The factors that affect academic performance in the American education system are broad and complex. The Daily, News Corp’s recently launched iPad news app, asked us to try to capture the current state of education in the United States through a data visualization. The piece appeared in the February 10, 2011 edition of The Daily. We started by scouring OECD data, and focused on a few data points that illustrate how the U.S. ranks in academic performance, as well as key economic and social factors that impact a child’s education. The U.S. has significantly increased spending (adjusted for inflation) over the last 20 years, and ranks near the top in education spending globally, yet test scores have barely improved. As we spend more, schools in the rest of the developed and developing world are producing better results. A look at a few key social factors, however, help shed some light on the situation. While the U.S. ranks near the top in spending and disposable income, it also ranks near the top in less enviable statistics like child poverty (20% of U.S. children live in poor households, behind only Turkey, Mexico and Poland), and teenage pregnancy rates (2nd only to Mexico with 49 births per 1,000 teenage girls). Until we acknowledge that these and other social factors impact student outcomes, our education system will continue to struggle to produce top performing students.