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March Mania

OUR OPINION: Massachusetts shows the way

Something good is happening in Massachusetts' schools. And America's other 49 states should be lining up to learn about it.

Herald editorials have made this point before. But it's worth repeating today because of Tuesday's headlines out of the Bay State:

"Massachusetts students excel on global examinations," the Boston Globe reported.

"Massachusetts students among top-performing on global exam," said Boston radio station WBUR.

"Massachusetts students rank high on international test," headlines the South Coast Today newspaper in New Bedford, Mass.

Contrast those proud proclamations with the hangdog defeatism of news stories that reported the national results of the same test:

"U.S. achievement stalls as other nations make gains," reports Education Week.

"American kids whiffed the PISA exam," Slate.com declared. And so on.

The PISA exam is the Program for International Student Assessment, a test given annually since 2000 to 15-year-olds from around the world. And if you're wondering about the results for North Dakota and Minnesota, the answer is, there aren't any. The test is administered to a representative sampling of students nationwide; but only Massachusetts, Connecticut and Florida paid extra to have their scores reported out separately.

(A sample headline from Florida: "Florida teens lag nation, several other states on PISA test." Scoring well on these tests is a very real challenge.)

Does Massachusetts lead the world? No. That honor goes to East Asian countries and regions such as Japan, South Korea, Shanghai and Singapore, whose 15-year-olds pretty much left their counterparts elsewhere in the dust.

But Massachusetts ranks with Finland and other top performers in Europe, as well as with Canada. If the K-12 system excels in that state, it can excel in other states, too. And it should.

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