Education analysts often compare U.S. schools to those in Finland, Korea, Poland, even Shanghai. Surprisingly, the nation of Germany rarely appears in this discourse, even though it has much in common with the United States. Each of the two nations is the largest democracy, with the biggest economy, on its continent. And each has a diverse population, strong unions, a federal system of government, demand for a skilled workforce, and a school system that in 2000 was badly in need of reform.
After examining schools and public opinion in both countries, our team at Education Next, together with scholars at the University of Munich, were left with an intriguing question: why have German schools made significant progress since the turn of this century, while U.S. schools have not?