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U.S. Students Fall Behind International Peers in Math, Science and Reading Proficiency

U.S. Students Fall Behind International Peers in Math, Science and Reading Proficiency

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Asian countries take the lead for math, science and reading as the U.S. lands firmly in the middle

Singapore is the top country in math, science and reading according to the most recent Programme for the International Student Assessment (PISA).

Every three years, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or COED, conducts the PISA assessment that measures reading ability and math and science literacy among 15-year-old students in both developed and developing nations.

 

The last PISA assessment in 2015 was administered to approximately 540,000 students. The United States alone was represented by 5,700 public and private school students.

 

Results from 2015 show the U.S. ranking at a humbling 38th place in math out of 71 countries, falling behind Hungry and Slovakia. Meanwhile, Asian countries, such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Japan, were well represented across all 3 concentrations.

The Leaders 

For math literacy, Singapore takes the top spot followed by Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Japan. Singapore and Hong Kong remain in the top two spots, respectively, for reading ability, followed by Canada, Finland and Ireland. Once again, Singapore takes the top spot for science literacy, followed by Japan, Estonia, Taiwan and Finland.

 

Singapore has been noted for its rapid improvements in academics from its beginnings as a developing country. The country is known for its highly structured approach to education.

U.S. math scores have been in decline since 2009

 

@@On the math portion of the PISA assessment, the U.S. ranked 38th out of 71 countries@@ with the U.S. scoring below the OCED average in Math. The international average was 490 while the United States' averaged was 470.

Math scores ranged from Singapore's 564 to the Dominican Republic's score of 328.

“The latest U.S. PISA achievement results are disappointing but not surprising. They were predictable given the impact of the last 15 years of U.S. education policies combined with continuing state disinvestment following the 2008 recession.”
— Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers

The 470 average math score continues the downward trend in math performance as seen in the previous two assessments.

PISA U.S. Math Scores Since 2009

  • 2015 - 470
  • 2012 - 482
  • 2009 - 488

 

@@While 6% of U.S. students ranked at the highest level of proficiency, 29% of U.S. students did not meet basic proficiency in the math assessment.@@

Another assessment (NAEP) agrees that the U.S. is falling behind in math

 

While PISA scores are one source, a similar test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) also finds the United States is falling behind in math. 

The NAEP is a congressionally mandated project administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), with the U.S. Department of Education and the Institution of Education Sciences (IES).

 

NCES Average U.S. fourth-grade math scores

  • 2015- 240
  • 2013 - 242
  • 2009 - 240

 

NCES Average U.S. eight-grade math scores

  • 2015 - 282
  • 2013 - 285

U.S academic proficiency is unremarkable across the board

The United State's PISA reading and science rankings have remained relatively static since the last assessment in 2015.

Out of the 71 countries in the 2015 PISA assessment, the U.S. ranked 24th in science.  

The less-regular NAEP science assessment does show a small 1.13% score improvement for fourth and eight graders with both grades improving from 150 to 154 out of 300 between 2009 and 2015. However, for 12th-graders scores remained unchanged at 150.

The NAEP rated 24% of fourth-graders, 32% of eight-graders and a significant 40% of 12th-graders "below basic" in 2015.

The 2015 international PISA rankings for math, science and reading proficiency

 
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