WASHINGTON (AP) — American students have a math problem.
The latest global
snapshot of student performance shows declining math scores in the U.S.
and stagnant performance in science and reading.
ground — a troubling prospect when, in today's knowledge-based economy,
the best jobs can go anywhere in the world," said Education Secretary John
B. King Jr. "Students in Massachusetts, Maryland, and Minnesota aren't
just vying for great jobs along with their neighbors or across state
lines, they must be competitive with peers in Finland, Germany, and
Math was a
stubborn concern. "This pattern that we're seeing in mathematics seems to
be consistent with what we've seen in previous assessments ... everything
is just going down," said Peggy Carr, acting commissioner at the National
Center for Education Statistics.
The 2015 Program
for International Student Assessment, or PISA, study is the latest to
document that American students are underperforming their peers in several
Asian nations. The U.S. was below the international average in math and
about average in science and reading. Singapore was the top performer in
all three subjects on the PISA test.
More than half a
million 15-year-old students in about 70 nations and educational systems
took part in the 2015 exam. The test is coordinated by the Paris-based
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD.
Here are the main
things to know about the PISA exams:
U.S. SCORES AND
The test is based
on a 1,000-point scale. Among the findings:
-In math, the
U.S. average score was 470, below the international average of 490.
Average scores ranged from 564 in Singapore to 328 in the Dominican
-In science, the
U.S. average score was 496, about the same as the international average of
493. Average scores ranged from 556 in Singapore to 332 in the Dominican
-In reading, the
U.S. average score was 497, around the same as the international average
of 493. Average scores ranged from 535 in Singapore to 347 in Lebanon.
Average scores in
math have been on the decline since 2009, and scores in reading and
science have been flat during that same time period.
Across the globe,
American students were outperformed by their counterparts in 36 countries
in math; 18 countries in science and 14 countries in reading.
SO, WHAT IS GOING
ON WITH MATH?
Schleicher, director for education and skills at OECD, says
high-performing countries do really well in math in three things: rigor,
focus, and coherence.
For example, he
says, many high-performing countries will teach a lot less but focus at
much greater depths, particularly when you look at East Asia, Japan and
often good at answering the first layer of a problem in the United
States," said Schleicher. "But as soon as students have to go deeper and
answer the more complex part of a problem, they have difficulties."
WHAT PEOPLE ARE
SAYING ABOUT HOW THE U.S. STACKS UP
—"The latest U.S.
PISA achievement results are disappointing but not surprising," said Randi
Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. "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. Thirty-one states still spend less per pupil than before the
— "This stagnant
performance on PISA by U.S. students in the last four years once again
affirms our belief that the U.S. would be well served to take a hard look
at the strategies used by the top-performing education systems and adapt
lessons learned from them to fit the U.S. context and needs," said Marc
Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy. "It
is critical to look not only at their average high performance, but also
at the strategies they use to achieve much greater equity across and
within schools compared to the United States."
differences in science tended to be smaller than in reading and math. But,
on average, in 33 countries and economies, the share of top performers in
science is larger among boys than among girls. Finland was the only
country where girls were more likely to be top performers than boys.
countries, on average, the gender gap in reading in favor of girls
narrowed by 12 points between 2009 and 2015.
North Carolina, and Puerto Rico participated as international benchmarking
systems and received separate scores from the United States.
Massachusetts's average scores were higher than the U.S. and the
international average scores in science, math and reading. North
Carolina's average scores were not statistically different from the U.S.
average scores for all three subjects. And Puerto Rico's average scores
were lower than both the average U.S. scores and the international average
scores for all three subjects.
ABOUT THE TEST
The PISA test is
conducted every three years. Schools in each country are randomly
selected, and OECD says the selection of schools and students is kept as
inclusive as possible so that student samples are drawn from a broad range
of backgrounds and abilities.
international test, known as the Trends in International Mathematics and
Science Study, or TIMSS, had similar international comparisons with Asian
countries solidly outperforming American students. That test, though,
administered every four years to a random sampling of younger students in
dozens of countries, had eighth graders in the United States improving
their scores in math, up nine points. Scores for science, however, were
flat. In fourth grade, scores were unchanged in math and science.