The National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) is the leading U.S. organization studying high-performing education systems and their implications for dramatically improving American education. In The Design of High-Performing Education Systems, NCEE has distilled the accumulated insights of 35 years of research into the world’s leading systems. The document organizes what we have learned and continue to learn from high-performing countries, provinces, states, districts, and schools about the ways they design their education systems to ensure that all students achieve at high levels. This framework guides our work with policymakers, researchers, teachers, and leaders. We encourage all educators and education policymakers to read and reflect on this document and to apply the learnings to their work. You will not need to do so alone. In addition to its Center on International Education Benchmarking, whose research informs this document, NCEE can support the implementation of the framework through its Center on Policy Solutions and Center on System Leadership.
Countries that redesign their education systems to achieve excellent student performance, equitably and efficiently, and to be adaptive to a future that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) will likely enjoy high standards of living for years to come. Those that fail to do so, especially high-wage countries like the U.S., will struggle to compete and will face steadily widening income disparities, deepening inequities, and growing civil unrest.
This begs the question: how have so many other countries’ education systems gotten better results than the U.S., and what can our country do to exceed them and meet the challenges of an uncertain future?
For more than 30 years, NCEE has been researching the answer to that question by identifying high-performing education systems around the world and the common elements they share. We define high-performing education systems as those that achieve excellence, equity, and efficiency: world-class levels of performance, for every student, at a sustainable cost. We compare these systems to the U.S. and to one another to better understand how they function as systems, the similarities and differences between them and the tradeoffs they have made. And we report on how they are changing to anticipate the future. The Design of High-Performing Education Systems is a distillation of that research.