Since the 1980's TV reporters and other researchers have been comparing the academic performance of American students with that of students in other developed countries and declaring that our public schools are failing.
Their shallow research receives much wider dissemination than it deserves because it serves the political purposes of people who have been trying to dismantle public schools since the day they were integrated.
Ethics Daily reports that ABC's John Stossel will have a report critical of "government schools" that will air on 20/20 Friday evening. I suspect that it will add yet another chapter to an ongoing saga of cheap attacks on the underpaid professionals who devote their lives to teaching children in America's underfunded public schools.
Thorough researchers take note of the full demographic information regarding the student population in all the countries that are being compared. When test results for only the best and brightest in other countries are compared with the test results for the entire student population in the U.S. it is easy to give an impression that American schools are falling behind.
For reliable research on public school performance, I look to Dr. David Berliner, professor of Education at the University of Arizona. His book, The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud and the Attack on America's Public Schools, is the best single source for information about the successes and failures of America's system of public education. Here's a link to an online archive of some of his essays, Op-Eds, and papers. I suspect he will write a review and critique of Stossel's report shortly after it is broadcast.
To listen to a podcast of a "Religious Talk" radio interview with Dr. Berliner, here's a link to the first half-hour, and here's a link to the second half-hour of my interview with him.