U.S. students have dismal PISA test results, lagging behind many nations

Published: December 3, 2013, 4:28 pm, by Carol McGraw

More bad news for American education.

The country’s  performance in reading, math, and science has remained stagnant since 2009 as other nations have raced ahead  according to the Program for International Student Assessment results released Tuesday.

Nineteen countries  scored higher than  in reading on the 2012 test.  On the math test, 29 nations and other jurisdictions outperformed the United States , up from 23 three years ago, according to Education Week’s web site. Among those ahead included places like South Korea, Singamore, Austria, United Kingdom and Vietenam, noted Education Week’s web site.In science, 22 education systems scored above the U.S. average, up from 18 in 2009.

“While we’re standing still, other countries are making progress,” said Jack Buckley, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which issued the U.S. report on PISA.

You can read more about the results: http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/

Here are some statements released by various education organizations in response to the results:

–Michelle Rhee – founder of StudentsFirst, an education reform advocacy organization :
“There’s absolutely no reason we should settle for mediocrity, especially when it comes to our kids. American students are capable of high achievement on the international stage, and there are just as many exceptional educators in our great nation, but our system has been failing them. While some bipartisan progress has been made to put in place student-centered reforms that are beginning to show results, far too many political and educational leaders are sitting still.

“As the rest of the world advances rapidly, we can’t sit still and make excuses for a system that fails to provide a growing number of our kids with great schools and great teachers. Providing all of our kids with an education that meets today’s global demands requires our policymakers to both recognize the severity of the education crisis and muster the political will to act,” she said in a press release.

Mark Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy commented:

“We see that all the top performers have invested heavily in the skills of their teachers.  Some have focused on sourcing their teachers from much higher quality high school graduates, insisting that their teachers have bachelors’ degrees in the subjects they will teach (including their elementary school teachers) and insisting as well on solid preparation in the craft of teaching (they do not believe in alternative routes into teaching that skip this step).  Some, most notably Shanghai, have worked very hard to set up systems that have the effect of helping teachers to improve their practice year after year in a very disciplined way.

“They have all put a lot of effort into building internationally competitive academic standards, intellectually demanding curriculum and examinations built on the curriculum that are designed to measure the full range of complex thinking skills on which their standards are based.

The top performers have all found ways to give very young children and their parents a lot of support before the children first show up for school.  They pay a lot of attention to vocational education and training and to school to work transition.  Not least important they work hard to build effective systems, the parts and pieces of which are designed to support one another and rely – gasp! – on government to implement those systems well.”

Kris Perry, executive director, First Five Year Fund:

“In order to remain competitive in a complex global economy, we must address the knowledge and skills deficits that are illustrated by our nation’s lackluster PISA performance. These early deficits persist into knowledge and skill deficits during the teenage and adult years and have profound economic consequences for individuals, taxpayers and the U.S. economy. But quality early childhood programs help us prevent these deficits, especially among disadvantaged children, while providing a 7-10% return on investment to taxpayers through improved education, health, social and economic outcomes.

Perry said, “High quality early childhood education is key to ensuring students are prepared for the rigors of school and the realities of a 21st century workforce and is a win-win proposition for all. Voters understand this and are joining a diverse chorus of supporters including police officers, military generals and business leaders to urge stronger federal investments in early learning. According to a bipartisan poll conducted earlier this year, 70 percent of Amricanssupport a plan to help states and local communities provide high quality early childhood education opportunities to children from birth to age five—and want Congress to act now. In light of today’s PISA scores, we call on Members of Congress from across the political aisle to co-sponsor and pass the Strong Start for America’s Children Act. It is what our country needs to maintain our place in the world as economic power and to remain competitive.”