Are American schools the best in the world? The answer is a resounding maybe — which is good news indeed for this back-to-school season.

Beating up on public education is practically our national sport. I often do it myself. But overlooked in the ongoing assault is strong evidence that U.S. schools actually are worldbeaters — except for the problem of poverty.

When it comes to reading, in fact, our schools may well be the best in the world. As Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond points out, U.S. 15-year olds in schools with fewer than 10 percent of kids eligible for free or cut-rate lunch “score first in the world in reading, outperforming even the famously excellent Finns.”