U.S. scores in reading, math, and science have remained stagnant since 2009, whereas other countries have moved forward, according to just-released scores from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Nineteen countries scored higher than the U.S. in reading (up from nine in 2009); 29 nations scored higher in math (up from 23 in 2009); and 22 countries scored higher in science (up from 18 in 2009). In all, 65 education systems participated in the assessment, which measures the performance of 15-year-old students.
In comparison with the 34 industrialized nations comprising the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U.S. ranked just about average in reading and science, but ranked below average in math. U.S. scores remained static in all three subjects, whereas achievement gains in countries such as Ireland and Poland have pushed them ahead in the rankings.
“While average U.S. scores were not measurably different from any previous PISA administration, some other countries have made progress and surpassed us,” commented Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics.
Three U.S. states—Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Florida—opted to have separate samples of public schools and students participate in order to get state-level results. Average scores for Massachusetts were above the OECD average in all three subjects. Connecticut scored above the OECD average in reading and science and achieved an average score in math. Florida’s average scores ranked below the OECD average in math and science, but were average in reading.
For interesting thoughts on how we might view test scores from a different perspective, see this blog post featuring 2013 Content in Context keynote speaker Yong Zhao and this blog post discussing why, despite strong test scores, China may need education reform just as much as the United States.