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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. These are the criteria we use, drawing on data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), to identify top performers. While these jurisdictions have very different contexts, the education systems they have designed are based on common underlying principles and share many common elements that can inform policymakers in the U.S. Learn more about our top performers.

Our Process

Benchmark & Understand

Distill Common Features

Adapt for U.S. Context

Access Our Research

Hekia Parata
Hekia Parata
Former Minister of Education
New Zealand

International Perspectives

“NCEE’s knowledge and insights serve as a guiding light for education systems worldwide. And the interest, focus and energy of NCEE’s people animates every engagement.”

Andreas Schleicher
Andreas Schleicher
Director for Education and Skills
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Education Benchmarking

“The benchmarking work that NCEE has done trying to understand what makes high-performing education systems succeed – what are the kind of characteristics of public policies in those education systems, how can we put them on a level playing field to understand them, to translate them into other context – I think this is very original and very important work internationally.”

Robert Schwartz
Robert Schwartz
Professor Emeritus of Practice in Education Policy and Administration
Harvard Graduate School of Education

Policy Impact

“NCEE’s greatest contribution has been its 30-year campaign to help U.S. governmental and education leaders learn from the policies and practices of the highest performing education and training systems around the world.”


How do top-performers approach issues like accountability, testing, equity, and teacher pay?

To learn more about how top-performing jurisdictions approach these issues, visit our Top-Performing Jurisdiction Profiles, search by topic in our Resource Hub, or explore the NCEE Blueprint.

Visit our Comparative Data page to see how the U.S. compares to leading education systems on a range of indicators from student performance to equity to school funding.

We have deep connections with educators, researchers, policymakers, and leaders around the world. We explore systems in-depth. We study their history, visit their schools, and interview teachers, principals, students, parents, policymakers, and people outside the system to establish a comprehensive understanding of the elements driving success. Learn more about our international benchmarking process. How We Work.

NCEE can help states and regions design high-performing systems with policy analysis and development from our expert team of researchers, policy analysts, consultants, and practitioners. Learn more at our Center on Policy Solutions.

We also offer a suite of supports for schools and districts to help leaders address their systems’ most pressing needs. Visit our Center on System Leadership to learn more.

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