"Test scores on the federally funded National Assessment of Educational Progress—known as “the Nation’s Report Card—have been stagnant for the past decade. The scores of the lowest-ranked students declined."
Of course poverty, ideology and unions all play a role here. But none of these challenges are unique to the US. I think the problem is sports.
Something that has always bothered me as I travel around America is that most schools primarily identify themselves by their sports team. Home of the Tigers! Or whatever. What must that do to the majority of non-Tigers turning up for school every day. Nice work on the math test but the only thing we're actually proud of is the football team.
Sports are important of course, to build teamwork and for exercise and as a future career for a tiny minority of students. Nearly everything else the school does is far more impactful.
An important and easy (although likely unpopular) Federal education reform would be to force schools to promote all extracurricular activities equally. Schools could choose to promote nothing and just be a school (like the vast majority of the rest of the world). Or they could give each activity, club and society an equal share of their jumbotron to represent the full diversity of the student body.