Matt Yglesias points to an interesting study by the American Institute for Research. It breaks down mathematics learning scores by state, and benchmarks them to international standards meaning. This means that we know, for instance, 8th graders perform approximately as well in Hungary and Iowa (a 517 score); Slovenia and Kentucky (501); and Norway and Mississippi (469).
Kevin Carey, on the awesomely named The Quick and the Ed blog, writes, "But the tricky thing about looking at average performance in the United States is that our education system is unusually large, diverse, and decentralized. Parts of it are really good. Other parts are shamefully bad. And in a number of important respects, we can only improve the system part by part. So it's worth knowing just how well those parts are doing."
But, to ask a question of international education wonks, do other large, diverse countries (Brazil, China, Russia, Nigeria) exhibit the same large scoring range? And do other large countries fund and administer schools locally, as the U.S. does?