Back in January, a Bloomberg News ranking of the world’s most innovative countries punctured the theory that low U.S. test scores are acceptable because U.S. students are happier and more creative than their overseas counterparts. Those (undeniably fuzzy) metrics don’t prove that high-ranking countries like South Korea and Japan produce more innovative students, but they certainly cast a shadow over this romantic, goofball justification of U.S. underperformance, which we’ve seen from multiple sources including (of course) Diane Ravitch and Alfie Kohn.
Well, now there’s more. And the news is still bad for the low-score apologists.
OECD just released the results of a 2012 assessment designed to measure students’ creative problem-solving skills, devoid of curricular knowledge and conventional academic skills.
Two findings are important. First, there turns out to be a strong, positive correlation between creative problem-solving performance and straightforward, traditional, familiar (if often bleak) math, science, and reading scores. Rather than a tradeoff, subject scores seem to buttress problem-solving skills—or at least to originate from the same source, sort of like twins.
Second, two of the countries with the best creative problem solvers in the world are South Korea and Japan—the same two countries that ranked first and fourth on Bloomberg’s innovation index, albeit nations that, perversely, are often criticized for robbing their students of the very thing at which they now appear to be the best.
Moreover, not only do South...