How the best performing school systems come out on top

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We might just rent a few billboards to call attention to a singularly coherent report out of the McKinsey consulting group. It takes on the daunting task of figuring out why some educational systems--including other countries and outlier American school districts--consistently outperform others.

Led by Sir Michael Barber--who once served as Prime Minister Tony Blair's turnaround specialist for England's decaying education system--McKinsey analysts identify just three factors separating the strong (including South Korea, Singapore, Finland, Canada, New Zealand, Belgium, Australia), from the weak (us, for instance). Two of these three factors relate directly to teacher quality: teacher selectivity and their subsequent training.

When it comes to teacher recruitment, high performing systems are more likely to appreciate the value of raw academic talent. It's an approach that many here in the United States reject with our view that an open-door approach into the profession shows off our democratic virtues (even when it's only the adults that get to benefit, not the children they teach). Americans assume that just about anyone--regardless of their own performance as a student--can be trained to be an effective teacher.

Normally, we avoid telling readers "it's a must read"--but in this case, it's a must read.