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Let’s Not Panic Over U.S. Students’ Global Rankings

There was a lot of manufactured handwringing last week about the middling performance of American 15-year-olds on a global measure of reading, mathematics and science skills. Yet if we look at the scores on the Program for International Student Assessment in the context of another international competition, we get a clearer picture.

Every year the Association for Computing Machinery holds its International Collegiate Programming Contest. In the old days, U.S. teams consistently dominated the event. Recently, however, the top teams have tended to be from Asia and the former Soviet-bloc nations. Jiaotong University, or Jiaoda, in Shanghai -- the same city whose students topped this year’s PISA rankings -- has been especially strong, winning gold medals on several occasions.