Foreign exchange students say U.S. high schools value sports over academics

Two-thirds of foreign-exchange students say U.S. high schools are “much easier” than schools in their home countries, writes Tom Loveless in the new Brown Center report on education.

  • Nearly two-thirds of foreign exchange students surveyed (64.1%) view American teens as valuing success at sports “much more” than teens in their home countries.
  • Homework and studying dominate foreign exchange students’ free time; 40.2% of 2016 survey respondents report spending three or more hours on it per week, up from 28.9% in 2001. Furthermore, international students think American students devote less time to schoolwork than peers at home.

“The past two decades of education reform in the U.S. have focused on ratcheting up expectations,” Loveless concludes.
Exchange students tend to be very good students in their home countries, so that may skew their perceptions.“These efforts appear not to have dramatically altered the impression that U.S. schools, when compared to those of other countries, do not fully embrace inculcating knowledge as the high school’s primary institutional mission.”My family hosted an exchange student from Uruguay when I was a 12th grader. Alicia had completed high school in Montevideo, so doing another year of high school was no challenge.The report also looks at how U.S. students compare to others in international exams and at racial gaps in out-of-school suspensions.

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Joanne Jacobs

Joanne Jacobs

Joanne was born in Chicago and named after her grandfather, Joe Jacobs, who’d been a police reporter for the Omaha Bee-News. At the age of eight, she and her best friend became the creators and co-editors-in-chief of "The Wednesday Report" for four years. After years as a San Jose Mercury News columnist, Joanne started an education blog in 2001 and wrote "Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the Charter School That Beat the Odds." She freelances for online sites, newspapers, magazines, foundations and think tanks. In addition to blogging at, Joanne writes Community College Spotlight at
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