improve areas of weakness.

  • Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) has engaged in international sharing of best practices in Singapore, India, and China with Asia Society and will be doing so with Finland. CCSSO is also
    working with the National Governors Association and Achieve, Inc. to explore how to benchmark state standards against the best performing nations in the world.
  • North Carolina has led many delegations of key stakeholders — policymakers, business leaders, and educators — on study tours to key trading partners including India, China, and Mexico and to countries
    like Singapore, England, and the Netherlands, that demonstrate best practices in education. These have resulted in education-related Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) to create sister school
    partnerships and allow for world language teachers from those countries to teach in North Carolina. These delegations have also raised awareness about the need for international knowledge and skills and produced publications on best practices.
  • Ohio was the first state to participate in a study comparing its education system to international benchmarks. The work was conducted by McKinsey& Co. on behalf of Achieve, Inc., with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It considered standards and assessments, school leadership, professional development, funding, and accountability in order to provide a blueprint for conceptualizing this international benchmarking process. New York is now undertaking a similar study.
  • The West Virginia State Board of Education is reviewing the statistical linking of state performance to NAEP and TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) as a tool to continue
    to measure West Virginia performance against international benchmarks. The state is investigating the possibility of conducting PISA assessment with a small sample of West Virginia 15-year-olds
    to further benchmark student performance against international indicators.
  • In Wisconsin, international professional development teacher seminars have been conducted with partner regions in Germany, France, and Japan on an ongoing basis since 1990.