Every nation needs a great precollege (in the United States, K–12) education system. In the United States, adults without a high school diploma earn 26% less than adults whose highest education is a high school diploma. Those with a bachelor's degree earn an average of 69% more than adults whose highest education is a high school diploma (see
www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/education-at-a-glance-2018/indicator-a4-what-are-the-earnings-advantages-from-education_eag-2018-10-en). This shows how important it is to get kids through high school and get college students to graduate.
If we consider test scores to be an important output of an education system, then the U.S. K–12 system does not deliver good results from the enormous resources the country devotes to education. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test measures math, reading, and science achievement in different countries (see
data.oecd.org/pisa/mathematics-performance-pisa.htm#indicator-chart for 2018 math results and
https://data.oecd.org/pisa/reading-performance-pisa.htm#indicator-chart for 2018 reading results). In the file
PISA.xlsx, I averaged the 2018 math and reading scores for boys and girls in all participating countries. Figure 48.1 shows how the United States ranks on the math and reading averages among OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. OECD includes most European countries as well as Japan, Australia, ...