Amanda Ripley has a new book out titled "The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way." I have watched the video of her talk to the national book festival on C-Span linked here. I like her approach to international education comparisons. She not only looks at the test data, but talks to and surveys US high school students who have studied abroad.
Clearly we need to get US students to focus more on learning. We need to change the culture in US schools. One strategy would be to send more US high school student abroad so that they can come back and tell US students what education is like aboard.