ecs home link
Intro links where to beginhow to begin using the toolkitresources purpose

In July of 2008, at the National Forum on Education Policy in Austin, Texas, the Education Commission of the States (ECS) released From Competing to Leading: An International Benchmarking Blueprint. (1) This blueprint was created in response to growing concerns about the quality of education students in the United States are receiving and the lack of workforce competitiveness our students face, compared to students in other countries around the world.

“The best employers the world over will be looking for the most competent, most creative, and most innovative people on the face of the earth and will be willing to pay them top dollar for their services. This will be true not just for top professionals and managers, but up and down the length and breadth of the workforce. Those countries that produce the most important new products and services can capture a premium in world markets that will enable them to pay high wages to their citizens.” (2)  

The United States once enjoyed the position of global leader in education, but now is struggling to compete. In measuring progress, most states compare themselves to other states rather than to international benchmarks. To move from competing to leading, states should spend less time comparing to one another and spend more time comparing to high-performing countries.

Today, it may be more important than at any other time in history to address challenges facing states, districts and schools.

The International Benchmarking Blueprint is based on two broad principles:

  1. U.S. students can and must succeed and achieve in a knowledge-based global society and economy.
  2. The United States can and must lead again.

The Blueprint serves as an action guide, recommending essential policy components that would enable states, districts and schools to craft new and adjust existing policies proven to demonstrate world-class performance.


  1. Education Commission of the States, From Competing to Leading: An International Benchmarking Blueprint, July 2008,

  2. National Center on Education And The Economy, Tough Choices or Tough Times, 7 (Washington D.C.: The New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, 2007), Executive summary available at:


Download the full toolkit:
(PDF, 6.7MB)